Message: You might come here feeling miserable and alienated. Jesus wants to turn that around.
Today is the Fourth Sunday of Lent and the fourth in our series on a "New Mind and Heart." So far we have learned three main things:
First, we see that like Jesus in the desert we live between two extremes: wild beasts and the ministry of angels. In our world - and our lives - we have much evidence of humans acting like beasts. At the same time we sense a higher reality: the ministry of angels can help us have a new mind and heart.
Second, to have a new mind and heart requires spiritual sight - like the disciples at the Transfiguration we want spiritual sight (a new mind and heart) to see the reality of Jesus and his cross.
Third, we have the difficult issue of violence in the Bible. As the early Christian writers teach, God goes to extreme to free us from idols. The great extreme is the cross itself. The cross has everything. When you feel empty, confused or angry, go to the cross. If you want a new mind and heart, go to the cross.
That's what we see today. Jesus says that as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert so must he be lifted up. When snakes bit the Israelites, God told Moses to make a bronze serpent and lift it up on a pole. Anyone who looked at it recovered from the snake bite. Jesus is saying that anyone who looks at the cross with faith will recover from the snake bite of Satan.
Let's be honest. The devil has bitten all of us. The bite causes wounds of envy, lust and spiritual boredom; those wounds fester and lead to death. We have only one remedy - the cross.
The cross teaches us God's love. As Jesus says today, God so loves us that he gives his only Son. Some reject God because they imagine God will reject them. What kind of God, they ask, would send someone to eternal punishment? But Jesus makes clear that he does not come to condemn. A person can only condemn himself by turning from God's love, turning away from the cross - choosing the darkness and what people do in hiding. Hell is a choice. The Catechism defines hell as "self-exclusion."
We can come to Jesus with confidence. He will not condemn. Pope Francis has been saying this over and over. It may seem obvious, but many people have not heard it or do not believe it. Jesus does not come to condemn. He comes to save, forgive and heal. So this Sunday we look at Jesus, lifted up on the cross, to heal the wounds afflicted by the devil.
This Sunday Jesus gives us a good reason to be glad. This Sunday is called Laetare Sunday from the Latin word for happiness. It's the root of the name "Leticia." If you have a friend with that name, ask her if she knows her name means "gladness." Anyway, that's what this Sunday is about. You might come here feeling miserable and alienated. Jesus wants to turn that around. Look to the cross:
"As Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in him might have eternal life. 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." Amen.
From the Archives (Fourth Sunday of Lent, Year B)
Year A (RCIA):
Small Gesture with Enormous Promise (2008)
Seeing and Knowing (2005)
Men Who Went Blind (2002)
Fatal Blindness (1999)
Cycle A, Cycle B, Cycle C
Audio Files of Homilies (Simple Catholicism Blog)
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Fr. Brad's Homilies
Bulletin (St. Mary's Parish)
Parish Picture Album
MBC - Mary Bloom Center, Puno, Peru
2015 Peru Mission Trip
Blessing the New Home of Felipe & Maria
with gratitude to Mary Bloom Center donors