Over the past week thousands of people have come from all over the city and beyond to see the wooden temple on Corrody Hill, here in the Waterside. The temple and the many messages pinned on it will by now have been burned. It attracted some negative publicity but in the round I think most people saw it for what it was – a piece of art.
The word temple is used frequently these days, many young people refer to the temple that is their body – I’m not sure what they mean or indeed what it’s supposed to mean.
The gospel passages for the last two Sundays presented Jesus as the new temple and as the light of the world. In today’s extract, also from St. John, Jesus describes himself as the grain of wheat that dies in order to bear fruit in new life. He draws us into his pattern of living, into his dying and into his rising to new life, and shows how we can become inserted into that process. He is the way.
Jesus is fully human. That is especially evident in the story of his Passion, where he is seen as fragile and fearful. He asks the Father to save him from this ‘hour’. The instinct for self-preservation is very strong in each one of us. We seek to protect ourselves against rejection, suffering, death, the loss of our good name. The fact is that letting go is at the heart of life. We have to let go of yesterday if we are to be fully present to the gift of today. We need to let go of attachments, let go of relationships if we are to grow toward maturity. ‘Father, save me from this hour’ can be our prayer too. In order to grow, something has to die and something new has to be born. Jesus calls us to allow self-preservation become self-surrender, to let go so that we may find the life he offers.
With courage he faces the challenge to let go of control. Courage has been described as fear that has said its prayers ! The Russian writer Solzhenitsyn wrote, ‘A person without fear is no hero; the person who overcomes fear is’. In prayer Jesus allowed his fears to surface. Through prayer he moves beyond fear to a decision to say ‘yes’ to his ‘hour’ (the ‘hour’ includes his suffering, death and resurrection). His loss (of friends, of life itself) is to be our gain, it is to be for us a source of hope. He shows how good can emerge from pain. The Cross points beyond death to the victory of Easter. To live in depth we need to understand the central place of the Cross has in following Christ. There apparent failure is transformed into victory, death opens the way for new life to emerge.
Jesus puts God right at the centre in his prayer. What the Father wants is all that matters. This relationship of loving obedience carries Jesus through testing times. In reality, we all die a little each day, discard the masks we sometimes wear, die to illusions, die to sin, die to unrealistic expectations. We taste death in moments of rejection, of sorrow, of failure. We die before our time if we live in bitterness, in hatred, in isolation.