Friday, April 18, 2014

The Egg That Does Not Break


Friday Of The Passion Of The Lord

Picture: cc Wally Gobetz

Sisters and brothers, how would you feel, if you saw an egg drop on the ground and break? Would you be surprised? Probably not. You won’t be surprised, because that’s what happens when an egg falls from a height. It breaks. And not only does it break. But once broken it can’t be put back together again. We all know this. In fact, many of us learned this from a very young age. Do you still remember the nursery rhyme? Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall. Humpty Dumpty had a great fall. And all the king’s horses and all the king’s men could not put Humpty Dumpty together again. There’s nothing surprising about what happened to Humpty Dumpty, because Humpty Dumpty was an egg. And when an egg falls it breaks. And no earthly power can put it back together again. Nothing surprising about that. What would be surprising is if the egg were to fall and remain unbroken.

Sisters and brothers, I know it probably seems very strange to  be thinking of Humpty Dumpty on a day like today. After we have just listened to John’s account of the Passion of the Lord. After we have just recalled the terrible memory of how Jesus allowed himself to be handed over into the hands of cruel men. Of how he was tortured. And put to death on a cross. How do we feel as we immerse ourselves in this painful scene? How should we feel? Horrified, perhaps. At what human beings did to God’s only begotten Son. Sorrowful and guilt-stricken too. At the thought that he was pierced through for our faults, crushed for our sins. But surely not surprised. What is there to be surprised about. For just as we might expect an egg to break when it is dropped, so too can we expect a person to suffer when he is mistreated and abused. As Jesus was. Nothing surprising here.

And yet, our first reading begins with this rather puzzling prophecy. As the crowds were appalled on seeing him, the prophet says, so will the crowds be astonished at him… Now, sisters and brothers, we can surely understand the crowds being appalled on seeing the Lord’s torment. Perhaps we ourselves feel the same way today. But why astonished? What’s so astonishing about human flesh being torn by torture? Or a human life getting snuffed out by murder? Nothing. Like an egg breaking when it drops on the ground, there is nothing surprising here. Unless, of course, the egg falls but does not break. Unless there is something in Jesus that remains intact. Even under extreme persecution. Even in the face of death.

But this is precisely what our readings tell us. That, in spite of being dropped on the hard ground of torture and crucifixion, something in Jesus remained unbroken. The gospel highlights this by drawing our attention to two apparently incidental details. After Jesus had been crucified and the soldiers had divided his outer garments among them, we’re told that they chose to leave his undergarment intact. For it was seamless, woven in one piece from neck to hem. Also, after Jesus had died, we’re told that instead of breaking his legs, the soldiers pierced his side with a lance. So that even though the Lord’s flesh was bruised and torn. His bones remained unbroken.

And it was not just the Lord’s undergarment that was kept in one piece. It was not just his bones that remained unbroken. More importantly, the Lord was able to keep intact his own intimate relationship with his heavenly Father. As the second reading tells us, in Christ, we have a high priest who has been tempted in every way that we are, though he is without sin. Even in the face of great opposition, even under extreme pressure, the Lord stayed true to the One who sent him. He remained faithful to the mission that the Father had entrusted to him. Right to the very end. As Jesus tells Pilate in the gospel, I came into the world for this: to bear witness to the truth...

My dear friends, isn’t this what is so surprising about the Passion of the Lord? That even though the clothes were torn from his back. Even though the flesh was rent from his bones. Even though the life was snatched from his body. Through it all, Jesus was able to keep intact his loving relationship with his heavenly Father. He was able to stay true to his identity. He always remained who he was. As he told those who came to arrest him: I am he. I am Jesus the Nazarene. I am the Only-Begotten-Son-of-God. I am the Eternal-Word-Made-Flesh. I am he.

In contrast, it is the people around him, whose integrity was broken. The religious authorities. Who claimed to believe in God. Yet put to death God’s only Son. Pontius Pilate. Who knew Jesus to be innocent. And was even anxious to set him free. Yet handed him over to be crucified. Simon Peter. Who had earlier boasted of his own undying loyalty. Yet three times denied his Lord. Aren’t you another of that man’s disciples? I am not, Peter answered. The Master says, I am he. But the disciple replies, I am not. The contrast is heartbreaking.

And it’s especially heartbreaking because we can include ourselves among those whose fidelity to God is so fragile. Those whose integrity is so easily broken. Faced with the ordinary pressures of daily life. Influenced by the powerful forces of a materialistic, consumeristic, and workaholic society. Do we not find it difficult to keep our relationship with God in one piece? Is it not a great challenge for us to preserve our integrity intact? Isn’t this why we find so many scandals of one kind or another being reported in the news? Scandals that uncover our fragility and our brokenness. Indeed, not even our own church has been spared.

Which is why it is good for us to be surprised today. Not just to be appalled by the Lord’s terrible suffering. But also to be astonished at his unbroken integrity in the face of death. For perhaps our surprise can lead us to call on the only power that can do for us what no earthly power can. The power that is able to put Humpty Dumpty back together again. Who could believe what we have heard?, the prophet asks in the first reading. And to whom has the power of the Lord been revealed? Sisters and brothers, we have the answer to these questions. We are the ones the prophet is talking about. Today, in commemorating the Lord’s Passion, we are the ones to whom the Lord’s power is being revealed. The power that can put back together what has been broken. The power that can keep intact what so often feels much too fragile.

If all this is true, then let us do what the second reading calls us to do. Let us be confident in approaching the throne of grace. Which is nothing else than the Cross of Christ. The same Cross that we will soon leave our pews to venerate. That we shall have mercy from him and find grace when we are in need of help. Let us turn to our crucified Lord today, and say to him what he said to his Father: Lord, into your hands I commend my spirit.

Sisters and brothers, there is indeed something surprising in the Passion of the Lord. For here, by the power of God, the egg falls to the ground, yet remains unbroken. What must we do to draw ever more deeply from this awesome power today?

2 comments:

  1. Dear Lord,

    Thank You for revealing to me in my Morning Prayer today that indeed, YOU have preserved me and kept me from being broken, since my childhood days.

    Lord, I am deeply touched and I am very grateful for Your Wisdom and Your Loving Care - for Your Protection over me, all these years.

    Indeed, like in Psalm 139, Lord, You knew me even before i was born...and this is so very true for me! For You had come to save and protect me at my tender age... You were already present in my life, for almost a decade - You had already been very much a part of my life, long be my baptism at age 17!

    Lord, as You reveal this truth and LIGHT to me, I find myself in a state of awe - and all I can do now is to express my deepest and heartiest gratitude to You!

    Deo Gratias My Lord, My God and My All.

    Deeply Grateful,
    Sih Ying

    Easter Tuesday 22 April 2014 11am

    ReplyDelete

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...