How many of you have ever been to a Protestant church, Lutheran, Presbyterian, Methodist church for a wedding, funeral or Sunday service?
What were one or two things you noticed in the décor? (Gather answers)
For me, it is always the cross, the empty cross. I understand their theology of the risen Jesus and also that we are to place ourselves on the cross to imitate Jesus’ self-sacrificing love, but I always feel like there is something missing.
Then when I was praying with this Sunday’s readings, I realized that it wasn’t something that was missing, but some ONE who is missing.
I do not mention this to disparage our separated brothers and sisters, but rather to lift up the beauty and the depth of our Catholic faith.
“Jesus said to Nicodemus: ‘Just 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 may have eternal life.”
In the book of Numbers, chapter 21, poisonous seraph serpents were sent among the people as a punishment for their rebelling, their infidelity and their complaining against God and Moses. They became ill from the serpent’s bite and were healed only when they looked upon the bronze serpent that Moses crafted onto his staff at the Lord’s command.
The link and message that the evangelist John makes is this: It is only when we examine, acknowledge and take responsibility for the source of our woundedness that we can experience healing.
This is a powerful statement especially when we apply it to the emotional, psychological and spiritual dimensions of our lives.
Jesus tells us that we can only experience eternal healing – that is, salvation – when we look upon the Crucified Lord in the same way.
In order to really experience this deep inner healing and new life, we must examine, in light of the love of God made visible in Jesus Christ, those core wounds of our life that lead us to sin.
We must recognize Jesus’ eternal sacrifice for us, take responsibility for our sinfulness, and acknowledge that Jesus died to forgive us and to set us free from the consequences of our sin – eternal darkness.
When we look at the crucifix with the eyes of faith, we can profess with John the Baptist what we proclaim at every Mass, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.”
It takes real maturity for a disciple to look at the cross of Jesus with such honesty, humility, accountability and faith. Yet those same qualities are what allow a disciple to reach out for the transforming grace of God which brings both healing and conversion.
We do not overcome our sin by denying it. Ask anyone in a 12 Step program. It is only in facing our sin – in whatever form it manifests itself – that we can find freedom from its darkness in the context of God’s loving mercy.
That’s why the Father sent the Son – so that the world might be saved through him. God’s love is not an emotion but a dynamic action for the salvation of the world.
Jesus was sent by the Father to make the Father known. In order to do that, Jesus had to make love, unconditional, eternal love known because God is love.
(Walk over and take the processional cross and stand in front.)
This is the love of the Father made real for you and for me.
What are those dark, broken, wounded places in your life?
What are those experiences that you hide, keep secret and in a dark place that you don’t want to admit or face?
Can you bring them to Jesus on the cross, to the Father’s love made real for you?
Do not be afraid to look upon Jesus. Do not be afraid to lay your heaviest, darkest sin at the feet of Jesus. Do not be afraid of the darkness but rather bring it to the light of Jesus in the sacrament of Reconciliation if you need to ask for forgiveness or seek healing.
Gaze upon the crucifix, the cross of Christ and find healing, wholeness, freedom and new life.
Believe that God so loved you that God sent Jesus, his only Son that you may not perish but have eternal life.