Maundy Thursday Sermon – 2016:
‘having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them unto the end.’ – John 13:1
On this day,
In 1980 – a priest, an archbishop infact was saying Mass in his Cathedral in El Salvador, and as he lifted up the chalice at the elevation he was shot dead.
That person is Oscar Romero – who sadly has not yet been declared a Saint, but who we all know is truly a Saint and a Martyr.
Someone who laid down his life, because he dared to speak truth to power.
Someone who laid down his life, because he loved the people he served.
Someone who laid down his life, because he took seriously the words of Christ when he said: “whosever wishes to follow me, must deny himself, take up his cross and follow me” and he took him seriously when Our Lord said: “For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.”
For when Jesus calls us to follow him, he bids us ‘Come and die!’.
In 2010, because of the legacy of Oscar Romero, declared the 24th March an ‘International Day for the Right to the Truth Concerning Gross Human Rights Violations and for the Dignity of Victims’.
Romero wrote a book entitled ‘The Violence of Love’, and in it he says: ‘For the church, the many abuses of human life, liberty, and dignity are a heartfelt suffering. The church, entrusted with the earth’s glory, believes that in each person is the Creator’s image and that everyone who tramples it offends God. As holy defender of God’s rights and of his images, the church must cry out. It takes as spittle in its face, as lashes on its back, as the cross in its passion, all that human beings suffer, even though they be unbelievers. They suffer as God’s images. There is no dichotomy between man and God’s image. Whoever tortures a human being, whoever abuses a human being, whoever outrages a human being abuses God’s image, and the church takes as its own that cross, that martyrdom…There are many things that can only be seen through eyes that have cried….A church that does not provoke any crisis, preach a gospel that does not unsettle, proclaim a word of God that does not get under anyone’s skin or a word of God that does not touch the real sin of the society in which it is being proclaimed: what kind of gospel is that? The church must suffer for speaking the truth, for pointing out sin, for uprooting sin. No one wants to have a sore spot touched, and therefore a society with so many sores twitches when someone has the courage to touch it and say: “You have to treat that. You have to get rid of that. Believe in Christ. Be converted.”
I remember this Christmas, receiving a photograph from a friend in Paris who was going to play Mass at one of the Churches in the city, and for their Midnight Service there were troops stood outside with tanks and machine guns – making sure that people could worship in peace….just two hours away by train….
All around the world, there will be Christians who cannot observe this most Holy Week in the Churches calendar, because their very lives are at risk.
I’m beginning to grow numb at the amount of violence that is going on in our world….
The events in Brussels remind us of the fragility of human life –
They remind us of our own mortality and vulnerability when we are forced to share a world with people who do not know the violence of Love, but only the violence of hatred.
We remember today, Jesus who was betrayed by those closest to him –
And if you have ever suffered betrayal you know that deep anguish that comes from having your love thrown back at you, by someone who has taken you for granted, broken promises, betrayed you.
Terrorists betray at many levels –
They betray good people of faith, all around the world – by saying that the way they live is the way of Faith.
They betray God, by committing acts of unspeakable evil in his name.
They betray themselves, by rejecting and tarring the gift of God that is within them, and that is within every human being,
And they betray, their fellow human beings –
Because there is no greater sin, than to take the life of another, who is made in the image of God.
It is the height of idolatry, to treat God’s creation as redundant and of absolutely no value, no worth, no dignity.
It would be easy for us, to hold hatred in our hearts for those who have betrayed us,
It would be easy for us, to hold hatred in our hearts for those who commit heinous crimes in our world today.
But Holy Week serves as a constant slap in the face for all of us – because we are silenced, before a God who is pure grace, and justice, and mercy and love.
And before the cross, before the Christ who today washes our feet, and tomorrow dies for our sins – before his cross – we are all of us, sinners who have been redeemed, not through any good that we have done, or because there is any good in us, but only because of the sacrifice of Jesus poured out upon the whole of creation – and that is as true for us, as it is for those who betray, and who kill it was as true for Judas as it was for Simon Peter, – we are all of us, sinners and nothing more before God’s throne.
Let us not forget, that we are a church of pilgrims on a journey – who even in the chaos of the world, can stand firm and walk serenely because we bear the wounds of love, and force of goodness, and the fruits of peace.
For Christ’s Body on earth is here – and that is our privilege and our joy. Let us love one another in that sacrificial way, let us love the world in which we live – because if we, the Church are not willing to – just who on earth will?
“whoever wishes to follow me, must deny himself, take up his cross and follow me…. whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.”