Monday, March 11, 2002

Meditation upon the Collect, Epistle & Gospel for the Fifth Sunday in Lent.

The people of God have now completed 30 days of fasting and abstinence. Today, the Lord's Day, they celebrate once more the Resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ and the eternal life they have through, in, and with him. The great Feast of Easter is but two weeks away and Holy Week begins in 7 days.

Being made supremely conscious (through both outward and inward fasting in Lent) that they are an unity of body and soul, the words of this week's Collect are much to the point - "that by thy great goodness they may be governed and preserved evermore, both in body and soul." Here is the Christian hope of the resurrection of the dead and eternal life in an immortalized body with Christ in the glories of the age to come.

In the EPISTLE (Hebrews 9:11ff.) they are called to meditate and give thanks for what the Lord Christ has done and is doing for them as the people of God. By the shedding of his blood as the unique sacrifice for sin he has "obtained eternal redemption" for them. He is now the Mediator between God the Father and the human race and the only way to the Father for sinful men is through, in and with this Lord Jesus Christ. Also in heaven he is the one and only High Priest, who having seen his Sacrifice (himself) accepted by the Father, he has entered into the holy of holies (heaven & the presence of the Father) to act on behalf of those whom he represents (those who believe the Gospel concerning him). At the Father's right hand, he is the exalted King, Priest and Prophet, and there, as the Mediator and also the Intercessor, he makes possible fellowship and communion between redeemed man and the Father. Thus the daily prayers of the people of God addressed to the Father are sent in and by the Spirit "through the Lord Jesus Christ" and thereby are perfected and made effectual. And in the Eucharist, the people of God are raised in the Spirit to dine with him and feed upon him at his heavenly Table.

In the GOSPEL (John 8:46ff.) major aspects of the identify of Jesus are made clear in a comparison with Abraham, the father of the Jewish race. First of all, Jesus presents himself as being in a unique relation with the God of Abraham, whom he calls "the Father" and even more intimately "my Father." So the Church proclaims that Jesus is the Incarnate Son of God, the Only-Begotten of the Father made flesh. In the second place, Jesus presents himself as the living fulfilment of the promises of God made to Abraham and as the realization of the profound hopes of this patriarch for the salvation of his people. "Abraham rejoiced to see my day." And, thirdly, Jesus proclaims his own pre-existence as the only-begotten Son of the Father - "Verily, verily, I say unto you, before Abraham was, I am." The words "I am" are of course the words used by the God of Abraham and Moses to identify and to name himself ( see Exodus 3). So the Church has proclaimed both that the Son of God existed before he joined unto himself flesh and human nature in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary and that he is truly "very God of very God." As the Incarnate Son he was called "Jesus" and he bears this name unto ages of ages and world without end.

The Revd Dr. Peter Toon March 11th 2002

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