People loved by God, we have heard in the last several weeks the call to repentance. In today’s second reading we hear with unmistakable clarity what that life is to which we are called back, what that life is into which God placed us when the water was poured over us in the font:
“If I have not love, I am nothing.
Love is patient and kind;
love does not envy or boast;
it is not arrogant or rude.
It does not insist on its own way;
it is not irritable or resentful;
it does not rejoice at wrongdoing,
but rejoices with the truth.
Love bears all things,
believes all things,
hopes all things,
endures all things.
Love never ends.”
THAT is the life to which God calls us to return. The life whose content is love. How could it be otherwise when love is WHO He is, and He calls us to Himself?
In today’s Gospel we learn about Him who is love and who loves us. We see that our Lord Jesus is both true man and true God. You’ll never get Lent right, you’ll never probe the deepest joy of His Passion, until you see that, hold it tight and never let it go.
He shows us both natures in today’s Gospel. First, He shows His humanity by announcing His passion: “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written about the Son of the Man by the prophets will be accomplished. For he will be delivered over to the Gentiles and will be mocked and shamefully treated and spit upon. And after flogging him, they will kill him, and on the third day he will rise.” He foretells horrible suffering awaiting Him. Such suffering only a human being could experience. Only as man can He go through those horrors and only as man can He die and so be raised. His passion, the trauma to his body, the bleeding out of His life – all these show in the most profound way His true human nature.
But look at the second half of the Gospel and ask yourself: Who but God could hear that cry for mercy and give to a blind man his sight? No one! Is this not the One that Isaiah spoke of in our first reading? “Behold your God will come and save you. Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened.” Then? Then when? Then, when your God comes to you.
So as we are on the doorstep of Lent, ready to enter into the Fast and to focus our eyes on WHAT Jesus is going to Jerusalem to do, the Church in her wisdom reminds us on this day – Quinquagesima, some 50 days before Easter - not to forget WHO He is who does all these things. He is at the same time true Man – that He might suffer and die – and true God – that His suffering and death might forgive the sins of the whole world and crush death itself to death.
So Lent is not a time for you to work yourself up to feeling sorry for Jesus and all that He had to do. Remember, “for the JOY that was set before Him, He endured the cross, scorning its shame.” He does what He does not to win your pity, but to give you His love that it might be your life. When you follow Him through His passion, do not be like the disciples who “understood none of these things. This saying was hidden from them, and they did not grasp what was said.” They didn’t get the WHAT because they were in constant danger of forgetting the WHO, and especially that this Man before them was also fully and completely God.
When you remember the WHO, then you follow the Lord along the path to Golgotha and the joys of Easter morning, marveling at the wisdom of God, which none of the rulers of this world understood – or they would never have crucified the Lord of glory.
When you know that it is the Lord of glory who is standing there, not answering a word, as He is beaten and slapped, and you know that all it takes from Him is a single word – no, even a single thought – and his abusers would be struck down dead, you fall down in worship and praise.
When you know that the One fixed with nails to the wood, praying for pardon for his persecutors, and then raised up on the cross, whose blood stains the wood and the earth, is the One who fixed the world in place and who stoops so low to raise up all the fallen children of Adam, you fall down in worship.
When you know that the One who closes His eyes in death and is laid in the tomb is the One who breathes life itself into everything than lives, then you fall down in worship.
When you know that the One who was raised on the third day in a body incorruptible and made the source of everlasting salvation to all who believe in Him is the One who was with the Father from the beginning and who is Himself truly and always God, then you fall down in worship.
Before the great journey into the Passion begins the Church opens our eyes to see WHOM we follow up the road to Jerusalem that we might marvel at the love He reveals to exist for us in the heart of God, and so welcome Him who is that gift of love, to live within us too. To accomplish His incarnation also within us. That we might bear in our bodies His body and so become also in our lives living sacrifices - living because we are united to Him who is that holy love St. Paul described in our epistle. And that love is the only true LIFE, eternal life.
Today as we gather at His table again, the body that was so mistreated, so abused, but which was raised in eternal glory, He feeds into us. The blood that ran down the cross and covered all of our sin, answering every accusation of the law against every last human being, He pours down our throat. He gives these gifts to us that we might share in His salvation – a salvation which can truly be described as the restoration to love. That is what He created us for: love. What we fell from in our first parents. What He went to the cross to restore us to. It's the life He gave us in the waters of Baptism and to which He constantly call us to return. The life that IS in Him, for God is love, and He IS God. God in our flesh. Love in our flesh.
“And immediately he recovered his sight and followed Him, glorifying God. And all the people when they saw it, gave praise to God.” Shall we not join them, and follow Jesus up the road to Jerusalem and beyond to our heavenly home where Love alone reigns? Lent awaits: "We adore You, O Lord, and we praise and glorify Your holy resurrection. For behold, by the wood of Your cross joy has come into all the world!"