“for this purpose I have come” (John 12:27)
Our 40-day sojourn in penitence draws us near to Holy Week and Easter, through which we are to be confronted with the very heart of the mystery of our salvation. This seasonal self-examination will have made us more conscious of those “things we ought not to have done” which we continually do, as well as our failures to act in accord with our high calling as God’s people. Our worship on this Sunday challenges us to see that our reliance on the Lord, our dependence on the Savior, begins with the disposition of our heart and will.
Recognizing that only God “can bring into order the unruly wills and affections of sinners,” we pray in the collect of the day for grace. In phrasing that is echoed in the assigned portion of Psalm 119, we pray that grace will empower us to love and desire the commandments and promises of God. This petition is consistent with that familiar plea from Psalm 51, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.” Righteousness begins within us as our hearts and souls awaken with longing for the will of God.
But our longing, our desires, wills, and affections, will not incline us towards God’s righteousness without divine inspiration. Jeremiah ‘s prophecy underscores this spiritual reality. It is the Lord who says, “I will put my law within them, and I will write it upon their hearts.” Only by God’s acting upon us in mercy and grace do we receive forgiveness and yield our own wills to the divine will.
This being so, it appears that we are called into humble vulnerability before the Father. Both the epistle and the gospel suggest that such humility and vulnerability can be seen in the self-offering of Jesus. According to the Epistle to the Hebrews, Christ humbly relied on “him who was able to save him from
death” and “although he was a Son, he learned obedience through what he suffered.” In the passage from St. John, though his “soul was troubled,” Jesus prayed openly not for fulfillment of his own desire but “for this purpose I have come to this hour. Father, glorify thy name.” Like our Savior and by his grace, we may come to rely upon and surrender to the purpose of our Father. Thus will we find our hearts, minds, and souls cleansed from sin and created anew.
Look it Up
Read Psalm 51 and Psalm 119:9-16. Consider what these psalms teach us about our inward disposition concerning the will of God.
Think About It
Christian faith affirms that Jesus “lived as one of us, yet without sin.” What can the notion that “he learned obedience through what he suffered” teach us about our learning the ways of God?