“When Judas had gone…” These are the words that frame the words of Christ that we have heard. “When Judas had gone…” He had left the supper table, closed the door behind him and walked out into the darkness. “When Judas had gone…” out into the darkness beyond the closed door. Judas had closed the door not just on the supper room. Judas closes the door on faith and therefore in the darkness beyond the closed door he sees nothing. He does not see the new heaven and the new earth. He does not see the holy city, the new Jerusalem coming down from God out of heaven. He does not see God with us. He doesn’t see the truth of Jesus, the one who has called him . He does not see that in this one who is God with us, God will wipe away all tears from their eyes, therefore he weeps in the darkness. He does not see that there will be no more death and therefore he chooses death. That there will be no more mourning and sadness, therefore he chooses mourning and sadness. He does not see that the world of the past has gone, and therefore he condemns himself to live forever in the world of the past, in the darkness.
By contrast with Judas, Paul and Barnabas are those who have opened the door, or at least walked through the door that Christ himself has opened for them in calling them, like Judas, to himself. Paul and Barnabas have walked through the door of faith and therefore they have seen all that Judas does not see, because that is what faith does. It confers a vision, but only once the door is open and only once we walk through the door of faith. If we close the door and do not walk through it then we see nothing.
We have heard from the Acts of the Apostles the story of their return to Antioch, the third city of the Roman empire. The base of the first Christian mission. They had set off from Antioch on the first ever mission outside Palestine and now they returned to make their report to the community at Antioch. And what is their report? They assembled the Church and gave an account of all that God had done. Not what they had done, but what God had done with them and here’s the rub – how he had opened the door of faith to the pagans. Now this is an incredible report . The door of faith is not only open to the chosen people, those who are Jewish by birth. According to Paul and Barnabas, both of them Jews, God has opened the door of faith to the pagans. The door that Judas, the Jew that he was, had closed, God has opened for the pagans. And they have come in out of the darkness. They have come in out of the old world. They have seen a God making the whole of creation new. They have seen the defeat of death . They have understood the truth of Jesus Christ crucified and risen. That the death in fact is perfect self-sacrificing love. That the resurrection is the triumph of that perfect self sacrificing love. It’s that which makes the whole of the creation new. It’s that which destroys death. It’s that which wipes away all tears from their eyes. It’s that which gives us the new heaven and the new earth. It’s only the perfect self-sacrificing love which is God. Judas couldn’t see it so he closes the door and goes out into the darkness. Paul and Barnabas have brought even the pagans – who would have thought it? Our ancestors. None of us was born Jewish. We are all sons and daughters of the gentile mission, so these are our forbears in faith. The gentile Christians. They’ve had the door opened and they have walked through and they have seen the magnificent vision. They have seen the glory. When Judas had gone, Jesus said “now has the son of man been glorified”. In other words his death , which looms as he speaks, his death is glory. It didn’t look like it, and certainly Judas couldn’t see it, but the death was itself glory. It’s the glory of the self-sacrificing love. So when Jesus says “I give you a new commandment, love one another as I have loved you”, this is not moralising advice. What he’s saying is “understand the mystery that I am; understand the mystery of the perfect self-sacrificing love; enter the mystery; see the glory and open the door and walk through it into a new world. A new heaven and a new earth.”
This is called a Year of Faith. Pope Benedict, before he retired, proclaimed to the whole world, to the whole church throughout the world, a year of “faith”. In the proclamation that he made to begin the year of faith, it was called “porta fidei” – the door of faith. The summons then to all of us , believers as we are, is in a new and more impassioned way to walk through the door of faith that stands more open than ever. To do that through this year so that we too see the glory and are in the grip of the vision of the new heaven and the new earth.
We all know Alice in Wonderland. Less familiar is Alice Through the Looking Glass, where Alice sees a mirror and the mirror becomes a door. She walks through the door that was the mirror into a world that is totally different from the world she leaves behind. Let the call this morning be the call of Alice, not to enter wonderland in some fantastic sense but enter the wonders of God. In other words let the mirror become a doorway. Judas could only see the mirror, and therefore he could only see himself. Well the call on this Easter day is for the whole church in Brisbane to stand before what looks like a mirror and let the mirror become the door of faith that ushers us into the new heaven and the new earth where the world of the past has gone. Amen.
Most Rev Mark Coleridge
Archbishop of Brisbane
April 28, 2013