But centuries later it became clear that this mysterious figure could only be one Person. Whipped, bruised and scorned. Mocked and insulted. Betrayed and abandoned. Holes made in his hands and feet. Consigned to a shameful death at the hands of Gentiles. In spite of this terrible humiliation--or perhaps because of it--he would be raised high and exalted. In his case alone death would not have the last word. Everything described about the Man of Sorrows is singularly fulfilled in Jesus. To be more precise the event we are celebrating this evening--Jesus' Passion and Death. How remarkable that the details of Jesus' Passion were prophesied so many centuries before he was even born! But even more remarkable that Jesus would love each one of us so deeply that he would take our sins upon his own shoulders.
That is the love I would like to talk about this evening and to ask this question: In what precisely does Jesus' love consist? To discover the answer we return to the theme mentioned last night, the one Pope John Paul gave us for this final year before the Jubilee: "Our Journey to God the Father." This is what Jesus himself was so aware of when he celebrated the Last Supper, "He knew his hour had come for him to pass from this world to the Father." (Jn 13:1)
Jesus' love can be summed up in one word: Obedience. For Jesus love means nothing more nor nothing less than doing the will of the Father. True love always consists in obedience. Not standing on my rights or my dignity, but humble submission. This was true even of the Son of God.
I'd like to give an example to illustrate obedience. Most of us have probably heard of Bishop Fulton J. Sheen, some of us even watched his television program, Life is Worth Living. As a seminarian Bishop Sheen was known for his brilliant mind, his mastery of the Bible, theology, literature and so on. When people met him they immediately sensed his dynamism, that this young man had tremendous potential. After his ordination to the priesthood, it was assumed he would be given a high position in the diocese. But instead the bishop sent him to a small, rural parish. Bishop Sheen later said that year was the happiest of his life because he knew by obeying his bishop he was doing God's will. It might be added that during that year he learned to communicate Jesus' teachings to even the simplest person, something that would enable him later to reach mass audiences.
What Bishop Sheen did in accepting that assignment was what Jesus did every moment of his human existence. He obeyed the will of His Father. Obedience itself has two parts. The first is listening. In fact the word obey comes from Latin word, "listen." Sometimes I will ask young people, "Are you listening to your parents?" Jesus always listened to his Father. He spent hours in prayer and even when he was actively ministering, He was tuned into His Father. "The Son hears the Father's voice."
Obedience first requires listening, but from there it must lead to self-giving. That pouring out of life can be joyful, even ecstatic. But it will also involve suffering, sometimes tremendous suffering. If we want to see that we need look no further than the cross. The cross has to always be the focus for us. A saint who illustrates that fact is Francis of Assisi. The story is told about a young man approached him and said, "Francis I am looking for good book of meditation." The saint paused, prayed for a moment, and then picked up his crucifix. Handing it to the young man he said, "This is your book of meditation."
I hope every household in our parish has a crucifix which they treasure and revere. I have one which is very special to me. It was given to me in 1987 before I went to Peru. I've always kept it in a prominent place in my room. I hope you also have a crucifix perhaps about your marriage bed or in your living room.
The cross should be always before us. There is only one danger. We can get so accustomed to the crucifix that we don't see what it actually entailed. How much Jesus suffered out of love for us and obedience to His Father. Tonight we will unveil the crucifix with the hope that we might again be shocked at what we see. And then come forward to venerate the cross by making an act of reverence and kissing it. As you do so I ask you take your own trials, all the frustrations, sicknesses, humiliations and rejections--as well as the acts of love God has worked in you--bring them to the cross! Only there will you receive what you most need: forgiveness, healing, patience and humility.
We recognize that in our Journey to the Father there is only one path--the cross. Jesus takes us the cross and invites us to join him on that great journey to the Father. In summing this up I would like to quote a verse someone wrote as an addition to Amazing Grace:
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