RCL Year C Lent 5
Isaiah 43:16-21, Psalm 126, Philippians 3:4b-14, Saint John 12:1-8

“For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and I regard them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ.”[1]

I just used Saint Paul’s very tough saying because I want to explore it for the purpose of getting ready for Palm Sunday and the mystery of the Cross. Saint Paul considers what he has lost as rubbish compared with gaining Christ. He has lost his old religion; he has lost his old freedom to do whatever he wanted; and he has lost his old life. And what he has gained is a new religion, a newer and greater freedom, and a new way to live. The old is practical and made of rules and nuts and bolts. The new is wondrous, mysterious, and full of love. I shall say it this way. It is as though he held in his palm a consecrated wafer, and what he perceives is not the unleavened wheat, but the Body of Christ and the bread of heaven.

This tension between the practical and the wondrous we can find in the reading from Isaiah. The Lord says, “I am about to do a new thing;…water in the wilderness, [and] rivers in the desert.”[2] The wild animals, the jackals and the ostriches, give up their wildness and become tame; they honor the Lord. A new world, founded in love, is coming into being.

And in the Gospel, Martha serves dinner, the recently raised from the dead Lazarus, Martha herself, and Judas Iscariot watch while Mary undertakes the symbolic act of anointing Jesus’ feet and wiping them with her hair. What happens before their eyes partakes of mystery and wonder. They don’t quite know what is happening, but they know something deep is happing. Judas, the thief, becomes defensive about the money the ointment costs, but Jesus shunts his questions and lets her persevere.

Holy Week and Easter, ultimately, are wondrous. They are not really about the donkey, or the palms, or the dinner, or the kiss of betrayal, or the nails, or the wood of the cross. They are about another world breaking in and interrupting ours to win us, to captivate us, to surround us with love, and mercy, and sacrifice, for our sakes. The donkey, the dinner, and the nails are about attracting our attention so that we will look for God, so that we will fix our gaze in God’s direction, to the end that we will become what God made us to be. To enter that world, we need to perceive what is bigger than we are, what is really there to be perceived. By allowing ourselves to be born again into God’s love, mercy, and sacrifice, we become God’s children and Christ’s own for ever.

I am inviting you and encouraging you to see with your heart , to believe with your mind, and to declare with your future actions that God loves you.

[1] Philippians 3:8b.

[2] Isaiah 43:19.