Reflections on the Readings
Fifth Sunday of Lent, March 29, 2009, Year B
By Dennis Hankins
Psalm 5:3-4, 12-15
Theme: When I Am Lifted Up
He said this indicating the kind of death he would die.
The theme from last week continues this week as Jesus speaks again of being 'lifted up.' This 'lifting up from the earth' is a description that was not lost on anyone who heard Jesus speak this way. It is Jesus speaking of the efficacy of his Passion on the cross, resulting in 'judgment on this world,' 'the ruler of this world being driven out,' and 'drawing all humankind to himself.'
What did Jesus mean when he said his death would bring 'judgment on this world?' As we consider the sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross, it is right to understand it as an invocation of righteousness. All of Jesus' ministry reflected the love of the Father in a fulness that exasperated the righteousness of the Pharisees. For them, righteousness revealed their goodness; an outward showiness like loving the best seat in the synagogues and salutations in the marketplace. Their righteousness consisted in being precise on tithing mint and rue and every herb but neglecting justice and the love of God. (Luke 11:42-43) Jesus said they do their deeds to be seen by men.
Jesus described the Scribes and Pharisees as not practicing what they preached. It was they who bound others with heavy burdens, burdens too hard to bear, and then refusing to lift even a finger to assist their brother.
In his Cross, Jesus judges such self righteousness, a righteousness that says, "God, I thank thee that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week, I give tithes of all that I get." (Luke 18:11, 12) Such did the Pharisee pray at the temple where he and a tax collector were. Unlike the Pharisee, the tax collector threw himself upon the mercy of God. Beating his breast, without even lifting his eyes, he cried out "God, be merciful to me a sinner."
It is Jesus on his Cross who not for himself, but for our sake became poor, emptying himself, so that we could know the righteousness which is by faith. Faith in the Lord who himself, humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a Cross. This is the example He left us, that we might strive to lay down our lives in love for our neighbor, even as Jesus gave himself for the life of the world.
If we are to affect the world with our testimony of Jesus the Christ, we must see the value of all life and reject the violence of greed that demeans and destroys those who like us are made in the image of God.
Jesus whom we know as the Prince of Peace, in himself endured all of man's history and present propensity for violence. All knew that he spoke with authority, an authority rooted in his love for all. In a few short days, our Lord will be confronted with those who seek him with spears and chains. In himself he will engage the hostility of the whole world, never opening his mouth, being led as a sheep to the slaughter.
Why do we retain Jesus on the crucifix? It is to remind us that violence against life, unleashed with all its fury, cannot impede the mighty rush of righteousness cascading from our Lord's Cross. Every time we take up our cross, we advance a little more the joyous message, a message of hope, love, and forgiveness. Jesus pronounced an end to all hatred, strife and violence declaring in his final consumption of the dregs of the cup he drank, IT IS FINISHED! The violence of all that destroys and disparages the family of man has met its defeat in Jesus. It is this Jesus we must give the world.
How important in these final days of Lent that we in ourselves for ourselves and our precious families and friends, refuse all that violates the gift of life, the gift of family, the gift of friendship. Rather than excusing ourselves for the spiritual malaise in which we find ourselves comfortable, may we embrace the joy that is set before us. A joy that passes all understanding. It is a joy which heals the broken hearted, feeds the hungry, defends the worth of every person, whether in a petrie dish, a womb or behind bars.
When I am lifted up!
Let us Pray: Dear Jesus, help me know the peace your cross preaches. Help me to understand how I must see in your immolation on the cross, the end of all violence and the courage of righteousness. Amen.