Homily for the 5th Sunday of Lent

A fortnight is not a long time, and in a fortnight, it will be Easter. In 12 days it will be Good Friday, and next Sunday is Palm Sunday. Easter is coming.

And this 5th Sunday knows it. It’s so full of Christ. The focus is shifting from our own Lenten efforts to the person and action of the Son of God. “And when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw all people to myself” (ESV).

Today I hope, we have a sense of this being drawn, and more and more day by day, as Easter approaches. We can ask ourselves this. It’s the tugging of God. Do we feel it? In today’s Gospel we meet these questing Greeks who had gone to Jerusalem to take part in the Jewish Passover. There must be some backstory here. And somehow hey had heard of Jesus. They approach the apostle Philip and say, “Sir, we should like to see Jesus”. The Greeks have left us so much visual beauty: vases, sculptures, temples, and this wanting of the Greeks to see Jesus was unconsciously bring their whole culture to Christ. They were being drawn. Surely too, as the Easter Vigil approaches, our noble catechumen feels this drawing too. Surely those already Christian who will be received into full communion, and those already Catholic who’ll be confirmed feel it too. Seven of them for the Easter Vigil, the “magnificent seven”, seven who symbolise that whole, that great all, whom the Lord draws. They are part of that “rich harvest” drawn from that single grain who fell into the earth and died. And we too.

“And I, when I am lifted up, will draw all people to myself.” A medieval mystic spoke of “the drawing of this love and the voice of this calling.”  May we feel it!

And in a moment we here, congregation, ministers, clergy, all of us, we the Church in this place, will do a beautiful thing. It’s called a traditio, a handing-on. We did it two weeks ago with the Creed. Today, we will together pray the Our Father, as always, but in a distinctive way and at nother moment of the Mass as well as the usual one. We will pray it for P. our catechumen to hear. We will hand on the gift we’ve been given by the Lord: the gift of his prayer. This is the formula the Lord gave his disciples when they asked to be taught to pray. But it’s more than a formula. It’s the gift of praying itself, praying as God’s sons and daughters. Thanks to the Holy Spirit given us in baptism and confirmation we can cry out, Abba Father.  Prayer in Christ is a huge, self-changing, life-changing, world-changing gift. I almost said God-changing. It’s a power. And we pass it on this Sunday. We are parenting prayer. We are missionaries of prayer.  We’re passing it on in this Year of Prayer. And as we pass it on we somehow receive it again.

What is Easter about, really about? Where then is Jesus drawing us? Into a new covenant, a deeper relationship, says Jeremiah. “Deep within them, says the Lord, I will plant my Law, writing it on their hearts. Then I will be their God and they shall be my people.”   Drawn to a wedding! We are being drawn into Christ’s own prayer, according to the Letter to the Hebrews: “During his life on earth, Christ offered up prayer and entreaty, aloud and in silent tears, to the one who had the power to save him out of death, and he submitted so humbly that his prayer was heard.” At the heart of the Passion is the prayer of Christ. Where is he drawing us? Says the Collect into his gift of self, that “charity with which out of love for the world, [he] handed himself over to death.” This is the real Easter. Out of our burrows and bunkers, out of our self-obsession, we are being drawn to the heart of things: to see the glory of Trinitarian love, drawn into the relationship between the Son and the Father. There, in Easter, it is broken open- for us, for the whole world, to enter into.

May we be drawn!

St Mary’s Cathedral, Aberdeen, 17 March 2024


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