My son tells me to wake him up at six each morning so he can exercise before school. So every morning, I poke my head into his room and tell him it’s time to get up if he wants to work out. Every time but once he has said, “Thanks,” and turned over to go back to sleep. “Next time,” he will often say, “make me wake up even if I try to go back to sleep.”

We’re not always good at doing what we want to do. Sometimes, we wish someone would make us obey our best intentions. In today’s first reading, God offers the Israelites forgiveness for their errant ways.

“I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel,” God says. “It will not be like the covenant I made with their fathers the day I took them by the hand to lead them forth from the land of Egypt; for they broke my covenant.”

Since Israel didn’t honor the old covenant, the new one will be different. “I will place my law within them and write it upon their hearts,” God says. “I will be their God, and they shall be my people… All, from least to greatest, shall know me, says the Lord.”

Now, this sounds a lot like what we all want — an inner presence that forces us to be the people we wish to be. God’s law is written on our hearts; it exists within us. The good news is that we don’t have to do anything to earn favor with God. We are God’s people. Whether we are the greatest or the least in the eyes of our culture or society, we each have God’s word within us.

We don’t always make good on our intentions. We don’t always do what is right. We don’t always obey God. But that does not drive God away from us.

Does that mean that we automatically do the right thing in our lives, all the time? Well, not if you’re like me. Perhaps we’re not actually forced to do as we intend. But it may mean that are a lot closer to God than we often think or feel.

God knows that we’re not very good at following his ways. What today’s readings tell us, though, is that God is trying to make it easier for us, not harder. Today’s reading, after all, announces what ultimately takes place through the death and resurrection of Christ, and through our participation in the church and the sacraments.

This is what Jesus tells us in the Gospel reading. In Christ, God lives within us. “When I am lifted up from the earth,” Jesus says, “I will draw everyone to myself.”

We don’t always make good on our intentions. We don’t always do what is right. We don’t always obey God. But that does not drive God away from us.

God comes closer and closer. He is not hiding, far off, testing us to see if we can summon the strength or spiritual acumen to find him. The law is written in our hearts. The risen Christ draws us to himself. This is the good news we will celebrate as Easter comes.

Bill Peatman writes from Napa. He may be reached at [email protected]