Sermon Preached by Fr Nicolas Stebbing CR at St Mary, Bourne Street, London on Holy Wednesday (4 April) 2012

“The Son of Man is going to his fate but alas for that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed”.

Was it all so inevitable? Did Jesus have to go on this dreadful path to his death? He knew Judas would betray him. Why did he not try to dissuade him? Why did he go to the Mount of Olives where Judas could easily find him? Why did he go to Jerusalem at all when he knew the Jewish leaders were after him? Why did he stay in Jerusalem when things began to turn nasty? Jesus need not have died. He could have chosen otherwise. All sorts of actions were open to him yet he chose the ones that led him to the Cross. He knew that this is what his father wanted – not that his Father wanted him crucified but his father wanted him to try to call the Jewish people back to him and to take that call to the very last point of death. Only that could show the extent of God’s love.

Jesus was obedient to his father; that is why he died. We too are called to obedience. In Zimbabwe today my Anglican friends take risks every week to go to mass, to be obedient. They don’t have to do it. They could stay quietly at home but they believe God want them to come to mass, so they put themselves in the way of trouble and sometimes they get it.

We ourselves are being obedient this week, coming to mass day after day, walking with Jesus on the way of the Cross. We don’t have to do it; there may be many things we would rather do but we are sure this is what God wants us to do and we are happy to do it. In this way we share in the obedience of Christ. More surprisingly we share in his salvation of the world. The Anglicans in Zimbabwe are changing the face of Anglicanism there by their obedience. We too, in our small and often hesitant way are helping to nudge the world we live in back to God by our little acts of obedience. They may seem small; we may seem insignificant but we share in the obedience of Christ who learned obedience by the things he suffered and so he could offer salvation to the world.

Yet obedience sounds a bit grim. It sounds like boarding school, or the army, or a dog’s training school. How is this about the freedom of the Gospel of Christ? Well, remember that the word ‘obedience’ comes from the Latin word Audire – to hear, to listen. Jesus listened to God and heard what he said and because he loved God he did it. We actually love to obey those we love. It is part of the joy of love. We love God and we love Jesus and so this obedience of Holy Week becomes a joy, not a grim duty. Isaiah tells us, “Each morning he wakes me to hear, to listen like a disciple. The Lord has opened my ear….”

If we want to love God we have to be obedient to him; if we are obedient we will discover his love. If we seek to listen, to hear the voice of God we will hear it as a call of love and then obedience will become a joy – as it is today in this mass, when he says “Do this in remembrance of me…” We obey his command to do this and find we can receive his own body and blood. What could be a greater proof of his love?

            Nicolas Stebbing CR