Homily for Tuesday in Holy Week, 2008
Tuesday, March 18th, 2008
Holy Trinity Anglican Church, Thornhill, ON
The Rev. Daniel F. Graves
Texts: 1 Corinthians 1:18-31; John 12:20-36
“The Message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved, it is the power of God.” – 1 Cor. 1:18
Paradox stands at the heart of our Holy Week journey: A triumphal parade becomes the longest mile; a king is crowned with thorns and placed upon a cross as throne; the healing of the nations comes about through the wounding of a single man; and ultimately, new life is born out of death. Is it any wonder, then, that St. Paul says, “that the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing…” In this world, which oft seems devoid of meaning, how can these paradoxes make any sense at all? Is not what we see with our own eyes what is real? Are not Kings are gloried in their victory rather than in their defeat? Is not pain an unavoidable reality that grips us all, sooner or later? Is not death our final humiliation? On the surface, the answer is “yes.” The paradoxes are absurd. What we see is what we know. Defeat is defeat; pain is pain; and death is death. How can they be anything more? We see with our own eyes the reality of such things and we have experienced them in our own lives and the lives of those around us. And it’s not pretty.
There is another way of seeing, though. It is a way of seeing that penetrates the reality that is seen by our eyes, heard with our ears, touched by our hands. Truly, it is a reality that penetrates our hearts and souls. It is the reality of God here among us; light in the midst of us. It is a reality that is beyond sensory comprehension. It is a reality that is beyond explanation. It is a reality that is beyond the wisdom of this world. It is a reality that is felt and known inwardly amidst the contradiction of what we may experience outwardly. It is impossible to say how it happens for each one of us, but “in Christ” we are made alive and as he peers into, and touches the depths of our hearts, so that we to peer into, and touch the depths of his. The meaninglessness of the world around us suddenly takes on meaning; in the hopelessness of our situation we suddenly find hope; and in the brokenness of our humanity we find wholeness; in the moment of death we know eternal life. This is why as Christians at funerals we confess the paradox that while we are indeed “dust and to dust we shall return,” that even at the grave we make “alleluia” our song. What is seen is not necessarily the ultimate truth, and what is more, what we see takes on greater meaning because of what we feel and know, inwardly and mystically, in Christ. Thus St. Paul can say, “that the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved, it is the power of God.”
And so it is that in losing our life, we shall find it; in gentleness, we shall find strength; in brokenness, we discover wholeness; in dying, yet we live. In Christ, as St. John reminds us, life is fleeting and not to be hoarded or clung to, for it is never really ours to possess. If we know the one who gives us life, we shall come to live it more fully, more passionately, and more meaningfully. Then, finally, the paradox in all its inexplicable contradiction will be understood and we will revel in understanding in the foolishness of God.
Text copyright 2008 by the Rev. Daniel F. Graves. This homily may not be reproduced or redistributed, either in who or part, by any means, without the express, written permission of the author.