2013年4月7日 Sermon by Father Jonah
Gospel reading: Mark 馬可福音 8:34-38
The Church today praises the Holy Cross for us. One meaning is that because we are in the middle of Great Lent, and during the Great Lent we fast and do all the spiritual exercises we should do, so we are tired. The cross gives us power. This is like when Moses and the Jews were in Marah, where the waters were very bitter and the people could not drink it. So Moses put a piece of wood – which a symbol of the Holy Cross – into the water and it became sweet, so the people could drink. Like this, the Cross sweetens our life.
And also there are many reasons that we praise the Cross. We must remember that in ancient times, the Cross was not a precious symbol as it is today. Indeed. It was the symbol of the most terrible, painful and dishonorable death. But we see on the Cross Jesus Christ, the most innocent one. Pilate, the Roman governor knew this and he said “He is innocent and I don’t find anything bad about Him, and he wanted to release Him, But the people did not want this and to be OK with the politics so Pilate did not release him. The Roman soldiers heard their boss say that Christ was innocent, but they had to follow orders, so although they knew He was innocent, they had to crucify Him. And the Jewish high priests in the name of the law crucified Him. And all the people who now were saying, “Crucify him, crucify him,” just one week before had been saying, “Hosanna, son of David.”
Everybody at that time finally seems to have been innocent, some because they were obeying orders, some because their leaders were saying it: everybody was “OK”. So from one point of view, we see that the Cross is a symbol of unjust justice, and when we raise the Cross, we remember that in this world there is no justice and that there will always be good people who are crucified. Because we see the Cross as a far-away symbol, we remember that these people who crucified Christ were not monsters, they were like us, they were common people, they had orders, they obeyed their leaders, spiritual or political leaders. We must understand, always, that if we presuppose that if we were in that time we could do nothing about it. But are we sure about this? You see, Jesus died alone. Everybody denied Him. Nobody – except Nicodemus, who was not one of His followers – said, “He was a good person, he did nothing bad to me.”
So, it is very important to understand how close the Cross is, and how we should see the Cross, not as the beautiful thing we have today [holding up the crucifix hanging on his chest], but always as a condemnation of evil and as a call to our personal responsibility. Because somebody can say, “But today I did not crucify
God.” But we know that many times, really, we crucify God inside us and outside of us. Even today in Taipei there are people who have crucified Christ in obedience to their spiritual leaders, and many others crucify Jesus Christ inside themselves because their boyfriends told them to have sex or to have sex part way, or to do other bad things.
What is the concept of the Church, of God that we [tend to] have today? It is that God loves us; He gives and we receive. It is like doing some kind of business. We pray to him and we respect him, so he has to give us things. And if he does not give, of course, after praying one, two, or three times, I do not go to the church again. The job of Jesus Christ, as we understand it, is to be crucified for us. This is his job, it’s not our job: this is what we think today. In the churches we see Jesus on the Cross and we never think, or don’t think so much, me on the Cross. But we must remember a few things: that the Church is not the same as a business
Jesus Christ says, “He who wants,” He does not say he who must, “follow me.” First of all, someone can say, “Why should we follow you?” [Generally] people follow great truths. They follow democracy, they follow law, they follow patriotism or other things. But because Jesus is the truth, in Christianity the truth is not an abstract concept; it is a person, it is Jesus Christ. Unfortunately, many people use Jesus Christ for political reasons and they use the Church for religious racism.
So the first one is, Jesus Christ says, “If someone wants to follow me.” There is some message here and some choice: a difficult choice and an easy choice. From one point of view it is difficult because we want to follow people or to follow political or other kinds of ideologies. Or another follows his parents or he follows any other kind of social status. So this is the difficult thing.
The easy thing is to receive him through the Holy Communion. Not only do we follow him, we take him inside of us. So he says this, and once more we have a choice
I cannot say, “My spiritual father told me to become a priest. My spiritual father told me to be a missionary.” It is also my choice, and then I take permission. And I will apologize to God, when he judges me, for how I used my priesthood, and if I obeyed the law of God or if I obeyed somebody else because I had given my freedom this somebody else. What freedom? I always have the freedom
So He says, a person must “refuse” himself.” The Greek word is aparnome, which is a very strong word; it’s not just refuse: I split completely. But before I say to you the deep meaning, I will say to you something practical: what it means to refuse myself, as we know to refuse others, as we refuse friends, as we refuse our family, as we refuse co-workers, as we refuse our duty, which we know very well. We have the experience of many refusals, except for one, that of refusing ourselves. But Jesus Christ did not say to refuse others, but to refuse ourselves, just as we know so well how to refuse others and to refuse out duty.
All the Asian philosophy is concerned with refusing the self. This wu-wo [no-self] is to refuse the illusion of what I think I am. And I have a lot of illusions, that I am good, of course (who dares to say the opposite?) I am educated, respectable, all the good things that I am. And this refusal is practically very difficult, practically, if we really want to do this. This wu-wo is the basis of all spiritual life. Because if we have a very big self, then there is no room for Jesus Christ in our heart. And Jesus says not only to refuse one’s self, but to take the Cross, because this refusal is not a theoretical or philosophical refusal, it is a very practical refusal.
I can give you some examples. For example, if there is a married couple, the husband can refuse himself and say to his wife, “What you prefer, what you want to eat.” He will not say to his wife, “I want to eat this. Cook it.” People don’t understand that the man’s primacy in marriage, the priority that he has over her, is not priority of power, it is the priority that I will take the difficulties of the household, I will carry the Cross first. Or when two people love each other but they are not married but love one another, the boyfriend or the girlfriend may say to the other that they want to have sex now, and the other must say no, even if their body also wants it, and even if it is not complete sex, but just a kind of sex. Because even if my strength wants, even if my nervous system wants, we must understand that this must take place inside the blessed marriage. This is also a very practical and real way to carry the Cross.
To dedicate some time and to sacrifice my own pleasure and my own rest for the love of the others and the love of the Church, and instead of using this time to sleep, like somebody here who many times comes here in the cold and the rain to bring food. And this is to carry the Cross of Christ. It is also to obey the Law of God no matter what – I say, no matter what – because we can say, “I wanted to obey, but….” You know always there is always some “but…”
So He says to take his Cross and to follow Him. So this emptiness of the self, this wu-wo, is not to become completely empty, with nothing inside. It is to become full of love. It is to say, as Apostle Paul says, “It is not that I that live; it is Jesus living in me.” So having this Cross, cheap or expensive, small or big, we must always remember and we must always search, do I really carry the Cross, which means difficulty, or do I have it for pleasure? You could say, “Why should Christianity be so difficult? Do we like to suffer? Are we masochists?” We are not, but we are born with a disease, and this disease is selfishness It is that I put myself in front of everything.
Jesus says that everyone who wants to keep his life must lose it (or the soul, the Greek word psyche). But what is myself? Because this term, psyche, is not the Platonic term, a Platonic ideal where the soul is independent of the body. It is something in us that God loves and keeps to live forever, and this consciousness will wait for us to be resurrected and be reunited with our body. So who am I? What is myself? For Eastern philosophy, the self is an illusion and it must be destroyed. But for Christianity, the self is a relation. The self is the answer. Because the self is something that God gives me and I exist because God loves me. And the self will exist forever because God loves me forever, no matter whether I am good or bad. The self is the answer to the call of God: “Who are you?” And actually, He is not asking, “Who are you,” but “Where are you?” Because he knows who I am; I don’t know; He knows. And we are an answer. Adam answered, “No.” Because, you know, God said, “Where are you?” and Adam was hiding. But from the other point of view, when he asked Abraham, “Where are you?” Abraham said, “Here I am, Lord, this is what I am.” And in many other places, God is calling, “Where are you?” And He is calling all of us, “Where are you?” And we say, “Lord, I am here.” So we see the bad answer and the bad self, like Adam, and we see the good answer and the good self in front of the body of Jesus Christ. And taking the body of Jesus Christ, we say, “.”Lord, here I am, Come.” We see in the Psalms, “Here I am, Lord, me and the children you gave to me.” Because the self is never alone; I am with my brothers and without my brothers I don’t exist. Hell is individuality God loves us, continues to love us. Hell is the lack of response, the rejection of this love. Even sin is the rejection of this love because someone prefers to love his small I.
So we must altogether, as we altogether in the Eucharist we build a new self for everybody, and together with our brothers. And this self is built in this unity. We are like the Holy Trinity from one point of view, and our God is not individuality, it is Trinity. Jesus Christ says, “As we are one, everybody to be one.” Not one as in politics, but one as the Holy Trinity is. So the Cross must remind us of this unity, this self that is not the individuality, but it is Jesus inside of me, must remind us that we must not crucify others, though it is an art that we know very well and we practice every day. But we should crucify ourselves by carrying this [holding up his crucifix], which should be painful, not good and easy, not a decoration, but for the love of God and for the love of our brothers.
“Here I am, Lord, this is myself.” And we are an answer, and as Holderlin says, “We are in a small song, and we can be a big song, althogether,” to say “Amen, Lord. Come!”
May the Holy Trinity protect all of us.