The Blue Mountains Franciscan Church Sermon preached at Maroubra by Br Andrew on 13th March 2016
The Fifth Sunday in Lent year C
Now that Christ’s Journey on Earth is accomplished on his Cross and by His resurrection we have become not merely those bearing the sign of the Abrahamic, covenant we read of last week, but we are that Covenant. Just as saint Paul tells the Philippians “…we are the circumcision, who worship God in the Spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh.” Membership of this covenant is open, not to Israel only, but to “whoever believes in him” (Jn3:16)
We have followed a series of Old and New Testament Readings these past four weeks that have helped us to understand the intended meaning Jesus’ death and Resurrection had for the Jews. It has been about the putting to bed of Covenants. Since Israel failed to keep the Covenants God made with them, and because God promised Abraham that he would ensure these Covenants were kept these Covenants are all about to be fulfilled in the salvific death of Jesus who is the fulfiller of the Law and the Prophets and who is the perfect Lamb of God who took away the sins of the world.
None of the external signs of Judaism apply anymore, not even Circumcision.
The linkage between this concept and our Gospel reading is Paul’s
testimony following his initial statement. Paul was a Jew who had forsaken all connections he had as a member of the Tribe of Benjamin of the Hebrews; he had been a Pharisee and Zealot, everything he had done and lived that made him Jewish had been given away for the sake of his new life in Jesus. – Paul knew what it was like to give up an identity to become a Stateless person, almost, for the sake of the Gospel. As one who was heir to all of the Covenants God had made with Israel Paul understood that to inherit them as perfected in Christ one had to become as a gentile or pagan. Hitherto believed to be heirs to nothing.
Yet Paul counted all this as something gained and desired to experience for himself the sufferings of Christ. Through of Faith in Christ and not through the Law Paul desired to know all that he could of Christ and Christ’s way and should he be granted it, the Resurrection from the dead.
And now at the home of Lazarus, Martha and Mary we are just about a week away from Jesus’ resurrection from the dead.
During the meal Jesus’ feet are anointed by Mary, the one who had chosen the ‘better part’ and might have insight concerning the future events. John is very specific as to who Judas Iscariot is, lest there be any misunderstanding? He is the son of Simon, not Simon Peter – he will betray Jesus and he is a thief. His real concern is not for the poor but for the health of the communal purse from which he stole.
Jesus tells us that there will always be poor people but that he will soon be gone, that Mary was anointing him against the day of his death because as we know it is all too rushed and there will not be enough time to carry out the burial rites for Jesus when he is laid in the tomb.
Jesus resurrection defeats the permanence of physical death for ever and just as a reminder Jesus is seated near to Lazarus whom he has raised from the dead. But before considering the Resurrection of the Dead, notice it is something Paul thinks he may be unworthy of, there is the Christian life to lead.
Jesus’ death was in vain unless its invitation was accepted, I have already touched on Paul’s struggle to become Christ like, it is difficult to understand such concepts as becoming the Circumcision but we might understand the Concept of becoming the Baptism. Paul wrote to the early Christians in Philippi still using Jewish concepts and terminology even though there were almost no Jews in Philippi at the time, it was the terminology he knew and none other had been created. So to become the Circumcision would really be what God had wanted his people the Jews to do in the first place.
To live their lives in righteousness according to the Covenants God had made with them so that by their very manner of living all would know they were Jewish.
For us to become the Baptism is to do the same thing, it is to grow towards Christlikeness, just as Paul spoke about, in obedience to those two great commandments until there comes a time when others know we are Christians without having to see the proof.
Christianity is a nominal until we live the Way, walk in Jesus’ footsteps, remember how dusty they were when Mary anointed them and wiped them with her hair, for the death that HAD to be. To pray that one day, we like Paul might be worthy of the Resurrection of the dead – because nothing about being a Christian is a given. Jesus didn’t die for something easy.