21 Pentecost, Year B: The Word Among Us, Risen

SUNDAY’S READINGS | October 17, 2021

Job 38:1-7 (34-41) or Isa. 53:4-12
Ps. 104:1-9, 25, 37b or Ps. 91:9-16
Heb. 5:1-10
Mark. 10:35-45

“All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him is life, and the life was the light of all people” (John 1:3-4). In one contracted sentence, our attention ascends above all created things to the Word who was with God and is God. Helping us to “lift up our hearts” to this surpassing height, St. Augustine proposes a series of questions and answers in his commentary on this passage. “Do you inquire concerning heaven and earth? They were made. Do you inquire concerning the things that are in heaven and on earth? Surely much more they were made. Do you inquire concerning spiritual beings, concerning angels, archangels, thrones, dominions, powers, principalities? These were made. … The heart of John could not reach to that which he says … unless he had risen above all things that were made by the Word” (Commentary on the Gospel of St. John).

The Word who is high above all created things deigned to come among us. “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14). The height from which he comes — all holiness — accentuates the depth of his descent in his mission to save humanity. To save us, he enters our condition, though he is not “trapped” by it. He willingly becomes sin; that is, he accepts the consequence of sin, though he himself is without sin. He offers prayers and supplications, loud cries, and tears; he hangs upon a cross, embracing the world with his outstretched arms. (Heb. 5:7; BCP p. 101) In the words of the prophet Isaiah, “He has borne our infirmities and carried our diseases.” “He was wounded for our transgression, crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the punishment that made us whole, and by his bruises we are healed.” “He poured out himself to death” (Isa. 53:4-5, 12). He did not do this to remain in pain and death, but to transform our suffering and defeat death.

As Jesus promised, we must carry our cross. We must drink the cup he drinks and be baptized into his death, but we also rise with him, and we hope for glory (Mark 10:39). Even as we die in union with Christ, we ascend in contemplation, beholding the creation as a witness to the Word. “O Lord my God,” says the Psalmist, “how excellent is your greatness! You are clothed with majesty and splendor. You wrap yourself with light as with a cloak and spread out the heavens like a curtain” (Ps. 104:1-2). “Ever since the creation of the world,” says St. Paul, “his eternal power and divine nature, invisible though they are, have been understood and seen through the things he has made” (Rom. 1:20). Raised with Christ, we see and hear the world as a witness to Jesus Christ. The clouds, the winds, flames of fire, the foundation of the earth, water, and thunderbolts all bear witness to the Word through whom all things were made (Ps. 104:3-7).

Risen with Christ, we see “how manifold are your works,” and yet we ascend even above these works to rest in the divine presence. We go up with Christ in a very special way, not merely as the ones whom in love God created, but as the ones whom the Son has redeemed and saved. In a sense, our redeemed state is more excellent than the state of our first innocence. “O God, who wonderfully created, and yet more wonderfully restored, the dignity of human nature” (BCP, p. 252).

As we pass through things temporal, we are, moment by moment, “more wonderfully restored.”

Look It Up: The Exsultet (BCP, p. 286)

Think About It: To redeem a slave, you gave a Son.


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