Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Purity in Passiontide

1Then Jesus six days before the passover came to Bethany, where Lazarus was which had been dead , whom he raised from the dead. 2 There they made him a supper; and Martha served : but Lazarus was one of them that sat at the table with him. 3 Then took Mary a pound of ointment of spikenard , very costly, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped his feet with her hair: and the house was filled with the odour of the ointment. 4 Then saith one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, Simon's son, which should betray him, 5 Why was not this ointment sold for three hundred pence, and given to the poor? 6 This he said , not that he cared for the poor; but because he was a thief, and had the bag, and bare what was put therein . 7 Then said Jesus, Let her alone : against the day of my burying hath she kept this. 8 For the poor always ye have with you; but me ye have not always. 9 Much people of the Jews therefore knew that he was there: and they came not for Jesus' sake only, but that they might see Lazarus also, whom he had raised from the dead. 10 But the chief priests consulted that they might put Lazarus also to death ; 11 Because that by reason of him many of the Jews went away , and believed on Jesus.

St John xii.1-11

The Life of Brian paints the Jewish people as being a fickle lot, listening to the ravings of lunatics, fanatics and weirdos as their latest whims took them. This is a little unfair. Certainly there are many itinerant preachers such as Honi the Circle Drawer prattling about the countryside and various sightings of the Messiah hither and yon, yet in a time of Roman occupation, the Jews are probably better at holding onto their heritage than at the times when they were in the ascendant.

Look at the way they held onto their faith during their captivity under the Babylonians, Assyrians and Greeks. Their Jewish heritage becomes something to cling onto when the world appears to lose its head. So why is it then that, in this time of crisis, the Jews suddenly start going away to follow Jesus? Are they so jaded and scornful of their heritage that they are easily swayed by an itinerant preacher, one who, despite claiming to be the Messiah, is not acting in the militaristic manner as they had expected?

Of course, the Pharisees see in Jesus nothing but a threat. However, do they see him as a blaspheming charlatan, or do they actually recognise some aspect of His Divinity and shudder at the prospect?

The point that they fail to see is that Jesus is not pulling people away from their heritage but drawing them further in. He is stabilising them, grounding them further in their heritage as the family of God. He tells them no lies and, were it not for the fact that He follows His claims up with signs and wonders, His claims would legitimately be seen to be the ravings of a lunatic. Lunatics, however, are not in the habit of raising people from the dead. He tells them straight: He is the Son of God. God in Passiontide makes Himself transparent to us little human beings. He does not hide his reality from us, though we cannot comprehend Him fully. There is no deceit here, for God is Truth.

And so Christ calls us to be pure. We are already transparent to Him as God for our lives lie completely open to Him, and we cannot do anything about that. However, in living our lives in purity we become transparent to our fellowmen. Christ calls us not to hide the Truth, or cross our fingers behind our back, or prevaricate with fancy words, but to let our "Yes" be a yes and our "No" be a no.

To reflect the Truth of Christ in our lives means that we have to cultivate purity. Think of how wonderful the light glistens through a glass of pure water or through a pure diamond crystal. The beauty of water and diamond arises because of its purity and how the light reacts to it.

Because Mary (Martha's sister, remember) sees Jesus' transparency to her in the way that He shares her grief at the death of Lazarus, hears her protests about why He wasn't there to heal him before he died, and then goes on to raise Lazarus from the dead, she knows that He is Who He has always claimed to be. The purity of His human nature allows the Truth of His divine nature to shine through into our understanding. So Mary treats Him as she now believes in the purity and simplicity of her heart.

The hearts of the Pharisees, however, are tainted with the concerns of this world - their social standing, the number of bums on seats in their synagogues, and their way of doing things. It is they who object to Jesus' regard for the integrity of the Jewish Heritage, not knowing that it is they who have changed it to suit their methods and promote their causes, and who are prepared to dissemble, cover up and spin in order to do so. Jesus has exposed this practice for what it is, and that's why they want to kill Him. It is the impurity of their hearts and of their motives that drives them to opposing God Himself.

The purer we become in our motives and in our worship of God, the more shall this world become transparent to us so that we see God Himself at the centre of all things. Also, in purity of living, we become transparent to this world and the more will the light of Christ shine through us before others who may, if we are indeed pure, see through us to that same Christ - and what a privilege would that be for us all!

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