“He submitted so humbly that his prayer was heard”. These words from the second Reading today invite to join the journey with Christ in humility as we pray.
There is a starkness in the church today as all the images and statues are covered in purple with the sole exception of Saint Joseph whose feast we celebrated on Friday. We have chosen to pray an octave in thanks giving for all the graces! Joseph can speak very eloquently to us today of how we have been invited to journey in this Passiontide. With the covering in purple we are as it were being stripped of all our props namely all those things which keep us alive, interested and entertained. Perhaps what is being said is that we no longer remain outside ourselves but need to travel within. We need to look at who we really are and what makes us tick. Now is not the time to worry about what others think of us but rather to put away our pride, ambition and vainglory. There is that invitation to go deep within ourselves and ask how we must appear before God. It’s almost as though we need to look at ourselves in a mirror as If we are looking at God face-to-face. If we were called today how would we appear before Him and where would our true loves be.
In a similar vein Christ is a rapidly moving on this Passion Sunday towards Jerusalem. He is soon to embrace his suffering, passion and death. Throughout his life he has been free of pride, ambition and worry as to how others see him. Remember how they wanted to make him king in the gospel of Saint John after the miraculous feeding of the 5000. This humility of Christ is something that we are being drawn into and we need to identify with him most closely as we enter this Passiontide. There is in Christ one underlying theme, characteristic and fixed determination described in the words of the gospel today is to “let the grain of wheat fall to the ground and die”. It is to forget yourself, ambition and any pretence of self-perception. Christ teaches us to lose our life so that we may serve him better, follow and love and reject all the trophies and pridefullness of the world. At the heart of the passion as its underlying theme and very raison d’etre the call to selflessness, surrender, humility, readiness to be humble and offer oneself in sacrificial love. The true understanding of love is when we are ready to sacrifice and give ourselves for the other and this is explained most perfectly in the passion of Christ.
The battle lines for this drama are clearly described on the first Sunday of Lent. Tradition always gives us the gospel account of the temptation in the desert into which Christ enters for 40 days and 40 nights. In that temptation he and we have been tempted to worship the world, its seductions, power, pomp and grandeur. Literally if we worship Satan we are told that we will receive power, wealth and kingdoms aplenty. We are being tempted to walk away from humility, death to self, adoration of God and selfless service.
On this Sunday battle has been joined. It starts with the Greeks asking the disciples of Jesus “we should like to see Jesus“. He tells them that if you want to see, recognise and hear me then there has to be death to self, Adoration, humility, service and sacrificial love all of which are anathema to Satan. According to Christ in the gospel today that this is precisely “how the Prince of this world is overthrown “. After Christ had spoken there is a clap of thunder and a voice from heaven and many of those gathered could not recognise it. They could not hear the words uttered by the Father in the heavens. The question asked of us is can we recognise that voice?
Go back to the shrouded pictures and images here in the church for they are an invitation to go deep inside oneself and to be stripped of all superficialities. It is there and only there that we can adore, serve, die to self and so know how to love and follow Christ.