St Michael and All Angels

Observatory, Cape Town

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Holy Wednesday, 2009

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We attend to the Beloved, the Lord our God. Jesus is going to his death.  He has made himself vulnerable and powerless.  In the garden of Gethsemane he will hand himself over.   He forestalls Judas.  He makes his being taken into the hands of others inevitable.   He is a willing and knowing victim.  He knows he will love to the end and he knows that others will not be able to bear it and will want him killed.

So in the first reading we are with Jesus, the Suffering Servant – who makes no resistance, who doesn’t turn away, who offers his back to the smiters who bears insult and spittle with an open face.  Some may realise what they are doing to God’s Son.

We must hold onto who Jesus is through his passion – from which we get the word ‘passive’, to suffer, to allow to happen to one. We must hold onto him aware of who he is, the beloved of the Father, full of grace and truth, revealing God’s love to all the world.

And still it can be confusing and disorientating.   Jesus is not behaving like a typical victim as Fr R pointed out last night.   But that is not what we can say about Judas (or the others as we will realise later in the passion narrative).  He is behaving true to form…or is he?  Is it natural to betray or just naturally human when one is frightened, desperate as your world comes collapsing round you to give up hope or seek to re-establish in desperation your control of what going on around you?
So let’s go deeper into what is going on.  Jesus is God’s gift to us, to all the world.  He is the revelation of the true God, the God who is completely without revenge.  A God who in no way participates in human rivalry.  He is not like any god at all, completely unlike the tribal gods we make for ourselves – the gods of party allegiances, nation states, clubs and so on.  This true God, which the Jews have been coming to know through the ongoing revelation of God in the OT, is the God who creates, sustains, who holds all things continually in being (as the letter to the Colossians tells us) out of gratuitous love.   We need to dwell on this to get the significance of what Jesus is doing – his on going work of Creation, restoring, making all things new.   Jesus is the gratuitous gift of the Father to all the world.   And he will give himself to the end – all of himself, his self.

The gift of personhood, of who one is, the gift of our minds which are capable of consciousness that reality is more than what we can scientifically prove is there and bearing the mind that was in Christ, of comprehending, albeit through a glass darkly, the mystery of God; the gift of our spirits which are capable of receiving and being invested with the divine spirit of love and compassion, a disposition towards God and the world; the gift of our bodies which is God’s gift of communication the way in which lovers give themselves to each other, to be consumed in embrace  - bodies received as gift through parents and given as self-possessed persons, aware of what one is doing, to another. 

Jesus is present in his entirety in his body, mind and spirit
offering himself.  He is God’s gift to us, the only begotten of the Father.   Who we are is also received as gift.

So the commodification of the body is utterly repugnant to God.   And this is what Judas is confused about as are people who say that their bodies are their own to do with what they like.   This shows an absence of understanding of one’s body and personhood as a Gift of God. 

Judas sells his Lord.  It is a horrifying thought.   Please God we shall always be disturbed by those who are treated as commodities around the world – the victims of our comfort and security.  The starving and ill of Zimbabwe, the prisoners who are so badly treated, the masses in exile in Darfur, those who are in labour camps, modern slaves, those whose bodies are exploited.

A freed slave from a cocoa plantation in West Africa was once asked what he thought about people who ate chocolates in the West. ‘They are eating my flesh’ he said.

Judas, in his disillusionment has fallen away from knowledge of who Jesus truly is, into the mentality of knowing the price of everything, the value of nothing.   He does not know the value of the gift of himself or of Jesus, this emanation of the Father – he does not know who he truly is and has become impatient for a resolution.   Others have become expendable to him.  And so will he.

It is the horrific world where virtue, truth and responsibility are exchanged for expediency, self-interest and easy success.  

What Judas thinks he is taking, Jesus freely gives.  At the last supper Jesus, our Saving Victim, takes bread and gives it to us to consume as his Body.  Here in mass, in every eucharist, Jesus communes with us, sharing his life with us through his Body. 

The more we avail ourselves of this, the more we commune and share in God’s sharing his life with us, the more we will be weaned of treating others and all things as mere consumables.  

And we stay with Jesus further to watch his love poured out as it is consumed with hatred by all those who had too much to lose.   We will stay with him until that great triumphant cry from the Cross when all is given and all accomplished.  We will go searching for him in a garden to be found by him and hear him calling us by name again.

O saviour of the world who by the Cross and Resurrection hast redeemed us.  Save us and help us we humbly beseech thee O Lord.



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