Reflections on the Readings
The Fifth Sunday of Lent - March 25, 2012 - Year B
By Dennis S. Hankins
(How can it be that thou, my God, shouldst die for me?)
In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard for his godly fear. - Hebrews 5:7
Four times I have witnessed it. And each time left me in awe of what I had just seen with my own eyes. I speak of the birth of our children, Timothy, Melissa, Bethany, and Heidi. Bethany was the caboose for 19 years and then she gave up that role to be a big sister to Heidi.
As I meditated upon the second reading, I thought about the gift of love. I thought about the drama and complexity of emotions and courage and strength when a mother gives birth to her child. I have witnessed that moment of raw energy combine with a voice of indescribable determination - the agony of giving one's life for another. I have stood there in that holy moment dazed by the wonder of it all. And I've prayed fervently when I wasn't sure Debbie would survive what she had just done - her life draining from her because of the hemorrhaging.
The Church calls us to reflect more deeply on the gift of Calvary's love - to think more on the mystery of our redemption. In this Lenten journey we want to embrace more willingly the mystery of the Cross. For it is here in this singular act of drawing all mankind to himself, Jesus gives his life for us. What Jesus endured for our salvation is nothing less than an heroic act; an action which he embraced in the 'days of his flesh.'
In the Garden of Gethsemane Jesus prayed in such fervency that his sweat became as drops of blood. Here in this Garden he offered up his prayers with loud cries and supplications and tears. His soul lay bare before him who promised to glorify his name in him - and then he prayed, "Not my will, but thine be done;" a prayer Adam and Eve failed to pray in a Garden long ago.
A Roman executioner gave the pre-Cross beating with a cat o' nine tails. With this whip he applied forty lashes upon our Lord. And the tears and prayers and supplications continued to be offered up. In the days of his flesh Jesus was inflicted with stripes that opened up the fountain of our salvation. And with his stripes we are healed.
Crowned with a crown of thorns, Jesus is paraded to that hill just outside the city. Golgotha they call it - the Place of the Skull. There on that hill Jesus is nailed to the Cross. With one nail in each hand and one nail through both feet Jesus is secured to the Cross. Crucifixions were common in the days of the Roman occupation of Jerusalem; for criminals that is. This is not a typical day. Before us is no ordinary life. Given to us is no ordinary love.
With forty stripes on his back, Jesus was fastened to the Cross with nails and adorned with a mocking crown of thorns. Mockers took up the mantra, "He saved others, let him come down from there and save himself!" But more than nails kept our Lord on the Cross. Accepting the shame and for the joy set before him, Jesus endured the Cross. This offering of himself was not for himself but for you and for me. We are the object of his affection - the reason that he endured such contradiction from sinners.
Pilate's wife dreamed about this Jesus of Nazareth. She told her husband that he shouldn't hurt this holy man. But the mystery of sin blew in the winds that day. Someone began to shout, "Give us Barabbas! Release Barabbas and Crucify Jesus!"
And so for Barabbas, and for you and for me, Jesus died. Out of his great and holy love for all of us, Jesus gave his life for the life of the world. The only way to the Father's house is through and by and in the love of Jesus. The only way to really pray for each other and for those who need a Savior is through and by and in the love of Jesus.
There is no other name under heaven by which any of us can be saved. There is no other kind of love; there is only one kind of love that covers a multitude of sins. That love came down from heaven and impregnated the womb of the Holy Virgin, Mary. And from her came the flesh that gave God a human face and voice. Perfected through obedience and the things he suffered, Jesus in his flesh became for all who will obey him, the true and endless source of eternal salvation.
Human suffering found its way into the sacred heart of Jesus. And there in his sacred and holy heart Jesus wept over you and me. He prayed over you and me. In his flesh and in his heart he labored to give you and me a new birth - a new humanity filled with his love - a love that is not found naturally in anyone. We need the Holy Spirit to pour this love into our hearts - this amazing love; how can it be that thou, my God, shouldst die for me? Amen.
Lyrics by Charles Wesley; (Click here and Rejoice!)
Hymn Tune: Sagina
And Can it Be?
And can it be that I should gain an interest in the Savior's blood! Died he for me? who caused his pain! For me? who him to death pursued? Amazing love! How can it be that thou, my God, shouldst die for me? Amazing love! How can it be that thou, my God, shouldst die for me?
'Tis mystery all: th' Immortal dies! Who can explore his strange design? In vain the firstborn seraph tries to sound the depths of love divine. 'Tis mercy all! Let earth adore; let angel minds inquire no more. 'Tis mercy all! Let earth adore; let angel minds inquire no more.
He left his Father's throne above (so free, so infinite his grace!), emptied himself of all but love, and bled for Adam's helpless race. 'Tis mercy all, immense and free, for O my God, it found out me! 'Tis mercy all, immense and free,
for O my God, it found out me!
Long my imprisoned spirit lay, fast bound in sin and nature's night; thine eye diffused a quickening ray; I woke, the dungeon flamed with light; my chains fell off, my heart was free, I rose, went forth, and followed thee. My chains fell off, my heart was free, I rose, went forth, and followed thee.
No condemnation now I dread; Jesus, and all in him, is mine; alive in him, my living Head, and clothed in righteousness divine, bold I approach th' eternal throne, and claim the crown, through Christ my own. Bold I approach th' eternal throne, and claim the crown, through Christ my own.