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Homily (Fourth Sunday of Lent – Year B)

Posted by frmac on March 21, 2009

Every time I hear these words of the Son of Man being lifted up, I hear inside my head the hymn: “Lift High the Cross”. This Sunday’s Gospel points to the Cross. The Cross which is an an instrument of torture, and symbol of hope for all our human suffering, loss, illness, lost love, fear, brokenness, confusion, despair, broken heartednesss, etc. etc. etc….

Listen to the words of John’s Gospel again, for they capture in a nut shell what Jesus’ life was all about: “….the son of man (must) be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, so that everyone that believes in him may not perish, but have eternal life. (John 3: 14-15)

There are times in my life when I am mystified by the Cross and wonder why it had to be this way. There are times when I am scandalized by human suffering – just can’t wrap my mind and emotions around how good people suffer. But there never has been a time when I didn’t understand what Jesus had to say about his own Cross and my suffering. I did it so that you might have eternal life. I did it because I love you.

It is now fairly easy for me to accept this message of God’s love (hasn’t always been so), but I guess it’s my inability to comprehend why suffering has to be that still worries and frustrates me. I guess, ultimately, that is the mystery of life and with it comes the mystery of suffering. You can’t, I have learned, in this temporal world have one without the other, and that’s just the way it it is, like it or not.

Since I am a person who likes to find and have answers, I sometimes find it difficult to humbly accept that there are some ideas, understanding, and knowledge that are beyond my human mind. I need this insight. It is good for me, and it dampens pride and ego. In my case, and in the case of many, I believe it leads to compassionate living which is at the heart of Christianity – or at least it should be. (Here are two excerpts from Karen Armstrong’s essay, “Seeing Things as They Really Are,” in a book entitled: Walking with God in a Fragile World, edited by James Langford and Leroy S. Rouner.

“All the great world faiths emphasize the importance of charity and loving-kindness because they work; they have been found to introduce us into a sacred realm of peace within ourselves. And they do that because they help us to transcend the demands of our insecure, greedy egotism that imprison us within our worst selves. . . .

“True religion has little to do with self-righteousness, which is often simply a self-congratulatory form of egotism. The discipline of compassion is the safest way to lay aside the selfishness and greed that hold us back from God and from our best selves.

This is the fourth Sunday of Lent and we are half way to Easter. For the next few weeks, as we continue our Lenten Journey, I encourage you to focus on the Cross – the Cross that saves, the Cross of Hope, the Cross of Love, the Cross of Eternal Life, the Cross of Christ.

In closing closing, I would like to share with you a few inspiring words from a homily given by a Dominican Priest (Fr. Jude Siciliano) this weekend:

We are in the midst of Lent. Through this season of grace we hear again and again the words Jesus spoke on the first Sunday of Lent, “Repent and believe in the gospel. (Mk 1: 15)” And that is what we are trying our best to do – to turn away from our sin and turn more fully to the grace God is offering us in Christ. Lest we think this work of conversion is ours to do on our own, Paul reminds us today that it is by God’s grace we have been saved – and are being saved. If we have any doubts about God’s intentions and how much God is reaching out to us in love, we have only to look up at the entrance (and recession) process of today’s mass – it is being led by the cross held high.

 

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