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March 18, 2018 Fifth Sunday of Lent Homily

In the sacred scriptures God has his day and the devil has his hour. Until that hour came neither Satan nor his servants could do anything to harm Jesus. (John 7:30): They would have arrested him then, but because his time had not yet come no one laid a hand on him. Now, however, the hour had come (Lk 22:53): When I was among you in the Temple day after day you never moved to lay hands on me. But this is your hour; this is the reign of darkness.

The hour has indeed come and Jesus is deeply troubled. How will you feel when it becomes apparent to you that your hour has come?

Jesus uses the word now four times in this short passage so that it brings together in the one moment various profound aspects of the crisis.

                  Now the hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.

                  Now my soul is troubled.

                  Now sentence is being passed on this world.

                  Now the prince of this world is to be overthrown.

Jesus’ humanity now recoils at the horror of his impending passion and death.

No one wants to die, our human nature, too, recoils from the mere thought. Matthew (25:13) advises us: So stay awake, because you don’t know the day or the hour. Death, is a journey we must all make and the only way to give it meaning is to make that journey with the Master. To take up our cross as he takes up his, and to carry it with him.

The wise man, like Jesus, is prepared and recognizes that his death might be more like that of Jesus than he imagined. John (16:2) tells us plainly: …indeed the hour is coming when anyone who kills you will think he is doing a holy duty for God.

Jesus’ soul is suddenly troubled. He would like to avoid this hour which rises up before him. The temptation comes: What shall I say: Father, save me from this hour? But it was for this very reason that I have come to this hour. We recall the words of the Gospel of Mark (14:35): And going on a little further he threw himself on the ground and prayed that, if it were possible, this hour might pass him by.

It is Jesus’ relationship with his Father which gives him strength as it will be our relationship with the Father which will give us strength when that hour comes for us.

Jesus deeply understands that his own glory lies in glorifying the name of his Father: Now the hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.

Have you ever spent time just kneeling, or maybe just sitting, in front of a crucifix? It’s a bit like sitting in front of a muddy pool; you just have stay there for a while and wait patiently for the water to clear. Only then you begin to see.

 

The crucifix can tell us an awful lot about ourselves. As we gaze at the lifeless corpse nailed to the wood it begins to speak to our hearts and minds; it has a lot to say to those who are generous with their time.

 

What does it tell us?

Firstly we see a man nailed through his hands and feet. We see a man bruised and pierced and humiliated with a crown of thorns – and we ask ‘Who did this?’ We know the man is Jesus and therefore we know he is innocent and we again ask ‘How did Jesus, the Son of God get here? Who did this to him?’

Of course, the answer is ‘Those Roman soldiers standing over there: they did this.’

 

But we begin to sense there is more. We begin to sense that there is evil, jealousy, hatred, fear which put Jesus on the cross we realize there is something greater than the evil of a few Roman soldiers.

 

Gradually we come to recognize that it is the evil of all humanity which put him there – our evil and mine evil. We, as well as those soldiers, are the crucifiers.

 

This is a terrible realization for us; you and I are crucifiers of the innocent one.

Do you resist that idea? I used to resist – I used to say ‘I would not have crucified Jesus!’

But now I see that it’s true. It was the evil in me; it is the evil in me, and in you, that crucifies Jesus. I am responsible. I share the blame.

 

Just look at him hanging there – the nails, the bruises, the crown pressed into his scalp. Look at what we have done. We have left no stone unturned, no evil undone. We have given full reign to our wickedness, to our ruthlessness.

 

We are the crucifiers of Jesus, the crucifiers of innocence – people’s good names and their dignity, unborn babies, the truth, and the grace of God.

Why do we crucify?

Anger? Hatred? Revenge? Envy? Or do we sometimes think we are doing a just and noble thing?

 

The reasons may be complex and yet, in many cases, surprisingly simple – as simple as, for example ‘jealousy’: …Pilate knew it was out of jealousy that they had handed him over (Mt 27:18). Or as simple as greed: You want something and you haven’t got it; so you are prepared to kill (Jms 4:2).

 

The innocent, and yet crucified, Jesus can be for us an image of one of our most persistent fears – the fear of a personhood, a fullness of being, a fullness we feel ourselves called to but of which we fear to take possession – like a house we own but haven’t yet moved into.

The struggle with self begins the very instant we begin to follow something other than self – Jesus Christ. This is already such a great act of freedom. And not surprisingly its first consequence is a discovery of the chains which hold us back; not a pleasant experience.

The moment we wish to be good is the moment we discover how bad we really are.

  • When we begin to fast we discover our attachments to food.
  • When we try to be silent we discover how addicted we are to talking.
  • When we want to give generously we discover our selfishness.
  • When we try to be humble we discover how ego-centered we really are.

’Get rid of that man; he is constantly inviting me to become more than I want to be. Away with him! Crucify him!’

Why does secular society want to eliminate the Church?

Why do students in school humiliate children who serve on the altar?

 

They want to destroy all reminders of what they themselves could be; indeed, are called to be.

So why do we crucify Jesus?

 

Because he is a clear image of everything we are called to be …

 

Our first step towards the Master is the moment we begin the ‘death struggle’ which brings growth and freedom and life. God will be there always – supplying his strength. If anyone serves me, my Father will honor him.

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