Sermon for Monday in Holy Weekadmin | 10 April 2017
“Turn unto the Lord your God”
And so it begins. Holy Week immerses us in the Passion of Christ from all four of the Gospels. We turn from The Passion According to St. Matthew on Palm Sunday to the beginning of The Passion According to St. Mark today and its continuation tomorrow.
That Passion begins with the woman who breaks open “an alabaster jar of ointment of spikenard, very precious” and pours it out upon his head, as Mark tells it. This beginning of his account of the Passion ends with the tears of Peter. Both stories are about turning to Christ, the one in anticipation of his Passion and its meaning; the other in the awareness of his sin and betrayal. “She has come aforehand to anoint my body to the burying”, Jesus says, indicating that her action already participates in his Passion.
His words are the counter to the complaint that this breaking open of the alabaster box was a “waste of the ointment” which might have been sold and the proceeds given to the poor, a reasonable point, we might think, but one which misses the deeper point of the Passion. It is not simply about our projects of worldly improvement as if the world in itself were the goal and purpose. “The poor you have with you always,” Jesus famously says, but adds more profoundly, “and whensoever ye will ye may do them good,” encouraging a strong sense of our obligation to help those in need. “But me ye have not always”. Something more is before us, namely the redemption of the world by its being turned to God in Christ. The events of the Passion disabuse us of any idea that we of ourselves can fix the problems of the world. After all, the Passion reveals that we are the problem.
The readings from Hosea in the Offices of Morning and Evening Prayer on this day underscore the theme of turning; our turning away from God in forgetfulness of his loving-kindness; and our turning back to God in the remembrance of his love. “Take with you words and return to the Lord.” The words of the Passion turn us to Christ at once convicting us of our sins and convincing us of his redemptive will for our humanity. As Isaiah puts in the lesson read as the Epistle, “in his love and in his pity, he redeemed them, and he bare them, and carried them all the days of old.” For “in all their affliction, he was afflicted.” These images move our hearts and minds which is the point of the Passion. It is what we see in the figure of Peter.
The tears of Peter are about our turning to ourselves in the discovery of our own failings and betrayals from having turned away from God. They are the tears of the broken-hearted in grief and sorrow. And so the account of the beginning of The Passion According to St. Mark is framed by two outflowings: the one of an ointment for anointing, the chrismation of the Christus, the Anointed One of God; the other, the tears of repentance. Together they symbolise the turning to God in whom we find the real truth and dignity of our humanity but only through the breaking of our hearts.
“Turn unto the Lord your God”
Fr. David Curry
Monday in Holy Week
April 10th, 2017