Of Pride and Humility (Part 1)

Monday 29th March 2010
Monday of Holy Week
Holy Trinity, Hurstpierpoint

It almost seems sacrilegious, as we sit here in the evening calm of a country village church to contemplate the mayhem of humanity's betrayal of God, remembered this week in the symbolic figure of Judas, standing for us all. The Gospels depict Judas as an equivocal figure: a crook and a villain; a fanatic,  confused, treacherous and then remorseful; and a mysterious tool for the fulfilment of the Prophets.

But the treachery of our society is unequivocal. We have substituted human pride for creaturely humility, we have abandoned our personhood in the common good for individuality; and we have, thereby, paradoxically, allowed the state to compromise our Christian purposes. And what has this led to? Well, I hardly dare mention it but last week I read Eli Wiesel's terrifying account of the Nazis' mass burning alive of Jewish babies and young children. These were the inheritors of Beethoven, Goethe and Hegel; but it made no difference. What we are pleased to call civilisation is no substitute for humility. And if we think that the almost indescribable was a terrible aberration, remember the former Yugoslavia where Christians not only slaughtered innocent Moslems but also slaughtered each other in a resurgence of ancient hatred. Each year we go with Jesus to the Cross to be with him at the last; but, too often, we take him there to suffer again, formerly in the gas chambers and flames of Auschwitz, more recently in the former Yugoslavia and in East and Central Africa; and now in Nigeria. And we will only know fully the Jesus crucified if we immerse ourselves more fully in the imaginative effort to know how terrible are the deeds done in the name of Jesus. It is our duty not just to walk with Jesus up the Hill of Calvary but also to feel the pain. Culture, the artistic imagination, is no substitute for feeling the horror and being desperately sorry for it. Only then can we think about how we might better establish Christ's Kingdom, here on earth, Now.