February 27, 2022
“Behold we go up to Jerusalem.”(Luke 18.31)
(The painting above: Nicolas Poussin, Healing of The Blind Man near Jericho, 1650, Musée du Louvre)
In the Gospel for today, Jesus announces his final journey to Jerusalem:
Behold, we go up to Jerusalem, He says, and all things that are written by the prophets concerning the Son of Man shall be accomplished.
Today we go up. We have changed our direction. For we have just completed the seasons of Christmas and Epiphany. In those liturgical seasons, we meditate upon a certain coming down-God’s coming down in His Son, the Word’s coming down from the Father to be made flesh, Jesus’ coming down to purify and cleanse our consciences of all that is unclean, unholy, and unrighteous. But today we begin to go up, to travel up with Jesus to Jerusalem. He must go up to die and rise again. Behold, we go up to Jerusalem and we go up with Him to gaze upon and share in His suffering and His passion, to be healed and transformed by that vision of the Divine Love. Behold we go up to Jerusalem in order to see and experience the love of God, and how the love of God while enduring all manner of malevolent rejection, will keep on loving. In faith we go up to Jerusalem, in hope we reach forward towards greater wisdom, and in love, we desire to find a passion that can be made our own –that principle of Primal Love that alone can save and that alone can heal.
But this coming down and going up seem confusing. We faithfully follow Jesus, we hope for the best, but we do not understand what it means to go up to His death. Death seems to be a kind of going down, like going down into the grave. What profit is therein my blood, when I go down to the pit? Shall the dust praise thee? Shall it declare thy truth? (Psalm xxx. 9) Like the Apostles who went up with Jesus to Jerusalem, we might be a bit befuddled and confused. For, the more they went up, the less they grasped how they were actually going down. Jesus said that the Son of Man…shall be delivered unto the Gentiles, and shall be mocked, and spitefully entreated, and spitted on: And they shall scourge him, and put him to death: and the third day he shall rise again. (St. Luke xviii. 32,33) But we read that the disciples understood none of these things, and this saying was hid from them, neither knew they the things which were spoken. (St. Luke xviii. 34)The Apostles and we do not understand this. We can’t be going upif our understanding has not emerged up out of the dark pit of ignorance.
But as they will soon learn, going up to Jerusalem with Jesus will involve illumination or enlightenment of a most unusual kind –the illumination that Jesus is God and that God is Love. The eyes of the Apostles, our eyes, will be opened; there is no doubt about it. But not before, with the blind man in this morning’s Gospel, we beg for Jesus to lift us up out our miserable condition. Jesus, thou Son of David, have mercy upon me. (St. Luke xviii. 38) We cannot go up to Jerusalem with Jesus until we beg for the mercy of God in Jesus Christ to lift us up into His light. Jesus asks the blind man what he desires of him. The blind man responds, Lord, that I may receive my sight. (St. Luke xviii. 41)The blind man receives his sight, and so too can we if Jesus lifts us up to see more clearly. And immediately he received his sight, and followed him….(St. Luke xviii. 43) Vision is the door that opens the eyes of the heart to know Jesus and to go up with Him to Jerusalem.
Vision is the reward bestowed upon the man whose faith persistently seeks out the source of true healing. What we think should be the gateway to the external and visible world alone, becomes the door to a spiritual vision that goes up to the Cross of Christ’s Love. Christ says in this morning’s Gospel that his impending suffering and death will be necessary that all things that are written by the prophets concerning the Son of Man shall be accomplished. (St. Luke xviii.31) What the blind man will see and the Apostles will go up to behold is a vision of a healing Love that is always going up and into heart of our Heavenly Father. St. Paul speaks of this Love in this morning’s Epistle. King James’ able translators penned it as Charity.
Charity is the Queen of the Theological virtues. It outruns faith and fulfills all hope since its nature is the love of God that knows no end. St. John tells us that, God is love; and he that abideth in love abideth in God, and God in him. (1 St. John iv. 16) Love is Charity, and Charity is the everlasting expression of God’s nature. Charity is that one essential virtue that must command all others. St. Paul suggests this morning that Charity is preeminent because it alone binds God to Man and Man to God. Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing. (1 Cor. xiii. 1-3) Articulate speech, theological knowledge, and earthly kindness alone can never save a man, says St. Paul. They go out but don’t necessarily go up. All sorts of men can speak eloquently and inspirationally. Such virtue does not save a man. Countless others can have right belief, near-perfect knowledge of theological truth, and spiritual understanding. Such virtue does not save a man. Generous and liberal people may spend their lives feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, and sheltering the homeless. Such virtue does not save a man. What they are missing is Charity. Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. (1 Cor. xiii. 4-7) Charity is that constant and persistent love of God that comes down in order that we might go up with Jesus to the Cross and beyond. It sums up in one word God’s inestimable forgiveness that has come down from Heaven, was made flesh and dwelt among us, and that come down from Heaven so that we may go up and back to Heaven. It fulfills all hope that every man has for redemption. It sees in all men the possibility of salvation, though their ways be wicked, their hearts hardened, and their motives murderous. Charity comes down to conquer all vice. Why? Because God is love, and God’s love is that pure goodness that can come down into the lowest place removed from Himself. He comes down to over evil with His goodness. It is of Charity’s nature to persistently visit man with the Divine Goodness.
Charity is the love of God that is forever alive in the heart of Jesus Christ. Jesus is both God coming down into Man and Man going up into God. In Jesus Christ, we find in one what men have tried to divide since the dawn of time. Of course, the devil will do all he can to divide these two aspects of Charity. As we go up to the Cross of Christ’s Charity, we shall see that Jesus will be tempted in His unjust suffering to think that God is no longer coming down to Him. In His innocent death, He will be tempted to go up and call forth His legions of angels to conquer His enemies. He will be tempted to feel that God’s coming down and His going up have come to a tragic end. Rather than going up and into the embrace of His heavenly Father’s Charity, He will be tempted to come down from the Cross, abandon Himself as the forgiveness of sins, and abandon the death that ensures that sin has no power over Him.
But as we go up to His Cross, we shall find that He will not come down into these temptations. He is God’s Charity made flesh for Man; He is Man’s Charity and Love for God made divine. He goes up to die for us. He will come down to rise in us. What we think of as two distinct kinds of Love will persist as one in the heart of Jesus. Sin divides; Love unites. The God-Man’s going up and coming down are but one expression of dying to sin and rising to righteousness.
This morning a blind man became conscious that Jesus Christ was passing by. His cry goes up and Jesus comes down.Cyril of Alexandria reminds us that the blind man had faith in the love of God that he found in the heart of Jesus.
Let [us] admire…the steadfastness with which the blind man proclaimed his belief,
for there were some who, while he confessed his faith, cried out for him to be silent.
But he did not cease, nor lessen the confidence of his prayer…
For faith knows how to combat all things and overcome all. (On the Gospel: St. Cyril of Alexandria)
Christ is God’s Charity that has come down from Heaven so that we might go up. True Charity comes down in order that through Him we all may go up with Jesus to God. The vision of Charity in the flesh will come down to us this Lent so that we may go up to the Cross to die. Let us pray that this coming Lent we shall play the man and see, with the blind man,the Charity that Christ is, cherishing and treasuring not only the vision but enduring His incessant love, as old loves fade and come down into death and true Loveis stirred to go up into New Life. Our hearts will be broken if we go up to gaze upon this Charity; but in their breaking comes an opening, into which the love of God in Christ will flow, grow, expand and triumph. Christ is always coming down. Behold, we go up to Jerusalem, to die, to rise, and then to see His love that we must share with others as we come down to touch the hearts of others.