People who make New Year’s and Lenten resolutions often have similar goals but different outcomes. Many promises made on New Year’s Eve are broken by New Year’s Day. Lent offers many more opportunities to succeed and more time to become our best selves. In fact with Christ’s example, we not only learn to improve, but to become something new. Our old selves have to die, first, though, and Lent is a good time to put our old selves to death. We do this as the season of death (winter) passes away and the season of rebirth springs forward.
In this Sunday’s gospel, Jesus teaches us why this cycle makes sense and shows us how he was able to come to terms with it himself—through his own conversations with the Father (Jn 12:20-33).
“Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit. … I am troubled now. Yet what should I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But it was for this purpose that I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name.”
Many years after Christ rose from the dead, Paul wrote a letter to the Hebrews, explaining the rebirth we now celebrate and try to emulate (Heb 5:7-9):
“Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered; and when he was made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him.”
And many years before Christ rose from the dead, the prophet Jeremiah foretold the new covenant this event would make possible between God and His children (Jer 31:31-34):
“No longer will they have need to teach their friends and relatives how to know the LORD. All, from least to greatest, shall know me, says the LORD, for I will forgive their evildoing and remember their sin no more.”
As Christ was about to leave his earthly self on the cross, He reminded his Father of this covenant by asking Him to forgive us for this greatest of sins. This was perhaps Christ’s greatest miracle, because by his death and resurrection he set us free to put our old selves to death and live up to the promise God made at the end of His book:
“Behold I make all things new.”