SUNDAY’S READINGS | 2 Lent, March 13, 2022
“At that very hour some Pharisees came and said to [Jesus], ‘Get away from here; for Herod wants to kill you’” (Luke 13:31). God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, yet the Son, even now, lives and moves among evildoers, foes, adversaries, armies encamped against him, and rumors that war will arise (Ps. 27:2-4). He is repeatedly attacked by demons in search of “an opportune time” (Luke 4:13).
Still, Jesus remains firm in his resolve to cast out demons today and tomorrow and on the third day. Seemingly compelled within his absolute freedom, Jesus moves inexorably toward Jerusalem, the city that kills and stones its prophets. “He came unto his own, and his own received him not” (John 1:11). Rejected by the world, Jesus advances in his mission of sacrificial and anguished love. “How often,” Jesus says, “have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were unwilling” (Luke 13:34).
Arriving in Jerusalem, Jesus enters a vortex of human and cosmic evil. “For false witnesses have risen against me, and they are breathing out violence” (Ps. 27:16). Betrayal, trial, scourging, the way of the cross, and the cross itself drain the life from his body. Finally, he breathes his last, hands over his spirit to the Father, and to the Church, symbolized by a cluster of women named Mary, including the mother of Jesus, and the beloved disciple, all gathered at the foot of the cross (John 19:25). “It is finished,” Jesus says from the cross (John 19:30).
Has all come to ruin? Is this another human being thrown away like trash? It certainly looks that way if we suspend for a moment the hidden victory. Jesus says, according to St. Luke, “on the third day I finish my work,” which may allude to his arrival in Jerusalem, but something is haunting in the use of the passive voice wrongly “corrected” in English translations. Jesus says, “I am finished.” There is a strong suggestion of complete defeat and destruction, which is the aim of Jesus’ judges, tormentors, and crucifiers.
A body of humiliation hangs on the cross. On the third day, a glorious body bursts forth from the grave (Phil. 3:21). “Rising from the grave, [Jesus] destroyed death and made the whole creation new” (BCP, p. 374). In the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, we see love beyond measure. And we hear love saying, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34). Jesus is what Jesus commanded: love for one’s enemies. In this way, he reaches the unrighteous and the sinner; he goes all the way to the bottom of human depravity bearing the antidote of everlasting love.
From the few clustered at the foot of the cross, from his frightened and scattered disciples, from his tormentors and crucifiers, Jesus begins to build his Church. He reaches out his loving arms that the whole world might come within his saving embrace. Imagine it. Step out into a dark sky on a cloudless night. Look up and count the stars, if you are able to count them. So shall the members of the Church be (Gen. 15:5).
St. Anthony, the best-known of the early Egyptian monks, says this: “Though mocked and often persecuted by kings, the Church has filled the world. For when has the knowledge of God so shone forth? Or when has self-control and the excellence of virginity appeared as now? Or when has death been so despised except when the cross of Christ appeared?” (Athanasius, Vita Santi Antoni).
The Church is Christ’s body risen from the dead.
Look It Up: Philippians 3:21
Think About It: All things subject to him rise with him.