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Rejoice in the Cross

Here is my homily for this Sunday.

Peace,

Fr. Jeff

4th Sunday in Lent, Year B
2 Chronicles 36:14-16, 19-23
Ephesians 2:4-10
John 3:14-21
March 18, 2012

The Book of Chronicles speaks of the infidelities, the abominations of the Israelites, and how they are polluting the Lord’s Temple.  These verses can be discouraging but it is the reality of how the Israelites have been acting. 

Today is the Fourth Sunday of Lent.  It is Laetare Sunday.  Laetare means to rejoice.  But these few verses from Chronicles don’t lead us to rejoice.  They can be pretty discouraging but if we read further we see a reason to rejoice.

What was God’s reaction when the Israelites failed to follow the Lord’s way? 

In the days of Noah God had caused the Great Flood to destroy the sin in the world.  Since his promise to Noah, God has not destroyed the people for their sins.  What is God’s reaction in today’s reading?  When the people fail to follow him, he sends messengers (prophets) to speak God’s word, showing mercy, to help them see the error of their ways and to encourage them to change their ways.

When they still don’t change, he allows the Babylonians to defeat them but they are not destroyed.

Giving all this, what reason would there be to rejoice?  We rejoice because, as Paul says, God is rich in mercy because of the great love he had for us.

God never gives us on us.  We must always try to live as Jesus teaches us but we when we make mistakes, when we screw up and sin, we can rejoice that we have a God who is merciful and forgives us.

God’s mercy is a great gift to us!

Jesus speaks of God’s love.  We see people holding posters at events that read John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.”

All we have to do is believe.

Note, I do not say that we just have to say “I believe.”  I said all we have to do is believe.  The word ‘believe’ is a verb.  So, to believe requires an action.

In a few moments, we will say our Creed where we say, I believe in God the Father, I believe in Jesus Christ, I believe in the Holy Spirit, and I believe in the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life of the world to come.

You can find much more about what we believe in the Bible and the teachings of the Church.

But in this season of Lent we can ask ourselves what does it mean to say we believe in light of our sins?  How do we know that our sins are truly forgiven?

Let’s go back to the beginning of today’s gospel.  Jesus makes reference to how Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert.  If you go back and look at that whole story, the people had been sinning.  To punish them, God sent poisonous serpents to bite them but then when Moses (as God commanded) took one of those serpents, mounted it on a pole, and lifted it up for all to see, when they looked upon it they were healed (see Numbers 21:4-9).

Jesus says the Son of Man must be lifted must be lifted up in the same way so that all who believe in him might have eternal life.

Jesus is lifted up twice.  First, on the Cross, which by itself could look like a defeat, but then he is lifted up a second time in the Resurrection so that we might know the power of the Cross.

So, when we look upon the Cross, we see it as the instrument of our salvation but we are not saved by a piece of wood.  No earthly thing can save us.  It is Jesus himself hanging on the Cross because of his great love for us that we are saved.

That is why as Catholics we don’t just have Crosses in our churches, we don’t just have images of Jesus.  We have Crucifixes to remind us of what Jesus did for us.  We don’t despair looking at the Crucifix.  We rejoice because of the love that Jesus showed for us hanging on the Cross.  

It is that love in which we believe.  It is in that love we rejoice today on Laetare Sunday.

But it is not enough just to see Jesus crucified.  We must be transformed by it.  We must want to become more like Jesus.  We must want to move from the darkness to light.  

Because of the love that Jesus has shown for us we can trust in him and all that he teaches us.  We must strive to live according to what Jesus teaches.

Change doesn’t come easy.  We struggle.  We fail, we repent and God keeps forgiving us.  In God’s mercy, we rejoice.

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