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3/4/18 Third Sunday of Lent - Fr. Reggie

One of the main themes of Lent is the Cross.

And one of the great preachers of the Cross is St Paul.

And in today's Second Reading we just heard one of St Paul's most famous lines about the Cross.

He is writing to the Christians in Corinth, where the Church was suffering from divisions: they were forming groups that criticized each other and claimed to be better than each other. These divisions are a sign that the Corinthians have lost sight of the most important thing, of Christ himself, who came to reunite the fallen, divided human family in his Church. The strife is a sign that they are beginning to look at themselves and their Church from a merely human, political perspective, not from God's perspective. But we can never follow Christ faithfully if we do that.

To emphasize this point, St Paul calls to mind the central image of Christianity: The Cross. It is not humanly logical, he writes, to think that God atoned for our sins and established his eternal Kingdom by being rejected, abandoned, humiliated, and crucified. And yet - that's exactly how it happened. If we look at the Cross from a human perspective, it not only doesn't make sense, but it is repulsive. Our fallen human nature wants pleasure, prosperity, and worldly success - not crucifixion. But if we look at it from God's perspective, the Cross reveals the meaning of life: it shows the intensity of God's love for us and points out how we can love him in return.

This is what St Paul means when he writes that beautiful line: "For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength."

One reason the cross is so hard to understand is that we were not created to live in a fallen world. We were created to live in a world where justice, truth, and peace were the norm. But after original sin, injustice, ignorance, and strife have become our daily bread. And so, in our hearts we know this is not the way it's supposed to be. But then we make the mistake of thinking that it's up to us to make everything right. It isn't. We need a Savior. We don't take away the sin of the world; the Lamb of God takes away the sin of the world. And he takes it away with his cross. By letting us share in his cross, in his suffering and sorrow, he gives us a chance to share in his work of salvation, and to prove that we love the giver of all good gifts (God) better than the gifts.

This is why all the saints love and embrace the cross.

St Margaret Mary Alacoque, who received the revelations of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, put it like this: "What should I do, had I not a cross to bear? ...It is my whole treasure in the adorable Heart of Jesus Christ, and there it is the cause of all my happiness, my delight and my joy." Sharing in Christ's cross helps purify our hearts of selfishness. And the less selfishness we have in our hearts, the more room for Christ's love- the true source of lasting joy, wisdom, and peace. That's why St Margaret Mary can give advice like this:

"Trust to the goodness of our Lord in the crosses which He sends you; He will never abandon you, for He knows how to draw good from our ills and His glory from our trials."

Learning to see ourselves, others, and the events of life from this perspective, God's perspective, doesn't happen overnight.

It's a lifelong project.

But if we make an effort, we will quickly start to experience the benefits: gradual growth in wisdominterior peace, and moral courage - virtues that St Paul and all the saints experienced so powerfully.

One effective way to make this effort, to learn to see all things from God's perspective, is to help others carry their crosses. The cross is like a mountain: you never really discover its secrets until you climb onto it. It can't be understood just from thinking or praying about it. We have to touch it and feel its weight. By voluntarily reaching out to help carry our neighbors' burdens, we are doing just that.

In fact, we are following in the very footsteps of Christ. His cross wasn't really his cross - it was our cross. His sufferings were caused by our sins. So, when he voluntarily took up the cross, he was carrying our burden and sanctifying it with his love and grace. When we reach out to our neighbors, we are following in his footsteps. And there is no better way to see things from someone else's perspective - in this case, God's - than by walking in their shoes. This is not hard to do. Visiting the sick and imprisoned, comforting the sorrowful, doing small favors for others before they ask, being kind and welcoming to people who aren't popular or who are newly arrived... The possibilities are literally limitless.

We all know someone who is struggling with a heavy cross.

As Jesus comes in this Mass to share his strength with us in the Eucharist, let's promise that this week we will make a point of sharing our strength with them.



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