The Fifth Sunday in Lent
Commonly Called Passion Sunday
A Word about the Readings
by Father Gethin
(The readings may be found here)
The story of our faith is the story of salvation; that we, who were lost in the darkness of a false and idolatrous world, and condemned by our own disobedience, might have light to bring us out into a new day, and new life to overcome our approaching doom. It is, in other words, a matter of life and death, death vanquished and life redeemed: “[Christ]is the Mediator of the new covenant, that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first covenant, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance.
And this is the new perspective and conviction for which our Lenten exercises have prepared us: bringing us by degrees into the knowledge and love of God through our experience of life with Jesus. First, by witnessing His example, overcoming the lies of the devil with the truth of Scripture; then His place as the Stronger Man, free to overwhelm the demons by His wisdom and power. Finally,we come to know that divine authority expressed chiefly in His kindness towards us, to relieve us of our torments and isolation with His mercy and hospitality, providing for our well-being out of His own goodness. In all things, we are drawn more and more deeply into the story of His life with us, and as we are, we learn to trust more surely His loving purpose.
Today’s Gospel invites us to enter the final stage, the absolute expression of that purpose, in which the Messiah draws at last toward the place where all His goodness and obedience to the Father’s infinite love for us will be finally tested and proven, “even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.” There, at last, the vision will be made plain: in order to be the ground of a new story, a ‘new covenant’, the Lord bears out our story, to its bitter end. His blood will be the terms of a new way, and truth and life. It will become both the riches of our inheritance: ‘this is my life-blood, shed for you, all come, and drink’; and it will be the calling to our own costly discipleship—‘Ye shall drink indeed of my cup, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with’. Blessing and sacrifice, suffering and salvation, this is the new world into which we are called as the followers of Jesus—not as past event, but as the whole form and meaning of our lives. Lent shows us how the life of Jesus is His free suffering for us, both then and now. Just as He bore out the story of His love then, upon the tree of His agony, even so, day by day, He bears out the story of our coming to receive that love, our halting progress of conversion into His heavenly kingdom.
For us that means our growth into humility. There is an enormous temptation to suppose there might be something else, some other, more glamourous virtue, that we also need, but there is not. We tend to overlook or ignore humility, precisely because it is small, and lowly, and of no consequence in this fallen world. We would much rather be generous than humble. But no generosity has any joy or blessing if it is not first filled with humility; humility is the low doorway into the new kingdom: “Ye know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and they that are great, exercise authority upon them. But it shall not be so among you: but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister; and whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant”. So as we enter another Passiontide, let us pray for grace, to know and to have humility: humility as we read Scripture, to hear openly and graciously the story of our Redemption; humility before one and other, knowing each of us is the soul for whom Christ was pleased to die; and above all humility before our King, the God-man of life made new, in whom we find all goodness, all mercy, all wisdom, all power, and always and perfectly, all humility.