27 March 2018

Reflections in Holy Week 2018 (2),
Tuesday, Saint Brendan’s, Tarbert

‘Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit’ (John 12: 24) … a field of wheat in Donabate, Co Dublin (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

Patrick Comerford

Tuesday 27 March 2018, Tuesday in Holy Week:

8 p.m.: Late Evening Office, Saint Brendan’s Church, Kilnaughtin, Tarbert, Co Kerry.

Readings: Psalm 71: 1-14; John 12: 20-36.

Hymns: 66; 218.

May I speak to you in the name of God, + Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Amen.

Throughout this week, as we journey together through Holy Week, we continue the gradual build-up from Palm Sunday, with services each evening in this group of parishes. We were in Saint Mary’s, Askeaton yesterday [26 March 2018]. This evening [27 March] we are here in Saint Brendan’s, Tarbert. Tomorrow, we journey on to Rathkeale, then to Castletown for the Maundy Eucharist on Thursday evening, so that we can mark Good Friday prayerfully and appropriately in Saint Mary’s Church, Askeaton.

All this is to prepare us to celebrate the Resurrection, on Easter Eve in Rathkeale and Castletown and on Easter Morning in Askeaton and here in Tarbert.

This evening’s Gospel reading is similar to the Gospel reading we heard the Sunday before last, the Fifth Sunday in Lent [18 March 2018, John 12: 20-20-33].

The setting is the day of Christ’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem, Palm Sunday. Jerusalem is a city teeming with people who have come to celebrate the Feast of the Passover.

Some Greeks are in Jerusalem to worship at the Festival. We are not told whether they are Greek-speaking Jews or Greek-speaking Gentiles who are monotheists and who have come to Jerusalem to worship in the Temple.

It seems likely that were Greek-speaking Jews originally from Alexandria. This was the largest Greek-speaking city in the world, but also the city with the largest Jewish population – up to 40 per cent of the population of Alexandria may have been Jewish, and Greek-speaking, at the time, meaning it was a larger Jewish city than even Jerusalem.

These Greek-speaking Jews of Alexandria were such an important group in Jewish and Greek society at the time that they even had their own synagogue in Jerusalem, and some of them rose to the rank of High Priest, including Simon son of Boethus, who was High Priest (ca 23-24 AD) in the Jesus’ own lifetime, and who was also the father-in-law of Herod the Great.

We are not told how many of them wanted to see Jesus that first Palm Sunday. But in the chaos and the turmoil, in the hustle and bustle of the day, they could not get to see Jesus, despite their best efforts.

Many of these Greek-speaking Jews in Jerusalem were identified with a small Jewish sect (the Boethusians) that disagreed on a number of points of belief with other Jews, including the Pharisees and the Sadducees.

They were a minority in many ways in Jerusalem: they were Greek speakers, they were a religious minority within Judaism, they celebrated their festivals on different days, and when Herod sacked Simon son of Boethus, they lost their access to influence and power.

Now they want access to Jesus and to see him, and they feel marginalised and excluded once again. And so, they turn to two of the disciples with Greek names – Philip first and then Andrew – declaring, ‘Sir, we wish to see Jesus.’

Did they get to see Jesus?

Probably yes, because of the words of Jesus’ response.

One of the ways some of these Greek-speaking Jews in Jerusalem (the Boethusians) disagreed with the Pharisees, the Sadducees and other Jews, was on what might now seem to be an obscure point. They believed that the sheaf due at the Passover was to be offered on the day after the actual Shabbat of the festival week, in other words, on the Sunday.

These calculations also meant that they always celebrated the Feast of the Pentecost on a Sunday.

When Christ talks about the grain of wheat falling into the earth, he may be speaking about that wheat offering. He tells them to expect the Resurrection next Sunday.

When we feel marginalised and excluded, when we feel we cannot see Jesus in the crush and the clamour of every-day life, we can still look forward to the hope of Easter.

When others count us out, Christ speaks our language, Christ counts us in. And, even when we think otherwise, the hope of Easter, the hope of the Resurrection, is always offered to us.

In the Resurrection, no-one is marginalised, no-one is counted out. In Christ, there is no us and them, there is only us.

And so, may all we think, say and do be to the praise, honour and glory of God, + Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

John 12: 20-36

20 Now among those who went up to worship at the festival were some Greeks. 21 They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and said to him, ‘Sir, we wish to see Jesus.’ 22 Philip went and told Andrew; then Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. 23 Jesus answered them, ‘The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 24 Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. 25 Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26 Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honour.

27 ‘Now my soul is troubled. And what should I say – “Father, save me from this hour”? No, it is for this reason that I have come to this hour. 28 Father, glorify your name.’ Then a voice came from heaven, ‘I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.’ 29 The crowd standing there heard it and said that it was thunder. Others said, ‘An angel has spoken to him.’ 30 Jesus answered, ‘This voice has come for your sake, not for mine. 31 Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out. 32 And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.’ 33 He said this to indicate the kind of death he was to die. 34 The crowd answered him, ‘We have heard from the law that the Messiah remains forever. How can you say that the Son of Man must be lifted up? Who is this Son of Man?’ 35 Jesus said to them, ‘The light is with you for a little longer. Walk while you have the light, so that the darkness may not overtake you. If you walk in the darkness, you do not know where you are going. 36 While you have the light, believe in the light, so that you may become children of light.’ After Jesus had said this, he departed and hid from them.

The Collect of the Day (Tuesday in Holy Week):

O God, who by the passion of your blessed Son made
an instrument of shameful death
to be for us the means of life:
Grant us so to glory in the cross of Christ,
that we may gladly suffer pain and loss
for the sake of your Son our Saviour Jesus Christ;
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen.

The Lenten Collect:

Almighty and everlasting God,
you hate nothing that you have made
and forgive the sins of all those who are penitent:
Create and make in us new and contrite hearts
that we, worthily lamenting our sins
and acknowledging our wretchedness,
may receive from you, the God of all mercy,
perfect remission and forgiveness;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Tomorrow: John 13: 21-32, Judas plans to betray Jesus

(Revd Canon Professor) Patrick Comerford is Priest-in-Charge, the Rathkeale and Kilnaughtin Group of Parishes. This Holy Week reflection was prepared for Saint Brendan’s Church, Kilnaughtin, on 27 March 2018.

Scripture quotations are taken from the New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA, and are used by permission. All rights reserved.

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