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"Three nos - three yeses" - Fifth Sunday of Lent

Father Vassilios Argyriadis

"Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem", says Jesus to the disciples, at the beginning of today's Gospel passage. Then, he talks about what will happen. It foretells His passion and death. His earthly activity enters its final stretch. After this, the adventure of the Church's journey through history will begin.

Two disciples, the passage tells us, ask Jesus for a favor: to place them in privileged positions next to Him, when He comes "in His glory". He answers them, "You do not know what you are asking." The evangelist Mark structures the dialogue in such a way as to show the reader that the disciples really do not know what they are asking. Christ asks them, "Are you able to drink the cup that I drink?". And the students casually answer "power". They really don't know what they're asking for. Because because of what the disciples accept so easily, even the God-man Himself will later say "if possible, I depart from me...". They have no idea what they are asking for. But they also ignore something deeper: they ignore what the "glory" of their teacher means. They do not know that, within the earthly condition, the glory of God is not a throne, for kings to ascend in triumph. It is a cross, where the rejected of this world climb up covered in blood. On such a cross their teacher will shortly ascend, dejected and alone.

At the end of the passage, Christ teaches His disciples: The rulers of the nations "dominate over them"; but you should not act like that. "Power", that's what people (and students) are asking for. But "let it be so among you," commands Christ.

It is interesting that immediately before today's gospel reading, the evangelist Mark quotes Jesus' disapproval of wealth: "it is very difficult for those who have put their hope in money to enter the Kingdom of God" (Mark 10:24)... Wealth , then, glory and power, these are the themes in the wider relevance of today's gospel passage. And we see Christ stigmatizing them explicitly or implicitly. Almost automatically, the three temptations of Jesus in the desert come to mind: the temptation that the stones become bread, the temptation that the Lord fall from the roof of the Temple but be saved, and the temptation to take under His authority all the kingdoms of people. They are the temptations of wealth (that would mean producing "bread" from nothing), of glory (that would mean performing a miracle before everyone, in the center of Jerusalem) and of power (that would mean having "in your hand » every manager of this world).

Perhaps what we have heard is beginning to take shape in our minds. Just before the Cross and the Passion, just before everything ends and the historical course of the Church begins in this world, Christ is as if saying to His disciples: the time is coming when you will try the three temptations that I also tried in beginning of the divine economy plan. Wealth, glory and power will be your constant trials. This triptych is the way of the world and the world will want to win you over. And to these three you should say no.

But the word of the gospel is not a word of no , of denials. It is preeminently the reason for the yes , the decisions. It is a road and direction, not a stop and fixation. So against the triptych of the worldly way, Christ opposes the triptych of the Christian mind. Against wealth, he opposes faith, as trust in God. When the disciples say to Christ, "But who can be saved, if it is hard for the rich to be saved?" - the Jews at that time thought that those who are prosperous are closer to God - Jesus answers them, "what is impossible for men is possible for God" (Mark 10,27). In other words: instead of putting your hope in money, put your trust in God, because He is able to do all things.

Against glory, Christ opposes sacrifice. If His cross is His earthly glory, then that glory is His sacrifice for the sins of men. Carrying the responsibilities of others on my back would be a sacrifice. This is the command of Christ and this is what comes to stand against the worldly glory, which means coercive (ie "objective") authority of imposition. And against authority, Christ opposes ministry: "Whoever wants to be great among you, let him be your minister; whoever wants to be first among you, let him be the servant of all", he teaches the disciples in today's passage.


All this is of great importance for us today. Especially today, since even the news is perhaps highlighting their importance. We are living before our eyes the rekindling of a deadly confrontation: America and Russia are becoming the symbolic dipole of a potential planetary crisis. In the Christian world of America, the famous Health has almost prevailed for decades and wealth Gospel (the Gospel of wealth and prosperity), an amalgamation of Christianity with money and prosperity, and with all that this amalgamation entails. And on the opposite side, in Russia, another Christian Church ("orthodox" in fact), has been marching for two decades claiming worldly power, wealth and imposition, at any cost and means. It trades in icons, relics and miracles, it legitimizes opulence as a Christian way of life. It produces "Christian" shows (TV series and movies), it does... showbiz , trivializing the Christian message in a TV "product" and counting the flock in TV viewing numbers. He has recently come to legitimize military attacks. He embraced the way of the world and became an arm of power. In the background of our current situation, two planetary " Christianities " seem demonically subjugated to the temptations of wealth, glory and power. "If the salt rots, what does it slide into?" (Mat. 5,13) — this is the danger for humanity, over and above any nuclear threat.


But the gospel is not addressed to impersonal collectives. The gospel is addressed to me and to you. Because this world is not saved in the macrocosm of the planetary stage and its backstage, but in the microcosm of everyone's inner "treasurer". This world stands or falls on the degree to which each of us will take seriously the three no 's and the three yes 's of Christ. Last Sunday of Lent, two weeks before Easter, it is worth remembering that we received the command to oppose wealth and its idols within us, to trust in God; to oppose worldly glory, the debt of sacrifice for others; and vice versa in the impulse of authoritarianism, to put the responsibility of the ministry of the neighbor. We have been commanded to resist the ways of this world. Just before the Passions and the Cross, in a dark moment, which makes our current "Christianities" seem like lost salt, let each one of us ask ourselves: Which Christianity do we carry on our backs? Who are we dating? Who do we serve? And how much does the Christianity we treat have to do with Christ?

This Sunday, the last of Lent, is a Sunday of self-examination.