Catholic Contextual urban Theology, Mimetic Theory, Contemplative Prayer. And other random ramblings.

Sunday, 26 April 2015

Homily at Parish Mass Lent 5 2015

Jeremiah 31:31-34
Hebrews 5:7-9
John 12:20-33

Today’s Gospel reading is set in Jerusalem just before the Passover, the last Passover of John’s Gospel, when Jesus will be betrayed and crucified. It is city crammed with people who have come for the festival, and not only Jews. There were Greeks and Romans who found in Judaism something that their ancestral pagan religions lacked, truth and meaning, a foundation for life based on a relationship with the living God. They mostly didn’t formally become members of the Jewish faith, but they attended the synagogues and the festivals in Jerusalem, kept the commandments, and became known as “God fearers”.
So in today’s reading from John’s Gospel we have some Greeks who have come to Jerusalem for the Passover. But something unexpected happens: they ask to see Jesus. And seeing doesn’t simply mean looking at Jesus, it means they want to know, to understand, to believe. Jesus is the focus of attraction who draws them, even more than the temple and the Passover. They have come for one thing, and found something greater.
And it is this which prompts Jesus to say, “Now the hour has come”. Up until now in John’s gospel on a number of occasions we are told that Jesus’ “hour” had not yet come. And that “hour” is both his death and his glorification, which in John are the same thing.
The fact that Gentile nations are now coming to Jesus is the signal that his death and glorification are at hand, so that Jesus says, “when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw all people to myself”. This fulfils the prophecies of old, that the God of Israel would gather in the Gentiles, too, will make himself known as the one God and saviour of all humanity.
Now this is truly an inclusive teaching. “I shall draw all people to myself.” Not some, but all. No distinction of race or nation or gender or age or sexuality, or anything else. Indeed some manuscripts have “I will draw all things to myself”. Everyone and everything will be drawn to Jesus. His power of attraction reaches out to the whole creation.
And everyone will be drawn to Jesus because he will be crucified. The death of the Messiah is his glorification, and is that which will draw in all people. And the sweep of two thousand years of history since then seems to bear this out. The Church of the crucified Messiah is planted in every nation, and day by day more and more people find themselves drawn to this unique and compelling figure.
That figure is the Man on the cross whom we know to be innocent. He is the victim who is revealed as God, on the receiving end of the violence which is revealed as our own. As we have been seeing in our Gospel readings through Lent, Jesus progressively does away with the dark forces in human life which demand sacrifices and exclude victims. Those dark forces are personified as the “Prince of this world”, and the cross is the judgement on those powers: it reveals that they are wrong, and is the means by which they are defeated.
The light, the glory, of God shines forth from the man on the cross, and all peoples are drawn to that light. Here is true power. God is love, and wants us to live in love. That is the truth. That is the deep truth behind the universe, the word through whom all things exist. Love.
Humanity has lived its conscious existence down the ages in a desperate fear, the fear that the deep meaning of everything is death, and that this has to be warded off as long as possible by deflecting that death elsewhere.
The light of the cross shows instead that the deep meaning of our existence is love. By seeing Jesus we come to know him, to believe, to live with his life. His power changes us and turns us around. In seeing Jesus we know that we are forgiven and loved. In seeing Jesus, we are set free from the old order of sin and death and made new in him. Made new in the vision of love which is the deep truth of who we are.

“When I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw all people to myself.” The light of the love of God shines steadily from the cross, and hour by hour new souls are finding their way to him. His power of attraction has drawn us and millions more down the ages. He will draw others, through our witness and that of all his church. And like Philip and Andrew we can help others find their way to him, too.

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