St Stephen Lewisham
3rd April 2007
Tuesday in Holy Week
In the Upper Room Jesus said to his Apostles ‘One of you will betray me’ (referring, of course, to Judas Iscariot); later, he said to Peter, ‘You will disown me three times; then to the Eleven, after Judas’s departure He said, ‘You are my friends’; and still later, in the Garden of Gethsemane, to Judas himself He said, ‘My friend’.
May I speak in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
One of my aunts had a device on her desk for blotting letters. Those were the days of pen-and-ink rather than ball-points, so blotting paper was a necessity. Her device consisted of a curved wooden base holding the sheet of blotting paper. On top it had a knob to hold onto. To use it, one pressed it down over the wet ink and rocked it to-and-fro.
Two things about it fascinated me: after use, the blotter contained a perfectly transformed image of my writing; the other was that it had the words, ‘A Friend is Someone Who Knows All About You, but Loves You Just the Same’, carved in gold-lettering on its handsome tooled-leather top.
Jesus ‘knew all about’ his Apostles: He knew all about Peter and his impending denial; He knew all about Judas and his betrayal; He knew that the other Apostles were about to run away. He knew all about them; but He ‘loved them nevertheless. More to the point, He knows all about you and me – but He loves us ‘just the same’.
But what does He expect of us? Well, it goes without saying that we should strive to ‘know all about Him’ in order that we may love Him too.
That requires us to read, over and over again, what Jesus says to us in the Gospels; but it also demands that we should be listening, with the utmost care, to everything that is said about Him when we meet together as His Church. Almost certainly, in the Readings, the Homily, the Liturgy, or the Hymns chosen for a particular Sunday, we shall find, hidden away in one (or more) of them, the particular Truth about Himself which Jesus knows that we, as individuals, need to discover: a Truth which may, and probably is, quite different from that truth he has ready for the benefit of the person sitting next to or behind us.
But on the same occasion Jesus gave his Apostles another commandment: to ‘Love one another’.
Now, when you come to think of it, ‘loving Jesus’ can turn out to be a doddle compared with the business of loving one another. For Jesus, being Perfect God and Perfect Man is perfectly lovable by His very nature. By contrast, the better we get to know each other (and, not least, know ourselves!), the more difficult loving one another (or ourself) often seems to become!
So just how do we go about loving each other better, and at the same time making ourselves more loveable so that we may love our neighbour more?
Well, my aunt’s blotter has something else to teach us about this. Not just the gold-leaf inscription which said ‘A Friend is Someone Who Knows All About You, but Loves You Just the Same’; but also by the way such a blotter works.
It ‘works’ by removing the surplus ink from the writing surface below to avoid smearing the writing. Writing is good; ink is good: without ink, writing would be impossible. But even the best writing needs to be blotted if it’s not to be spoilt, the same is true of our us and our good deeds. It’s so easy, once we’ve obeyed God’s will in some way or other, to ‘close the book’ immediately in self-approval, forgetting that, it was ‘God in us’ Who gave us the opportunity as well as the ability to obey Him in the first place. Every good deed needs to be offered to God for Him to perfect it, by removing from them the surplus ink of self-satisfaction. Otherwise it will be spoilt (like smeared writing) by the surplus ink of human pride.
For there are two stages to the perfection of our good deeds. Stage one, as we have just seen, is to ‘do all such good works as [God] has prepared for us to walk in’. The second is to recognize that all that is really lovable about us in the sight of God, is due to what God, in Christ, has done for us – namely ‘reconciled us to Himself’.
Our still-wet writing on the paper is, so to speak, ‘reconciled’ with the blotter by their being brought into contact with each other. The blotter literally ‘takes up the writing into itself’. We too, if we allow our souls and bodies to be reconciled with God through Jesus Christ, will find our whole being ‘taken-up’ into that one perfect sacrifice of Himself which He made upon the Cross. And in the process we shall becoming transformed into a perfect image of both ourselves and Him – like our writing is reproduced and transformed on the surface of the blotter.
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