Today’s three readings offer a map to God’s kingdom. Our only challenge is finding a vehicle to take us there. The jalopies most of us are driving now need work and won’t take us all the way without constant maintenance. And before we even begin the journey we need to strip that vehicle down to its frame, take out all the flaws and needless gadgets and rebuild it to its sleek and efficient essence.
Hopefully I’ve tortured this car/driver, body/soul analogy long enough to make my point. Christ made his point much clearer in today’s gospel, where he says “If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” But even Jesus prepared himself for this journey, and he hauled a huge cross into the desert for 40 days to test his endurance and build his wisdom through constant dialog with his Father. He even had a few words with Satan to complete his test. By the time he came out of the desert he was who he came here to be.
Today’s Old Testament reading from Zechariah offers an amazing before-Christ premonition of the depths of evil Jesus would face and the heights of grace that would deliver his followers from that evil. “They shall look on him whom they have pierced and they shall mourn for him as one mourns for an only son. … on that day there shall be open to the House of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a fountain to purify from sin and uncleanness.”
We are to use that fountain not only to wash away our guilt but to be reborn—to strip away our old identities and be the essential souls God is beckoning home. As Paul tells the Galatians in today’s second reading, “there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free person, there is not male and female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
And Christ is our vehicle, baby…Great God in heaven, you know He loves you.*
(*with apologies to the 70s rock band “Ides of March” for carjacking their “Vehicle.”)