Thursday, 22 March 2012

5th Sunday of Lent - Year B

Ezekiel 37:12-14; Romans 8:8-11; John 11:1-45

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 and wait patiently for the water to clear. Only then do 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 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 that 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 the evil, the jealousy, the hatred, the fear which put Jesus on the Cross is greater than the evil of a few Roman soldiers.

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

This is a terrible realisation 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. I am a crucifier.

I see too that I, we are ruthless crucifiers. Just look at him hanging there – the nails, the bruises, the crown pressed into his scalp, the spittle. 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 and therefore 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 (Mtt 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).

It may seem at first a little far-fetched but I think a lot of crucifying happens through unacknowledged fear. When people invite us or challenge us to step beyond one of our more deeply rooted fears we can often turn on those people rather than face the reality of the fear within us. It seems to me that we all have within us a line we fear to cross, something we fear to become.

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 which of which we fear to take possession – like a house we own but haven’t yet moved into; it beckons us.

Sebastian Moore in his book ‘The Crucified is no Stranger’ (from whom many of these thoughts are taken), calls it a fear of coming to a ‘meeting place’.

If I were to point to a spot just here in front of the altar and invite a particular one of you to come and stand here facing the congregation and sing a song or do a little dance I am guessing most of us would be reluctant and would prefer to ‘stay in our seat’. Some of you would be quite prepared to accept my invitation but I know very well that somewhere in their life these people, too, to have a ‘spot’ they dare not stand in.

At its worst this fear of becoming can manifest itself as a desire ‘not to be’. Sebastian Moore calls this fear a death wish, like when people say ‘I wished the ground would have opened up and swallowed me’.

This fear is not just a weakness in us; it is a powerful, brutal force which hastens to sweep away anything in the environment which would remind it of what it is called to be. Jesus is, naturally enough, a prime target of this fear.

’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 a 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.

Why are we so uncomfortable and intolerant when someone beside us in Church begins to clap hands with the music or raise their arms in prayer? It is because we experience their freedom as a silent invitation to be the same. They represent a freedom we haven’t got and we don’t like images which remind us about our own fear of becoming free.

So why do we crucify Jesus?

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

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