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St Matthews Church Oxhey Hertfordshire

Fr David's Sermon


6th April 2003

Fr David Shepherd

Lent 5

'Sir, we wish to see Jesus'.

Ours is a visual age, we might almost say a 'televisual' age. The image is everything. Bombarded with images all day, we lose true perspective. With so much to see, we end by seeing nothing fully at all. The latest manifestation of this is war by 24hrs news channel, something that influences as well as reflects events, but at the expense of the bigger picture. It was not always so. Once images were rare. Before the age of printing and photographs most people would only have seen a few, often, before the reformers destroyed them, in church. Today's recorded request to Philip in St. John's Gospel, 'We wish to see Jesus', resonates in an age of visual plenty just as it did in one of visual famine. In an age of visual excess what wouldn't the media give to see Jesus, to know what he looked like, to meet him? In previous ages of visual poverty such a vision would be beyond price, treasure beyond measure.

Those who made the first request to see Jesus could easily have been granted their desire. Who knows, they have may have been soon after? But in St. John's Gospel Philip and Andrew's passing on of the request is followed by one of Jesus' discourses, a discourse that reveals how it is possible to see Jesus with the inner eye of faith.

Jesus replies that 'the hour (a favourite Johanine term) has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.' 'Glory' implies something splendid, something stunning and easily seen. Jesus will be glorified in a way that could be and was witnessed. Glory is not a word that most of the witnesses would have used to describe what they saw.

Jesus goes on to talk about a natural process that usual remains hidden underground, the process of germination in a grain of wheat that has to break down and break open before it can yield its rich harvest. This Jesus likens to the losing of everything, life itself, in order to gain eternal life. In serving Christ, we are to follow him. Where he is, we will be. Just where that is, Jesus soon reveals.

Firstly it is to be with him, 'troubled in spirit', wanting to be saved by his Father from this hour. It is to know with him what our purpose in life is and in all things to give glory to God. 'Father, glorify your name'. Jesus' prayer of inner anguish, of seeking his purpose in life and determining to do God's will, of giving him glory, is answered. In what sounds like thunder to the crowd, Jesus hears God's response, 'I have glorified it, and will glorify it again. '

Glory, yes, but not as the world expects. The Father's glory is about to be revealed in Christ in such a way as to bring about the judgement of the world and the driving out of the evil one. Jesus reveals how this will take place. 'And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself'. He indicated, St. John tells us, how he was going to die.

This is how we can see Jesus, gazing upon him on the cross. Once a few did that for real, though we might suspect that they could not gaze for very long. For those of us who come after, seeing is with the inner eyes of faith It is a seeing that has found expression in the visual arts, in music and supremely in thousands of lives of prayer and service, lost and found.

The request to see Jesus, if made with sincerity, will be answered in ways that we will find both difficult and challenging. Jesus can be seen. It is we, even we who are religious, who are afraid to look. If we can find the courage to offer to God our inner anguish, our fear of loss, our desire to escape, as well as our wish to do his will and to give him glory then we shall see. We shall be with him at the foot of the cross, drawn by glory into the full vision of the glory of God.

To end, a scene from a novel by Emma Smith, called 'Far Cry', that describes a teenage girl on deck, just before dawn, on the voyage to India. In the greyness of that moment, with the sea indistinguishable from the sky she found only a few on deck including priests and nuns absorbed in their morning prayers, plus an Indian prince. If, she observed they had looked up, they would have noticed on the horizon, the first pink light of the rising sun in all its glory and beauty.

Dare to look up and you will see!

Amen

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Last updated 08/04/2003 10:00:00 Author: Fr David Shepherd