Sermon at the Archbishop’s 4th Anniversary Mass
Sep 5, 2004
Recently, a phrase keeps floating to the surface of my mind. It is a phrase from scripture: ‘a new heaven and a new earth’ Revelation21:1. Revelation describes the image of God’s Kingdom accomplished with this phrase ‘a new heaven and a new earth’. The prophet Isaiah had already used this expression in the Old Testament. ‘For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth; and the former shall not be remembered or come to mind.’ Isaiah 65:17
At the end of days, God will completely renew the entire world. All evil will perish and God’s rule will be achieved. This is the moment of the Second Advent of Christ, the moment when the glory of the Resurrection will shine upon all humankind and throughout the universe, the moment of fulfillment of God’s Creation.
I would like to ask all of you to pay greater attention to God’s Creation. The story of God’s Creation does not finish with Genesis. God is continually creating us, all of humanity and the universe. God is always renewing the world through re-creation. This re-creation will be completed with the coming of ‘a new heaven and a new earth’.
Many people are troubled by the question, why is there evil in a world created by God? Evil is said to be the result of human sin, but speaking truthfully I acknowledge that there is evil that does not result from sin. Disasters, accidents and sickness do not derive from sin and can definitely not be described as ‘good’, therefore are evil.
This world reveals the history of God’s creation. God is beyond time and does not exist within the human concept of time. Time was created by God and is the setting for creation. As creation is still in progress, that is its completion has not been achieved, by necessity there will be things that are lacking, and things that still need to be accomplished. The final goal of God’s creation is the salvation and redemption of humanity and the universe. This is no other than being led into full unity with God, three in one, through God’s ‘forgiving, healing, purifying, uplifting, sanctifying grace, in the glory of the Resurrection.
In the gospels, Jesus’ activity centered for the most part in ‘forgiving people’s sin and healing the sick’. Truly, ‘forgiving’ and ‘healing’ are of the very heart of Jesus’ proclamation of God’s Kingdom.
In short, evil is an absurdity, that to which we cannot consent to, which we cannot accept, which we cannot allow to happen. Thus an absurdity and any explanation can only be distorted or far-fetched.
There is a famous story about Jesus healing a blind man in the Gospel of John. One day Jesus met a man born blind. It is surely unfair to be born without sight. Can one say; ‘it is your gift, so you have to be patient, and appreciate it’? One might give an explanation like, ‘the reason he was born blind is that an ancestor had sinned and so there is a curse on him.’ But Jesus’ answer to this situation was that ‘Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed in him.’ John 9-3 How do we receive these words of Jesus?
That ‘the works of God should be revealed’ is nothing other than the continuation of God’s creation.
No matter how thoroughly we study the physical causes of sickness and physical deformation, the question still remains, why is it that this person must suffer?
Besides people who are born with physical handicaps, there are many other examples of unjust ‘absurdities’ that should not happen in our world. It is a very serious question for us, why does God allow such things to happen in this world God Created?
The people who especially suffer from the ‘absurdity of evil’ in this world are the poor, and the lowly. In this world of international conflict and economic globalization, the victims too often are children, women and the citizens of developing countries. Jesus proclaimed in Nazareth that he was sent ‘to preach the gospel to the poor; to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind and to set at liberty those who are oppressed.’ Luke 4:16-19
And in the same way, our church has been sent by Jesus Christ. Thus the life of the church must be based in the life of Jesus.
With this conviction in my heart, I spoke at my installation as Tokyo Archbishop four years ago, on the 3rd September 2000.
I will make every possible endeavor for our Church to grow as a wide-open community, open especially to those who have a weak position within society and to the poor living under pressure; a community that provides comfort, encouragement, power, hope and help.
We are called as Church to participate in the work of God’s creation. This is the same as when Jesus stated, the glory of God would be revealed through the man born blind. I believe that it is through the unjust situations themselves, that the Church is able to reveal the glory of God.
In what way can the glory of God be revealed through injustice?
Jesus, without losing sight of injustice, takes the injustice on to himself and so he reveals the coming of the Kingdom of God. In this way Jesus reveals the absurdity of evil as it truly is. And in so doing he made many enemies. I believe this eventually led Jesus to the cross. In merely pointing out the injustice to be injustice, and then doing nothing about it, we would be no more than critics. There are ways to remove or eradicate those who cause injustice. But that is not the real solution. That is not the way of Jesus. Jesus preached that we should love our enemies and that is what he did.
Jesus is our teacher and as we look up to our Lord, we must follow in the way of the Lord. Jesus taught that ‘whoever does not bear his cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.’ Luke 14:27 Though we do not bear that cross alone, but with the risen Lord. To bear our cross is to fight along side Jesus. To renew the world, God asked us to be prepared to make many sacrifices, offered willingly with our whole hearts.
I pray that God’s work may be revealed to the world through our very own Tokyo diocese!
Following on from this prayer, I now ask of each of you:
May the work of God be revealed at each moment and at each place through you, and may your sacrifices to our Father in heaven be offered willingly with your whole hearts.
St Mary’s Cathedral Tokyo
5th September 2004