This week’s readings convey a sense of the epic nature of the events towards which our Lenten journey leads. In the first reading, God promises a new covenant, one that goes far beyond what God accomplishes in freeing the Israelites from slavery and giving them the Law on Sinai. Remember, Jeremiah has in mind some pretty epic events – the grand parting of the Red Sea and the theophany on Mount Sinai. Something even greater than these is promised. And so we see Jesus pronouncing that His “hour” has come, accompanied by signs from heaven that promise glory in a great, thunderous voice.

To what do these readings point? In one sense, they point toward something that seems much less grand than those great acts of old. They point to death on a cross. Jesus speaks of that great mystery with an analogy, not to mountain grandeur and stormy seas, but rather to the act of a seed falling into the ground. The great act will be a self-emptying. The miracle that is promised in the reading from Jeremiah is similarly without external drama: a law written deep in the human heart, so deep that it will not even need to be taught.

Yet the great drama does come through in Jesus’ final statement. After the seed metaphor, He describes what is going to happen in these terms:

Now is the time of judgment on this world;

now the ruler of this world will be driven out.

And when I am lifted up from the earth,

I will draw everyone to myself.

Who is the “ruler of this world”? It is no more and no less than sin. The renewed heart is the “clean heart” of which the Psalmist speaks. It is a heart that is forgiven, with such a deep forgiveness that God even says that sins will be “remembered no more.” Sin is judged and driven out, and humans no more labor under the anger, division, resentments, self-hatred, greed, and lust for possession that dirty our hearts. Instead, all are drawn to Christ, to life in Him and for Him.

Familiar as we are with ourselves, our neighbors, and our world, we can see that this is truly an epic promise. By comparison with conquering the very roots of sin, conquering the sea seems easy. But this is the promise. This is where our journey is headed. Let us see, then, how much we remain attached to this world’s rules and ruler. Let us instead die to that self, and receive the new life that is promised to us in the celebrations to come.