Sunday, June 30, 2019

He Set His Face

In today’s Gospel Jesus is “resolutely determined” to go to Jerusalem, but the Greek text uses the Hebrew idiom “he set his face” to go to Jerusalem. This expression is found in the mouth of the Suffering Servant in Isaiah: “The Lord GOD opened my ear; I did not refuse, did not turn away. I gave my back to those who beat me, my cheeks to those who tore out my beard; My face I did not hide from insults and spitting. The Lord GOD is my help; therefore, I am not disgraced; Therefore I have set my face like flint, knowing that I shall not be put to shame.” Jesus, the Servant, is resolutely determined to go to the cross, fully aware of the torture and humiliation involved; as the only way to procure salvation for humanity.

Now the fullness of time has come, God the Father has sent his Son into the world to reveal, once and for all, that at the heart of reality is unfathomable mystery of infinite love, of a God who is willing to undergo every humiliation, torture, rejection in order to bring his people, who have been lost to him through sin, back into fellowship with him and bestow on them the gift of eternal life. By his perfect poverty and obedience Jesus allows himself to be a completely open space for the definitive revelation of the Father’s glory. 

Jesus becomes this completely open space by renouncing his own glory. The ancient hymn found in St. Paul’s Letter to the Philippians coins the word kenosis for this emptying out. "Though he was in the form of God, Christ Jesus did not regard equality with God something to be grasped. Rather, he emptied himself, taking on the form of a slave." Jesus expresses his love for his Father by becoming the empty space through which the divine glory can send its rays, by a life of complete poverty and abandonment of self. The hymn continues: "Because of this, God greatly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name.” We bend our knee before this name and confess him as Lord, when following in his footsteps we too set our face toward the goal, Jerusalem; when, like him, in poverty and self-abandonment we renounce any glory that is ours alone, to become an empty space for him to pour in his own glory. 

If we are to be credible disciples, his disposition must be ours also. Like him we will experience rejection, as in the case today in the visit to the Samaritan village, but like him the urgency of the journey must press us forward so that we find to time for judgment of others but must move on with our face set on the goal. His responses to those who wish to be his followers, "Foxes have dens and birds of the sky have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to rest his head"; "Let the dead bury their dead. But you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God"; "No one who sets a hand to the plow and looks to what was left behind is fit for the kingdom of God," are directed to us in all their radicality. Jesus demands are exorbitant, but we know that so is his grace, and that he never asks anything of us that he has not already done himself. 

Photograph by Father Emmanuel. Excerpts from this morning's homily by Father Timothy.