This is the famous fourth Sunday after Easter and the superfluity of naughtiness that causes so much mirth in the front choir stalls of cathedrals, parish churches and school chapels alike. The Latin of St Jerome is less humorous or light-hearted: abundantiam
malitiæ, an abundance of malice (or wickedness).
It is difficult to imagine the scene as Jesus explained things very fully shortly before his passion and death. Who at that stage would understand the quid pro quo swap between a visible and bodily Jesus and a relationship with God at a more spiritual level?
In the last part of my sermon, I insisted on the unity of the Mystery of Christ as expounded by Dom Odo Casel and greatly admired by Fr Louis Bouyer (whose memoires I am now reading). You can read my old posts on Odo Casel and Liturgical Theology and Romantic and Patristic Liturgy in Louis Bouyer. I had another one of those “I knew it!” moments as I discovered that Bouyer had read Shelley, Coleridge and Keats. It all links up, and it takes a Romantic mindset to go beyond literalist Christianity. Of course, Christ was a Romantic in his own time, a shocking but cogent idea coming from the pen of Oscar Wilde.
Indeed the disciples had to make the transition from Jesus as their hero or leader to the transcendence each one of us would find within ourselves, the inner Christ. I certainly said something shocking at the end of my sermon, when I expressed the idea of much of Christianity being junk – insofar as the entire point is so often missed. We can be thankful that Tradition has bequeathed something of the Church of the Fathers. The work is ours to do.