The Rev'd Carlos de la Torre
Christ Church, New Haven, Conn.
March 30, 2018
Blessed be the name of the Lord, from henceforth, and forevermore. Amen.
At his questioning by the high priest, Jesus answers “I spake openly to the world… and in secret I have said nothing.” Before Pilate, when asked if he is a king, Jesus replies “Thou sayest that I am a king. To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth.”
In his trials by Caiaphaus and Pilate, Jesus affirms the work given to him by God the Father. The work he has been on through his ministry in Judea. In secret he has said nothing and he has not hid his actions from anyone. Jesus has sought the poor, the sick, the rich, and the powerful. Jew and Gentile alike. Jesus has openly taught and performed great signs among all people.
And through his life, Jesus has bore witness unto the truth, which in his own words, was the purpose of his birth.
And in bearing witness to the truth, Jesus has bore witness to both the truth of God the Father and the truth of this world. In our sight, these two truths seem to be opposing forces.
It’s as if in shining a mirror unto the truth of God and the truth of this world, we see two distinct reflections.
The image reflected of God the Father was restoration and wholeness with the world, and the image reflected of this world was sin and death.
On this day, two thousand years ago, these opposing images came to a clash. And the world that God longed to have and the world as it was met on the cross.
The faithfulness, obedience, and selfless love of God was hung by a world corrupted by anger, fear, and injustice. The truth of sin and death seem to have won over the truth of God. By all standards of power and rule, the officials and the crowd had won. Jesus had been killed. His disciples had fled. Our Blessed Mother, the Beloved Disciple, and the faithful women were in tears as they held our Lord’s lifeless body. All pointed, once again, that sin and death had the last word.
What the world saw was the death of Jesus -- the death of a teacher, the death of a friend, the death of a son. But “the Lord does not see as mortals see.”
On this day, two thousand years ago, what the world viewed with its eyes was a man hanging on a cross. What the world viewed was an act of injustice take place as innocent man was put to death. What the world viewed was the end of a movement that had managed to touch the hearts and minds of all kinds of people. What the world viewed was the end.
But the Lord does not see as mortals see.
What hung on the cross was not death but salvation. The truth of God, the truth that Jesus came to bear witness, did not compete against sin and death as co-equals. Rather, on the cross, God exposed sin and death for what they really are, human disfigurements. Humanity’s capacity for sin and its many embodiments: abuse, violence, hatred, envy, indifference to human life and suffering, and all others, is not what we’re meant to be or what we’re meant to become.
On the cross, Jesus reflects to the world a broken image of itself. He shows us what we are capable of doing to ourselves and others. He does this not to judge us, or even to condemn us, but as if he were a doctor, he does this to diagnose us.
Remember that the Lord does not see as mortals see. What God sees in the world is a people in need of a remedy. And that remedy is the cross, the cross becomes the medicine for the world. The cross which captures our human capacity for sin and death becomes our very life source. The cross is capable of holding up for us our sins and our redemption. After all, we have a God who not only forgives our sins but forgets - as the author of Hebrews writes, The Holy Spirit testifies, “I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.”
Through the cross, the death of Jesus becomes the world’s greatest sacrifice. Unlike the sacrifices of old in which the high priest had to take part in a yearly sacrifice for the forgiveness of sin, Jesus, our great high priest, who is both priest and sacrifice, has made, as the prayer book says, “By his oblation of himself once offered, a full, perfect, and sufficient sacrifice, oblation, and satisfaction, for the sins of the world.”
In his sacrifice, the cross becomes a symbol of life. No longer is it an implement of suffering and death. God transforms this once violent image into our salvation. God is not only capable of shining a mirror on our sins and the sins of the world but responds with the cross to be our cure.
As we prepare to venerate the cross, remember that through the cross, God has not only shown us what sin and death can do but what God is capable to do. Where there is sin and death, there is love and life. God has shown us how deep is his love and how powerful is his might. And as if death and sin were nothing more than a smudge on our face, as a mother God has made us clean and giving us the victory.
In Anglo Catholic folklore, there’s a story of a curate serving in stately English parish. A somewhat eccentric and young priest, the curate seemed to have gone mad on Good Friday, as he processed around the Church with a crucifix in hand, shouting, “Victory, victory, victory!”
As you approach the cross, and kneel in veneration, pour out your heart to the Lord. Whatever may be heavy on your soul and burdensome bring it to the cross.
And as you kneel, touch, and kiss the cross, and remember those words shouted in that English parish -- “Victory, victory, victory!”
On this day above all days, God is good all the time. Thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.