Sunday, April 27, 2014

Watery witnesses

Sermon preached at Our Lady of Walsingham and St Francis on Low Sunday. 

 From the man who brought you “In the beginning was the Word” and “we shall see Him as He really is” comes “And there are three that bear witness in earth, the Spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three agree in one.” St John is not the easiest of writers to understand. His gospel is radically different from the other three, though he is in complete agreement with their experience of Our Lord. He often makes very odd statements and they do need some unpacking before we can really understand what St John is saying.


 St John is probably the only one of the Apostles to make it to a grand old age. His gospel is written late in the first century and probably so that he can record his thoughts before age overtakes him. At the time of his writing, a new group of people are beginning to gather and corrupt the Christian Faith with their teaching. These are the Gnostics. They essentially say that in order to be saved, you must hate your body and seek after special knowledge. Only those who know certain things will go to Heaven.

 St John is firmly against this and, following his example, so should we be. He has spent a long time with Our Lord Jesus who has preached to everyone that anyone who believes in Him will be saved. You don’t have to be a professor to be saved; you don’t even have to have an education whatsoever to go to Heaven. “If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.” It’s an opportunity for everyone regardless of who they are. But then it’s okay for St John. He was there with Jesus from the beginning. What about us, 2000 years later?


 St John’s faith has probably never wavered since he saw the Lord Jesus standing before him with his wounds still visible, physical and real, eating and drinking and probably laughing and rejoicing with His disciples. You can’t forget a thing like that. Jesus has very clearly come to us in the flesh, He has died in the flesh and He has risen in the flesh. He clearly does not want us to despise being human, which is something the Gnostics would want us to believe. St John is quite clear that Jesus came in the flesh, “This is he that came by water and blood, even Jesus Christ; not by water only, but by water and blood.”

 Our Lord Jesus did not identify with us just by the water in which He was baptised, but also with the water and the blood which poured out from His side when the soldier stabbed His crucified corpse with a lance. It is the water and the blood and the Spirit which Jesus took back to form His resurrection body that we know that He was both human and Divine. “There are three that bear witness in earth, the Spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three agree in one.”

 So we have these three things that tell us that Jesus was a human being, and we also have the word of the Holy Trinity that He was divine! “For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one.” St John tells us that we can be sure that there are physical signs that point to Our Lord Jesus rising from the Dead in His physical form. Where can we experience this same Christ now?


 Well, Our Lord has instituted the Holy Eucharist for a reason! This is a service of Communion. If we’re willing to believe then we come into contact with God the Son at every Mass. There are little things in the Mass which may pass you by. Watch when the priest prepares the chalice. He approaches the server who gives him first wine then water. The priest prays the prayer:

 “O God Who didst wonderfully create and yet more wonderfully restore the dignity of Man’s nature, grant that by the mystery of this water and wine we may be partakers in His Divinity who didst partake of our humanity, even Jesus Christ, Our Lord Who liveth and reigneth with Thee in the Unity of the Holy Ghost, God throughout all ages, world without end. Amen”

 The water stands for our humanity and for all Christians living and departed, the wine the Divine nature, the substance of God Himself. These are mixed together and consecrated together becoming for us the Blood of Christ. Shortly after they are consecrated, the priest drops a little bit of the Body of Christ into the chalice so that we can see that the Body and Blood of Christ have become one with our humanity. This is what is really meant by communion.

 This is not a scientific inquiry. This is the place for things beyond the scope of science and indeed beyond our understanding. This is a matter of believing in our hearts! Our Mass is where we can strengthen our belief so that we can go out into the world bearing God in our hearts, and so that by our living we can help others to see God at work in the world and point to Him beyond the world. “Whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith.” What is our faith for, if not to be spread into the hearts of those around us?

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