The First Letter of God's Alphabet

Passion (Palm) Sunday Homily

This week I asked our school children if they know the first letter of the alphabet. They all responded "A."

"But do you know," I asked, "What is the first letter of God's alphabet?" After a number of guesses, I finally had to say, "It is the cross." Our Holy Father stated that when he addressed some fifty thousand young people in Rome. "The Cross is the first letter of God's alphabet and it is written in the life of each person."

In today's reading of the Passion according to Luke we see the two ways of responding to the cross. On one side of Jesus was a man who had learned how to rely on himself. Now he had a last chance to rely on God. Instead he clung to his false self esteem and blasphemed Jesus. "Save yourself. And us too if you are the Messiah."

But the other thief feared God. He didn't blame God for his suffering, but simply said. "Remember me." What a tremendous moment of grace. In effect he embraced the cross and received forgiveness.

Pope John Paul tells us we each face a choice. We can run from the cross. So many people think they can escape the cross with drugs, booze, sex, money, television. You name it. The relief is only temporary. We can run from the cross, but we cannot hide. Without God, the cross crushes us.

There is another alternative. That is the one we are presented with as we begin Holy Week. We can embrace the cross. In Jesus alone will we find forgiveness, healing, rest for our souls. The good thief, from the depth of his pain, cried out to Jesus. "Remember me."

In the end there will be only two types of people. Those who join themselves to Jesus and say to God, "Thy will be done." And those who cling to their own hurt and say, "My will be done." One is left behind, not because Jesus does not want to take him, but because he refused to go. He wants his own terms. The other accepts Jesus terms and hears the words, "Today you will be with me in Paradise."

At the beginning of today's Mass you each received a palm branch. It is a symbol of victory. Carry it with you and place it behind the crucifix in your home. It will remind you that only through the cross, the first letter of God's alphabet, will you gain the final victory.

From Archives:

2015, Year B: New Mind and Heart Week 6
2014, Year A: Prayer and Spiritual Combat Week 6
2013, Year C: Strengthen Your Brothers
2012, Year B: A Loud Cry
2011, Year A: The Blood of Martyrs and of Jesus
2010, Year C: The Good Thief
2009, Year B: God's Justice
2008, Year A: Your Will Be Done
2007, Year C: What Do We Have To Offer God?
2006, Year B: Body and Blood
2005, Year A: A Week to Remember
2004, Year C: The Passion of the Christ
2003, Year B: He Breathed His Last
2002, Year A: Human Guilt & Divine Mercy
2001, Year C: An Honest Thief
2000, Year B: Why This Waste?
1999, Year A: His Blood Be Upon Us
1998, Year C: The First Letter of God's Alphabet

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