Saint Peter the Apostle Church, Naples, FL
Isaiah 52:13–53:12 • Hebrews 4:14-16; 5:7-9 • John 18:1–19:42
The Television medium has loaded us with opportunities to become spectators for the past several days with programs called: “Finding Jesus” and “Killing Jesus.” I am not sure what is behind these productions other than the money the sponsors make by drawing people around the screen to watch some writer or producer’s idea of what it was like in Jerusalem at the historical moment Jesus of Nazareth was killed. The trouble with all this business is that it turns revelation into “entertainment” and whatever historical value might possible have slipped in is left unconnected to the present day. This leaves us in the role of the spectator as though we were sitting in our living rooms or a stadium watching a grand drama unfold munching pop-corn. We might feel some sadness or admiration for Jesus of Nazareth, but personally confronting the mystery of what the Passion and Death of Jesus means and what God reveals and wills through the Death of Jesus Christ is the last thing we are encouraged to do so. Television producers are not going to take us there, but at some point, perhaps today, we have to ask the question: “What does this death have to do with us today.” “What have we become because of it?”
Only around this altar and in communion with our companions in faith will we enter into this mystery to discover what it means. Only around this altar can we participate in the Passion and Death of Jesus Christ and move from being spectators into actual participants. Our place in the Life and Death of Jesus Christ is not to sit here and read: “Crucify Him.” Our place is not among the mob and unbelievers. Our place is among the apostles, who though hiding in fear, confusion, and disappointment, eventually, by the power of the Spirit, became the very body of Christ for this world. Here in communion around this altar we become one with Christ and with all who suffer; with the innocent, the imprisoned, the misunderstood, the betrayed, the rich and poor, the sick and the lame, the lost and the sinner. Here we struggle with the question of suffering and confront the reality of death with a faith that gives us hope. Otherwise we are just watching someone die a horrible unjustified death.
The Son of God who abandoned the comfort and glory of heaven took on flesh and blood to become one with us, all of us, and in that “communion” in that bond with humanity divine life is resurrected within us out of the death of sin. Our place in this story is eventually on the cross. That is what the disciples discovered once the Spirit opened their eyes and their hearts. God’s desire to lift us up, heal our brokenness and restore us to our original glory is revealed in Jesus Christ who so completely identified with us that he embraced the most insidious, horrible, agonizing death anyone could imagine at that time so that no one would be left out. All we have left of him now is bread broken in communion, the Eucharist, which when received brings us into communion with him and with all human kind.
Still to this day, the sick must not be alone, those on the edge and fringe of society must be gathered in, the poor must have companions and a voice, the abused must have protectors, the old must have tender respect, the grieving must find comfort, children must be brought to Jesus, and the gospel must be proclaimed to those who live in darkness because these are God’s children. This is what God has revealed through Jesus Christ. The Will of the Father was not about a crucifixion, but about being obedient to and completing God’s plan for all to be saved, healed, forgiven, and loved. What God asked of his Son God asks of us: that we might become one with the same kind of people Jesus came to serve and love. It was not those in power or those with influence. It was not to the healthy and prosperous. It was to the sinner, the sick, the poor, and the powerless left behind.
At some point, the wonder of this revelation must get us up off the couch, and draw us into the mystery of what this cross has done for us. We were not born into this life to be spectators. Our faith will not permit us to watch for long. The Spirit comes with fire and wind, and the Christ who rose from the dead will call our names as he called Lazarus to unbind us and set us free: free to be his disciples living in communion, forgiven, healed, and full of life.