A Sermon for Tuesday of Holy Week
Admittedly, for those wedded to “the things of this world,” the mystery of the faith that you and I embrace is incomprehensible. Undoubtedly, the claim that a man rose from the dead after three days in the grave defies common sense. But the claim that the execution and resurrection of an itinerant rabbi in a Roman backwater almost two thousand years ago made a fundamental change in the way the entire universe works defies imagination. There may have been ten billion or so people who have ever walked the earth, but Christians assert that the Friday afternoon murder of this particular first-century Jewish man—Yeshua bar Yusef of Nazareth--at the hands of Roman thugs on a Judean hillside gained forgiveness of sins for all those who turn from their transgressions and put their trust in Him as Lord and Savior. And through the power of Christ’s resurrection our most implacable enemies, Death and the grave, have lost their sting. Sometime before dawn on Sunday morning a small stone chamber near the Place of the Skull became a second womb for the Source of Life Itself, and Christ won a victory that confers eternal life on those who put their faith in Him. All this was possible for this one man, Christians believe, because Jesus was more than a man. He was and is the Son of God Incarnate, the Source of all Being made Flesh, at once truly human and truly divine. We have been saved, my brothers and sisters, by nothing less than the Blood of God.
This is “the message of the cross” to which Saint Paul referred, and it can be a hard pill to swallow. The human mind has a difficult enough time grasping the concepts of “perfect Justice” or “perfect Love,” without imagining them interacting with the decidedly imperfect world of our daily lives. That is why many of the world’s religions relegate their gods to the realm of mythology. The great works of the pagan gods usually take place in magical Never-Neverlands of long ago, not the same world that you and I inhabit. There are other faiths that conceive of the Divine as an abstract, monistic unity, reducing the world of space and time that we inhabit to mere illusion. But the Gospel of Jesus Christ is rooted in the intersection of the Divine with the human, the world of pure Spirit engaged with the world of flesh and bone. In the Incarnation, eternity stepped into time and the deeds of men coalesced with the will of God to become vehicles of our redemption.
The acts of Christ that we celebrate this week are the saving acts of God in history, the Redeemer's re-sanctification of the day-to-day world that you and I inhabit. Holy Week is every bit as much about flesh and blood as it is about spirit. On Thursday night Jesus will break real bread and bless real wine and give it to His disciples, and it will become His very Flesh and Blood. On Friday Christ’s precious Body will be flayed with a cat-o-nine-tails and pierced by thorns and nails and a spear. His life-blood will soak into the splintered wood of a Roman cross and His breath will give out with a cry. His corpse will be wrapped in coarse linen and laid in a tomb with seventy-five pounds of aromatic aloes and myrrh. And finally on Easter Sunday, after the Lord of Creation has triumphed over Death by rising bodily from the grave--the very stones reverberating with the power of absolute Life--the risen Christ will go to the upper room, sit down again with His friends and enjoy a nice fish dinner!
Make no mistake about it--we worship an embodied Savior, the One who "became flesh and dwelt among us." And when Christ redeemed us He redeemed the whole of us: body, soul and spirit. In a few moments He will offer us the whole of Himself, His Body, soul, spirit and divinity, in the Blessed Sacrament of the altar--just as He offered up the whole of His Being on Mt. Calvary. Our response to Christ's self-giving love must be bodily as well as spiritual. In the words of the letter to the Hebrews "let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us." May God grant us the grace to respond to Christ’s gift of life with renewed devotion and an unshakeable faith.
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.