The Paradox of Passion

The Rev. Becky McDaniel. This sermon is based on The Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ According to Matthew.

Today we confront the human reality of betrayal. We look straight into the face of the pain of God. And as we gaze into the agony of our Lord, we wonder: Is this betrayal somehow necessary, something that God allows and even makes central to the plan of salvation? It is quite a paradox, one that is difficult to live with as people of faith.

One of my seminary professors is known for saying that “when you meet paradox, you know that your are entering the holy.” Here we have entered the paradox of passion, where love and betrayal are intimately entangled. But to fully understand this entanglement, we must take a deeper look at what betrayal really is in this story. The word that is used for Judas’ action of betraying Jesus means “to hand over.” The act that Judas commits is a “handing over” of Jesus, which ultimately transforms Jesus’ divine role from one of glorious actions of miracles and profound teachings to a new presence of pure, tender love. After being handed over, Jesus embodies the vulnerability of a delicate and eucharistic heart, a heart whose brokenness bears a greater light and a more poignant communion with the plight of humanity. In the moment of being handed over, Jesus begins the transformation into the Christ who bears all things, who carries the pain of the world in order to transform it into the holy. In the poetic language of the Anglican priest Robert Pynn, this act of “passion surrenders to another love that is not here or there but rides the breath of a greater mystery.”

Just last week at Trinity’s middle service someone offered a profound truth about life: The awful and even tragic things that we bear in this life somehow open us to a greater understanding of the mystery of God’s love. So as we enter Holy Week with this passion story of entangled love and betrayal, of heart-wrenching surrender and transformation, we can look to our own experiences of betraying and being betrayed (as God knows we each play a role in both) as an entering into, a handing over to, the full and all-encompassing love of Christ.

In our varied journeys from power and control to expansive love, we enter the great paradox with Christ. Our hearts are broken to make room for each other. And in the breaking we are not only entangled, but divinely bound, to our Lord Jesus.