“I am troubled now. Yet what should I say?
‘Father, save me from this hour?’
But it was for this purpose that I came to this hour.
Father, glorify your name.”
Then a voice came from heaven,
“I have glorified it and will glorify it again.”
The crowd there heard it and said it was thunder;
but others said, “An angel has spoken to him.”
Jesus answered and said,
“This voice did not come for my sake but for yours.
Now is the time of judgment on this world;
now the ruler of this world will be driven out.
And when I am lifted up from the earth,
I will draw everyone to myself.”
He said this indicating the kind of death he would die.
The readings for the past week literally past me by. So did my duty to write this post. (We agreed to a Lenten schedule for these posts.) I was sleepy, traveling, and mentally absent at Mass this past Sunday–and we got there late, at the end of the second reading. Vox Nova was the last thing on my self-centered mind. This negligence has been fruitful, albeit late. It brought me to this small redemption: to recover what I lost and find the rich, deep, and retroactive lesson I squandered on Sunday.
Accept this belated meditation as a gesture at redemption, dedicated to all those who, like me, never seem to arrive on time. Those who, like Augustine, always seem to love God “too late.”
This is precisely what Jesus shows in the Gospel reading: perfect timing.
By ‘time’ I am referring to salvation history, to the perfect economy of salvation. I have been critical of certain, pastoral abuses of the term ‘salvation’ in the past, but the theological truth the term can lead us towards remains. These scriptures are brimming with the reality of what the term ‘salvation’ refers to.
The supplication of Psalm 51 expresses it perfectly: “Create a clean heart in me, oh God.”
Being clean is all about timing. It is a process. One is never clean for much time before one becomes dirty. This is why we wash our clothes, our bodies, our souls. From the theodicy beyond time, Christ enters into time in a very particular, incarnate way that, above all, invite us to theosis, to an ecstatic dwelling where we lose everything to gain nothing—nothing but everything.
What is remarkable is not only how we are invited to dwell in God, but how God dwells with us through death. It is almost as if we—you and me!—invite God to dwell with us in our greatest, most terrifying experience and fear: death. Jesus does not simply tell us to die, he indicates the kind of death he would die too.
It is not enough to die. The point is to die well, to die like Christ. To imitate Christ even on to death. The apostles failed, at least initially. When they did die, they did so too late. Peter missed the opportunity of dying with his teacher. I seem to miss every serious chance to die in small, but all-too-real, ways and deeds. I die by dying poorly, missing the chance to die well, to live.
I pray to not merely die in a generic way this Lent. I must die well. May we all die like the grain of wheat, like Christ who gives life and does so just in time, drawing all things out of time and into the timeless excess of God.
Better late than never.