We have walked and studied and reflected in this year’s season of Lent, and we are now moving to the climax of our journey Passion Sunday / Holy Week / Good Friday & Easter morning, where our faith once again is made real, and expresses who and what we are as Christian pilgrims, both in the shadow of the cross, and the continual resurrection experience of our everyday lives.
Lent is the Springtime of the Church’s year. The word itself probably comes from an old English word ‘lencten’, meaning the lengthening of the daytime hours. Spring is a good image for what this season means: new life, hope, joy in the gifts of God that surrounds us.
There has been an additional shadow side this year of the story of refugees fleeing for their lives from Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere by foot and boat, seeking sanctuary
in Europe, and being stopped / assessed / held in camps, vulnerable women and children travelling alone and being subjected to rape and abuse. What a tragedy, might we continue to protest to our politicians and governments, and ask for sanctuary and safety for our brothers and sisters, vulnerable children, whether they are moslem, christian or any other cultural and religious variation.
Their pain, distress, confusion and hurt is also ours, as a Christian community, so we prayer for all in distress and in transit. Prayer is simply moving towards God who is already close to us. Jesus encourages us to do this all the time and not to lose heart.. No matter how far removed from God we may think, that gap is bridged when we begin to pray.
In today’s Gospel we are getting a foretaste of death and resurrection in the story of the death and raising of Lazarus, but he will die again an earthly death. In this story we hear about the anointing of Jesus.
A moving story of an un named women or a ‘woman who was a sinner’ anointing the feet of Jesus, with costly ointment, wet his feet with her tears, and wiped them with her hair. All this is described as happening before Jesus enters Jerusalem on a donkey.
While this was happening, Lazarus was present as a witness to the healing power of Jesus, who could command the dead to live again, and little wonder the political authorities wanted to dispose of this prophet / healer / agitator of the people and the social order.
The scene is set, a foretelling of Jesus. death, where sins are forgiven, resurrection occurs, and the triumphant Messiah is about to die for the sins of us all. Jesus arrival at Bethany is a courageous acceptance of danger, where Lazarus lived.
Martha is presented as the ever practical sister, and Mary finds a deeper relationship in service to her Lord, who she acclaims his identity as the Messiah, and to anoint him for his burial is very appropriate. Remember Pope Francis last year washing the feet of women including a moslem women, how appropriate, with God there is no distinction
Nevertheless we have a duty to the poor and our Caritas meals for the homeless , our night shelter, welcoming a Syrian family into the parsonage are just a few examples here at All Saints, of what true and authentic service means to the vulnerable in our community.
Prepare now for Holy Week and be there as often as you can, for what we do and say and are demonstrates whether we are authentic Christians and followers of Jesus or mere bystanders.
Fr David Ingledew, All Saints Hove