“I offered my back to those who struck me, my cheeks to those who tore at my beard. I did not cover my face against insult & spittle.” Words of prophet Isaiah in 1st rdg we hear at our Good Friday afternoon liturgy.. it clearly personifies Our Lord, the innocent victim, self sacrificially going to his death to release you & I from a deserved life sentence & extinction ..he is a distant role model for us as we take on the suffering of our own Calvary & Good Friday..on behalf of others known & others for time being unknown to us..paying off their indebtedness.. & also taking up Cross as reparation for our own sinfulness..for times we fall well short of what is expected of us in the Gospels, in the Rule & in our loving relationships with each other.. “..does anyone start proceedings against me?” ; Lord have mercy “..the Lord comes to my help..” ; Christ have mercy “..I know I shall not be shamed..” ; Lord have mercy May Almighty God have mercy on us, forgive us our sins & bring us to everlasting life. Amen.
Ch8 of Marks Gospel of 16 chapters, half way through his earthly ministry, & Jesus the teacher decides to test his student disciples, & at same time, achieve a self certificated performance review of his own leadership & teaching..always remember the difference between Jesus & us; Jesus of Nazareth, fully divine took lifetime learning how to become fully human; Bede Leach of Ampleforth, fully human & taking lifetime learning how to become fully divine..you me & Jesus are fellow students & teachers..& very gently & informally, walking in step & conversation with them, he puts question to them ;Q1 short simple; worth 2mks “who do people say I am?” what’s word on street about me? what do they say outside village shop or in White Swan about me?..& answer is understandable..a look alike /sound alike to big wigs of Judaism; John Baptist, Elijah. one of prophets; one of those awkward ones who didn’t fit mould, dressed differently, spoke with conviction, challenged folk to wise up & change..2mks..then Jesus goes deeper with Sect B question worth 25mks “but you, who do you say I am?” you who have got to know me over last 18mths; heard spoke slept alongside me, arugued praised affirmed & criticised me, seen me perform miracles, seen me unable to perform miracles “who do you say I am?”..it is Peter as ever who puts his head above battlements, whilst the rest timidly sit in pew, not daring to give Jesus eye contact in case he catches your eye & says to you & me “tell me who do you say I am?” Peter knew, he recognised Jesus’ divinity “you are the Christ” & sadly Mk’s account of teacher/ pupil dialogue ends sternly with a strict order “to tell no one about him” & yet in Matthew’s account, a relieved & happy Jesus says excitedly to Peter.. “Simon you are a happy man, so I now say to you, you are Peter & on this rock I will build my Church”..a moment of shared joy; a delighted rookie teacher succeeding & a rookie disciple who understands..Mk’s Jesus continues the class, a sense of there being another 45mins to go & the teacher needs to stick to his lesson plan; so he gives them the bad news, of a mission which is to cost him his life, & by relationship/ full immersion, the disciples their lives..Peter reacts; notice considerately caringly & sensitively..he takes Jesus to one side before remonstrating with him, avoiding any embarrassment or humiliation..we are not told what Peter said or how he looked as he said it, but it was enough to light blue touch paper & Jesus explodes “get behind me Satan!” & notice it’s back in front of whole class..Jesus finishes by explaining one condition of following him “take up the Cross & follow me”..there is no scented path of roses to heaven, we are each chosen called like Peter & others..rock solidly dependable at times, & at other times disowning questioning “woman I do not know him” 3 times..divinely accepting his divine identity “you are the Christ” but questioning need for his humanity his suffering death & resurrection..the call is to believe/ to live in conformity with, or in contradiction against, our faith..faith devoid of good works is useless”if good works do not go with it, it is quite dead” says St James..& the good work of being here this evening/ morning is useless if faith is absent..is it heartfelt spirituality that brought us here or clockwork conformity?..at 1030pm of a Sat night on BBC1 just before Match of the Day are the Lottery results..the announcer gives the number of the prize draw & then states “the holder of winning ticket is guaranteed £1m” ..tragically too many of us have been led to believe our journey towards heaven will be performance related, graded & marked, & our entry into the kingdom dependent on a religious pin number which gains for some of us..some few of us..the lottery prize..clockwork conformity & a religion of chance.. whereas, in heartfelt spirituality, the spirituality into which we are called, the answer..the real answer not the right answer..is worth a guaranteed seat in heaven..”indeed I promise you, today you will be with me in paradise”..& you may well ask “what is the question that elicits such an assuring answer?”..I leave you to ponder on it, & with words of St Augustine; “let them love him, the only one who neither deceives nor is deceived, the only one who does not lie; let them love him, because what he promises is true”.. [24thSunYrB Mk8;27-35]