Sermon for the Fifth Sunday in Lent

cross_punch_flower_283079_tnYesterday was the first day of spring and some of the men of parish were out taking care of the storm damage. Lucky and I went for a walk and most people were smiling. Lots of sun and warm temperatures do that to people.

Today is the final Sunday in the Lenten season and Easter, the season associated with spring, is just around the corner. But first we must get through Holy Week with the triumphal entry into Jerusalem, the betrayal and crucifixion.

Today’s gospel is the third and final reported encounter with Martha and Mary and the second time Lazarus is mentioned. Taken as a trio they provide excellent insights into Jesus’ ministry.

The visit by Jesus to the home of these three friends, the first story, where Martha is agitated because Mary is not helping with the tasks of getting dinner prepared. And Jesus says, “Martha, Mary has chosen a better way.”

It is a better way because I think Jesus knows his time is running out and he wants to prepare his friends for the rest of life.

The second reported encounter takes place when Jesus arrives to raise his dead friend from death—at considerable risk to himself. The disciples are concerned that Herod will find a way to arrest him.

In this final encounter Mary anoints Jesus’ feet, the dirtiest part of a person who walks on unpaved roads and wipes them with her hair. Jesus points out that she had set aside this perfume for the day of his burial. We who know what will happen know that there will be no preparation of the body because of the Resurrection.

This anointing, this washing with costly oil, is in some ways a precursor to Jesus’ washing of the feet at the beginning of the Last Supper. Both represent voluntary acts of love in anticipation of the greatest act of love—dying for all of Creation.

The crucifixion will demonstrate that Jesus’ love which transcends death is not solely reserved for friends.

Judas Iscariot is mentioned with very inflammatory statements. He is the betrayer, yet, I believe that Jesus will die for Judas’ sins as well just as he will wash the feet of Judas at the Last Supper.

What love is demonstrated in these stories of friendship in Bethany before the fateful ride where ears rang with the sound of Hosannas.

During every Eucharist the Sanctus ends with our declaration of what the crowd shouted: Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!

How often do we make the connection with the martyred saints whom John saw surrounding the throne in his vision of Heaven and saying Holy, Holy, Holy! with the calls of the crowd announcing him as the King of Israel before his betrayal, trial and murder?

Probably not often. Yet we deepen our spirituality when we make those kinds of connections. We deepen our spirituality when like the Apostle Paul we yearn for and strive to know Christ Jesus and the power of His resurrection.

Here is one who has seen Jesus Christ and heard his voice as the resurrected God and man, who through the power of this vision and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit has been able to evangelize Greece. Yet he feels he does not truly know Jesus or the power of his resurrection!

Perhaps Paul feels he will only experience this more complete knowledge upon the death of his mortal body when we as Christians believe we too will know the joys of life with God in anticipation of our own resurrection.

In the meantime seek Christ in every person you meet, no matter what that person’s circumstance might be. Treat visitors as if they were the Christ and welcome them equally. Remember that what sustained Mother Teresa with the abandoned dying on the streets of Calcutta was seeing the face of Christ in the faces of those terminally ill persons whose last days were spent on clean bedding, wearing clean clothes because of her ministry and that her fellow nuns.

May we strive for this kind of encountering the world in which we find ourselves.