Sermon for the Fifth Sunday in Lent – St. Mary of Egypt  “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem..” (Mark 10:33)
Today, brothers and sisters, we keep the last Sunday in Lent. Next Sunday, Palm Sunday, is a joyous interlude between Lent and Holy Week.”Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem..” (Mark 10:33)
In today’s gospel, Jesus takes the apostles aside, and tells them that He will be betrayed, condemned and put to death, and that He will rise again from the dead.
At this most holy time of the whole year, Jesus takes His disciples aside. Have we allowed Our Saviour to take us aside? Do we ask Our Lord to explain to us what is about to happen for our salvation, or does everything proceed as usual? Do we make it possible for Jesus to meet with us in secret? Do we seize opportunities to be alone and quiet with the Lord?
“And taking the twelve He began to tell them what things should happen unto him.” (Mark 10:32) And what was their response? “Grant us to sit on your right and the other on your left in your glory.” It’s apparent that everything Our Saviour said to them went right over their heads!
After taking them aside, making time for them (because they, like us, would not make time for Him), everything He says about His passion, His suffering and death, goes right over their heads! They respond with a foolish and selfish request: “Grant us to sit one on your right hand and the other on your left in your glory.” They want to share in His glory, but they don’t want to hear about His suffering: that part goes right over their heads!
Doesn’t the same thing happen to us every Lent? Instead of allowing the Lord to take us aside and spending some time with Him; the devil works on us, and we see our brother’s and sister’s faults grown out of all proportion! What should be insignificant becomes mammoth – we know that we are allowing the devil to have his way with us and instead of growing together in love we are growing farther and farther apart!  Then I realize that I have not allowed the Lord to take me aside and talk to me, and that I have not spent time with Him. My response to hearing Him describe His forthcoming suffering and His invitation to share in them has been spurned by me. Instead, I put myself forward;:  I want to be recognized; I want to be the highest; I want to be proven right and I want to prove my brother or sister wrong.
I wonder how Our Lord felt when the two disciples closest to Him, James and John, who had just come down from the mount of Transfiguration, completely missed His invitation to join Him in His suffering and instead, ask Him for a special favor that will give them pre-eminence over everyone else?
What did Our Lord feel when He heard their request? Blessed Metropolitan Anthony Khrapovitsky says that this was the beginning of His passion. The Cross was the end, but this was the beginning and that He could have saved us by this alone… indeed, he says, He could have saved us  by one drop of blood shed at His circumcision…but St. Paul says: “He became obedient unto death, even unto death upon a cross.”
Now, we’ve come to the last week in Lent, brothers and sisters, and if we have the ears to hear with, we are going to hear the same invitation that Our Lord gave to His disciples: “Behold, we go up to Jerusalem…” Will we not, at the eleventh hour, allow Our Lord to take us aside also? Remember, it is never too late!
Today, we remember someone, who, after many years of sin, came to God at the eleventh hour of her life, St. Mary of Egypt. In some icons she is depicted holding a scroll which says: “God desires not the death of a sinner, but that he may turn from his wickedness and live.” Let’s follow her example even if it is the eleventh hour. Let’s accept Our Lord’s invitation to go up to Jerusalem with Him.
“Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem…” (Mark 10:33)
Fr. David