Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Now That's What I'm Talkin' About

On the way [to the Garden], he sang with his Apostles Israel’s psalms of liberation and redemption, which evoked the first Passover in Egypt, the night of liberation. Now he goes, as was his custom, to pray in solitude and, as Son, to speak with the Father. But, unusually, he wants to have close to him three disciples: Peter, James and John. These are the three who had experienced his Transfiguration – when the light of God’s glory shone through his human figure – and had seen him standing between the Law and the Prophets, between Moses and Elijah. They had heard him speaking to both of them about his “exodus” to Jerusalem. Jesus’ exodus to Jerusalem – how mysterious are these words! Israel’s exodus from Egypt had been the event of escape and liberation for God’s People. What would be the form taken by the exodus of Jesus, in whom the meaning of that historic drama was to be definitively fulfilled? The disciples were now witnessing the first stage of that exodus – the utter abasement which was nonetheless the essential step of the going forth to the freedom and new life which was the goal of the exodus.

Homily, Holy Thursday, 2012

Reflection – Yesterday I talked about monsters under the bed and being afraid of the dark, and how Jesus enters the night and how this is the great mystery in every human life—the difference Jesus makes when he enters into the darkness of the world.

I ended with ‘stay tuned’, promising that the homily would explore that very difference, that strange penetration of Jesus, of Light, into darkness, evil, and death. And so now we have this new word introduced into the mix: abasement.

Well, that was… unexpected. The world is in a mess; I’m in a mess; darkness and chaos and violence on all sides, and even within my heart to some extent. And Jesus purports to come to work this new exodus, this new deliverance, this new liberation from ‘all that’. How? By being… abased?

Really, Lord? A man rolling around on the ground in the garden, sweating blood, trembling with fear, begging God that this cup should pass, while his closest friends doze off in the corner—this is our new Moses, our great liberator?

Abasement—boy, we don’t like this! Our idea of liberation, victory, conquest, is the marching hero with the sword launching the frontal assault on the enemy stronghold. Lots of explosions and death-defying, physics-ignoring stunts and CGI monsters being decapitated and busty heroines being rescued. That’s our idea of a savior; that’s what we’re talkin’ about.

Well. That’s not what God did. That’s not what He’s talkin’ about. There is held out for us a promise of final eschatological apocalyptic triumph; the book of Revelation indeed has Jesus coming with a sword on a stallion and enough CGI pyrotechnics to satisfy the geekiest action geek who ever geeked. But the path there leads us through Gethsemane, through the Praetorium, through Golgotha, through the tomb.

Abasement. Oh, we don’t like it, much. And we sure don’t understand it, much. What God is talkin’ about, what God has done, and the path to freedom He opens up for us in that. And how it is just that: freedom. How can this be, so contrary to all our human ideas and expectations and preferences?

Stay tuned…


  1. I could hardly wait to see what you were going to write this morning.

    Now, I am focused on that word abasement. Perhaps, this is an opportunity to sort out true littleness and humility from some other thing- some unholy thing- an evil thing?- that we can do to ourselves and one another....

    Help me with this. I am staying tuned... :)

    1. Yes... Jesus somehow changed this whole dynamic of power/powerlessness, victim/victimizer in some way so radical we can hardly stick one toe into the water of it all. I wonder if I understand much about it, really... but I will keep writing what I can! Thanks for 'staying tuned!'


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