March 11, 2018

A HOMILY FOR THE FOURTH SUNDAY OF LENT – CYCLE “B” –  3/11/18  –  SMG

+ Pax et Bonum!   Peace and goodness to you this day!

A survey that was taken among children in the Archdiocese of Chicago a few years back, asked each child to choose an image of Jesus, that they liked best.  Images ranged from Jesus laying in the manger, to the Good Shepherd, to that picture of Jesus where He looks like a Bee Gee.  You know what they call that painting, that picture?  They call it “Smiling Jesus”.  You can tell it was painted in the 1970’s, just from the name!  Smiling Jesus!  But He does look a little bit like that Barry Gibb!  But of all the pictures that they showed to those kids in Chicago, the one picture that those children of mixed faiths chose more than any other, was a picture of Jesus on the Cross, with nails in His hands and feet, and with a crown of thorns on His head.  The results of the survey were somewhat surprising.  One might expect, especially children, to choose a kinder, gentler image of Jesus.  Maybe the “Smiling Jesus” picture.  Or maybe the picture of Baby Jesus.  They did not.  I think that this also says something about the debate between Catholics and some of our non-Catholic brothers and sisters, about which is better, a plain cross without the Body of Jesus on it, or a crucifix, with an image of the Christ’s Body hanging on the cross.  The result of the survey/ study seems to indicate, that at least to children, the crucifix communicates to children what they liked best about Jesus, and about what He meant to them.

We know that for the past two-thousand years, Jesus on the Cross, has always been central to the message of Christianity.  Jesus Himself says in the Gospel, you can’t follow me and NOT have the Cross.  And the Cross without Jesus, just doesn’t make much sense.  Today, in the text from St. John’s Gospel, we hear one of the most quoted passages of the New Testament.  But this is so much more than a catch-phrase held up on a poster, for TV cameras at sporting events.  This quote from St. John’s Gospel is a summation of our entire salvation history.  And it is a powerful reminder that the Crucifix and the Crucifixion are God’s ultimate act of love towards His people.  The Crucifix is a depiction of just how much God loves us.  It is a revelation of just how much God has always loved us and His desired relationship with all of us.  And that is good news for all of us!

But if we’re going to follow Jesus, if we are going to love Him in return, if we want to be with Him forever in Heaven, then it is absolutely essential that we too carry our own crosses.  Everybody gets crosses.  Sometime our crosses are very big.  And sometimes our crosses are unbelievably small, little annoyances, little challenges.  But there are always crosses.  We shouldn’t be surprised at this, since they hung Jesus Himself up on one.  But the logical conclusion of today’s Gospel is that if we are truly going to follow Jesus, each one of us have better be prepared to look good on wood, as the old saying goes.

This weekend, as celebrate getting more than halfway through Lent, perhaps the consolation for all of us has to be, that while yes, there’s going to be crosses, and sometimes we’re going to be person suffering on it, just like Jesus, what is also true is that there is never a cross, without resurrection.  We are still a few weeks away from celebrating the Resurrection.

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But you can’t look at the Crucifix or any cross in our own lives, and not remember the Resurrection.

My brothers and sisters, we follow Jesus Christ.  He does love us.  Perhaps there is no greater expression of His love than what He did on the Cross.  And we do have to show our love and our trust in Him as we carry our own crosses.  But may we never do so, without the hope and expectation of Resurrection.   And we don’t have to wait until we die, until we experience resurrection.  Every cross, big or small, is an opportunity to experience the Mystery of the Resurrection.  God can always bring good out of our messes.  And we need to always, always, remember that!

As we continue to prepare to renew our baptismal promises on the Feast of Easter, an important part of those preparations is the Sacrament of Reconciliation.  This coming Tuesday, at 7 PM, March 13th, we are going to be having our annual Lenten Penance Service.  We invite everyone who has not had the opportunity to go to Confession this Lent, to come and take advantage of this special opportunity on Tuesday evening.   We have some Catholics who haven’t been to Confession for years.  This is not a good thing.  To withhold yourself from God’s mercy for any reason, is a very dangerous thing.  This is the time, this is the opportunity, to make things right with our Lord.  Don’t put if off any longer.  Just like Planet Fitness, Tuesday night at St. Maria Goretti is going to be a judgment free zone.  Come and get reconciled before Easter.  It makes those Reese’s Peanut Butter Eggs taste that much better on Easter morning!

May God bless us, as we pick up our crosses,  Father, Son, and Holy Spirit…       AMEN!!!

St. Maria Goretti…   Pray for us !!!