Everybody knows that whoever possesses the Spear of Destiny, has ultimate power! Their armies can never be defeated and power will be theirs forever, as long as they have the Spear! You know the Spear I’m talking about, don’t you? This is the Spear that pierced the Lord’s side at His crucifixion! Great Hollywood script material!
Of course, this mythology surrounding the Spear of St. Longinus all depends on a view of the world that is more magic and superstition than faith and love. It is more materialistic and impersonal than relationships and communion. This is the usual spiritual poverty of a human race that has forgotten or has never actually known, that God is first the Only Lover of Mankind and not merely a Superman more based on Zeus than the God revealed to us in the Holy Scriptures.
All of this is because today we remember the wonderful centurion at the foot of the Cross named Longinus who pierced the Lord’s side and declared “Truly this was the Son of God!” He is considered a saint in the Orthodox Church because he converted to Christianity and died a martyr’s death for his Christian faith! Today we recall his ability to recognize the true identity of our Lord Jesus in stark contrast to the Lord’s own people who missed His mission and purpose.
The Gospel Lesson today is a long one. It’s found in Matthew 27:33-54. I won’t quote the whole passage, but I hope you take the time to read the whole reading. It is the familiar but always fresh account of our Lord’s final moments and His amazing display of love on the Cross as our Champion against ignorance, death, and injustice. It also tells how creation itself rebelled at humanity’s audacious pride in crucifying the Son of God. And the final sign of this significant moment in human history is the huge curtain in the Temple being torn “from top to bottom.”
Look at this section of the reading:
And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom; and the earth shook, and the rocks were split; the tombs also were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised, and coming out of the tombs after his resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many. When the centurion and those who were with him, keeping watch over Jesus, saw the earthquake and what took place, they were filled with awe, and said, “Truly this was the Son of God!”
Amazing! This Gentile, this Roman soldier; a leader in the occupying army there in Israel, hated by the population, probably miserable being so far from his home and family, stationed in a place where he is always an “outsider” and despised; this man is graced with the insight into Who Jesus really is. The Nation that has been shaped for centuries by the Holy Scriptures, led by the Holy Prophets, given the liturgical wisdom of the Temple and the Synagogue, warned for centuries about the coming of the Messiah, given the mission by God to be the example to the whole world; this People, the Lord’s own “tribe” missed Him completely!
What a warning! What a powerful lesson to whoever is awake enough, aware enough, humble enough, loving enough, spiritually hungry enough, to hear! The Gentile, the “outsider,” the “stranger,” without all the benefits of Scripture, Liturgy, and Mission, sees our Lord Jesus for Who He is; and the people with all the advantages, all the “headstart,” miss the Messiah!
Today, our focus on St. Longinus, invites us to a two-fold blessing: To rejoice that God so loves ALL humanity that even those without all the advantages, even those folks, created in God’s image, meant to be in His Likeness, can have their eyes opened in the face of such eternal and selfless Love, and, To be warned that even all the spiritual advantages of centuries of tradition and a heritage of faith doesn’t guarantee an awareness of the treasure of the Faith if that Treasure is neglected or taken for granted! You can be blind, even standing at the Cross and seeing such sacrificial Love, if you stubbornly insist on your blindness! If you stubbornly insist on not being Orthodox on Purpose!