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Keeping Company with the Lord

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Fifth Sunday of Lent. Fr Theodore Taylor preaches on our sharing in Christ's glory on the cross.

Jesus is near his end in the gospel of today. The acclamation of Palm Sunday is over and the crowds melt away. Jewish plotting for his arrest is stealthily working. What precipitates his words, 'Now the hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified', is the approach for the first time in his ministry of Greeks (Gentiles) seeking him out. It was 'to gather into one the dispersed children of God'  that Jesus was to die.

Jesus responds in a general comment, implicitly acknowledging these respectful 'other sheep'. The 'hour' of his death and resurrection, his glorification, has finally come for him to be lifted up and draw all people to himself: gentiles together with people of Israel.

This is the triumphal purpose of his life, the 'hour' that has been in abeyance until now. Yet 'Now my soul is troubled', he exclaims; literally, 'my soul shudders'. In the next chapter in John's gospel Jesus shudders when he indicates that Judas Iscariot will betray him, thereby setting in train the Jewish and Roman collusion to his crucifixion.

In anticipation at this earlier moment Jesus might beg his Father to save him from the agony foreseen, but he maintains his submission. 'Father, glorify your name!' concedes that God's plan for him must be realised; that the Lamb of God who bears the divine name will be forever glorified in the decisive exorcism of evil wrought by his crucifixion: 'When you lift up the Son of Man you will realise that I AM.'

Jesus presents a brief parable. Symbolically he is the still-potent grain of wheat fallen to the ground; from the ground-down Jesus springs the harvest of believers glorified by him, with him, to gain eternal life. His actual death is the determinant of victory in the agony of seemingly succumbing to the 'Prince of this world', in order to vanquish this spurious Prince, for whose overthrow the Word had become flesh.

Jesus must 'hate his life in this world' - surrendering earthly life, which apart from his persistent harassment he surely enjoyed, as we do our life now - to gain eternal life; which gain is for us his servants as we follow in serving him.

'He loved them to the end' in humble service. At the supper the Lord and Master washed his reluctant disciples' feet. As his servants we must be like him: 'Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am there will my servant be. Whoever serves me the Father will honour'; that is, in serving we too will be glorified.

Our deaths may not be as imminently foreseen as Jesus' was at this, the close of his ministry. Our lives though are not to be withheld from the Father and those with us in this life. To come to share fully in the glory that Jesus won for us we have to expend our lives in committed humble service to our fellow-disciples.

The Lord suffers in crucifixion; we too suffer in obedience to the Father's will: the deaths of those dear to us; our own ill-health and injuries, and diminished vigour in ageing; the waning of love and support from those on whom hopes had been set; overthrown hopes of success as we had conceived it; ridicule and rejection, maybe; and dependency on others as years take their toll. And so we keep company with the Lord as he comes to his death and to his glory. In Jesus' resignation and his overarching hope, where better could you and I be as he gathers us with him into glory?

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Readings

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

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