5th Sunday of Easter C - Homily 2


Homily 2 - 2019

Most of us can make sense of the second part of today’s Gospel passage about Jesus’ command that we love one another. But what did the first part of the passage mean with all its talk about glorifying? and how on earth do the two sections connect? More importantly, how might they connect with our lives today?

In the Jewish mind, “glorify” had a very special meaning. Jews had a wonderful sense of the utter uniqueness of God, of God’s difference from us. They would not even pronounce aloud the name of God, Yahweh. It was too sacred for human lips. Essentially, God was far above or beyond our capacity to understand. But God was able to reveal to us something of his beauty. It was that revelation of God, visible and understandable to humans, that was referred to as God’s “glory”. The primary humanly accessible revelation of God was Jesus himself; and God’s “glory” was particularly visible through his integrity, his inner authority and strength.

The Gospel passage this morning began with the ominous observation, “When Judas had gone out”. What it did not clarify was that he went out from the Upper Room in the middle of the Last Supper. The Jewish priests, the legal eagles and the aristocrats had already decided to get Jesus out of the way once and for all. But it had to be done with as least fuss as possible – the last thing they wanted was that his volatile Galilean followers thronging Jerusalem for the Passover feast create a riot. By a stroke of luck, Judas had approached them and provided them a where and when they could get Jesus: late Thursday night, when people were asleep, out on the Mount of Olives.

The wheels began to turn. Judas left the group celebrating the Last Supper and went out into the night. The moment that Jesus had anticipated months earlier had come: “Now has the Son of Man been glorified and in him God has been glorified” – the moment he had simultaneously dreaded and longed for. Within hours, Jesus would be hanging on a cross, tortured, dehumanized, through the blind, brutal violence of the Jewish establishment and their Roman occupiers.

This would be the context through which the inner beauty, the “glory”, of Jesus would become perfect. To those with eyes to see, he would make dazzlingly obvious his unshakeable commitment to God’s way of gratuitous love and forgiveness; and make evident at the same time, the inner beauty, the inspiring strength, the “glory”, of God empowering him. At that moment he set a new benchmark for human love. He had shown the possibilities of human hearts and wills. He had raised the bar – above the reasonable to the possible, perhaps even to the irresistible.

After Judas’ exit into the night, Jesus had addressed the remaining disciples, “Just as I have loved you, you also must love one another”. Of course! It’s logical. It is also frightening. Jesus showed it is possible for human hearts enabled by God’s love. If only we would recognize and live our capacity – loved, forgiven, trusted, commissioned and empowered sinners that we are – at least we could aim higher. It would become a different world.

The current situation of the Church worries and distresses most of us. For too long, we have wanted to be a Church of power and influence, seeking to impose on others how they must live. Could it be that many of those who have walked away, or are hanging in by the skin of their teeth, have been unconsciously scandalised by a Church that has forgotten to prioritise the message of love? Do we no longer stand out as disciples of Jesus by the love we have, even for one another?

The disciples abandoned the tortured, crucified Jesus. Once risen, with absolutely no fuss, Jesus forgave them, and commissioned them to make a resolute attempt to love as he had loved them.

There is always hope.