Fifth Sunday of Lent – 2020

My dear friends in our Lord: Glory to Jesus Christ!

In today’s Gospel, Our Lord foretells to the disciples the things which will happen to Him. He does so in order to calm and strengthen their hearts, so that they will not be thrown into confusion at the time of His Passion; that, having heard and learned of these things beforehand, they will be able to bear everything that will happen and will endure all afflictions with fortitude; and that they will not be struck with fear by hearing of these things suddenly and unexpectedly.

It is natural for us to be shaken when something happens unexpectedly; when we face uncertain and threatening circumstances. For this reason the Lord foretells the events to come, so that no one would be scandalized when those things of which He speaks come to pass. And though our Lord speaks and tells the disciples of things that are quite genuinely sad and sorrowful, He still gives them – and us – one great consolation in the midst of it. He assures us that on the third day He shall rise again. For in all tribulations, in all trials, we can have the certainty that Almighty God has the victory in the end.

Note that in the Gospel our Lord takes His disciples aside and speaks with them in private, as if He were divulging or revealing a secret to His closest friends. In fact, that is exactly what He was and is doing. The secret – the Mystery, in fact – was His Passion, His Death, and His glorious Resurrection, which it was fitting to reveal in its entirety only to those who were closest to Him. It remains so to this day. For only those who live in grace can begin to stand before the great Mystery of Faith and have a share in its understanding.

Indeed, everything that our Lord has said and done is beyond mere human words and understanding. The sooner we come to that truth, the sooner we can truly begin to live and move in the inexhaustible treasure of His grace.

Of course, in today’s Gospel the disciples were quite imperfect in their actions, and easily tossed about by their own emotions. They thought that in speaking of “going up to Jerusalem” Our Lord was talking about going for the sake of ushering in a visible kingdom, a worldly kingdom, a material kingdom.

But our Lord addresses His disciples, and He addresses us, because we, too, can often be quite materially and worldly minded, and He rebukes the thought that His kingdom is a mere temporal kingdom.

Our Lord humbles His disciples – and us – by pointing out that to grab honors for oneself and to desire to be first are things that the Gentiles do, those who did not know God. He says, “The leaders of the Gentiles come with power and force, but it is not so with My disciples; rather, let him who would be great among you serve all.”

For it is the mark of a great soul, a strong soul, to be com-passionate with everyone and to work for all. For our Lord says the Son of Man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister.

Indeed the Son of Man not only serves, but gives His life for those whom He serves. What could be more humble than this?

Our Lord did not disdain to come down and to humble Himself in the form of a servant and to give Himself up to death, even the death of the Cross, for our sakes. Let us not disdain to come down, to humble ourselves in heart in the form of His children, for His sake.

Our Lord’s descent in no way detracts from His ascension. And we, too, if we humble ourselves, shall be lifted up and saved. Our Lord did all these things in order to show us that the true way to true ascent lies through humility. He Himself is the unique way and image of salvation for all.

When we humble ourselves, when we cast ourselves prostrate in body, mind, and heart before our Lord, then He will raise us up.

For so great a gift as this grace of being lifted up, let us joyfully endure any suffering, any difficulty. Let us pass the remaining time of the Lenten Fast, that we may receive God’s blessing and bring forth the spiritual fruits of love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, meekness, goodness, mercy, temperance, and righteousness.

Let us go forth, my friends, and let us not grow lazy. This season of abstinence is going by quickly, the time for repentance is passing, the spiritually beneficial exercises are coming to their conclusion, the contest for salvation is even now being judged.

Let us no longer walk in ways that are contrary, nor let us act against each other; for, my friends, we are all brothers and sisters, having one and the same Father, God; all of us have one mother, the Church, and have been reborn at the same holy font of Baptism. We have one Teacher, one faith, one baptism, one Lord Jesus Christ.

Let us therefore, be zealous for the things of our Lord Jesus Christ and seek them, that we may both enjoy the present life and obtain the glory to come.

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