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Weekly Message 03-21-10: Fifth Sunday Of Great Fast

Fifth Sunday Of Great Fast

Today our Lord gives us a fair warning about his impending passion and death. He wants to be prepared. It is apparently not enough that He is transfigured before them on the mount forty days prior to being glorified on the cross. He desires we maintain our faith inviolable. So he speaks of the inevitable constantly, to them and to us, which is why the Church echoes his words today.

Scripture attests in the words of St. Luke, "The crowd watched..." Luke 23: 35. So we no we look at the cross? The impact of the final hours of Jesus on our imagination depends on our perspective. Do we approach the cross in derision and doubt or do we come near to its base in humble adoration and gratitude? Do we recognize the transforming power of the cross? Do we stand back in fear or despair, sharing the incredulity of those who expected one things from the Lord and got something else they did not quite understand? Or do we stand back in awe, continually amazed by the meaning and significance of the suffering of God the Son?

Are we like St. Paul, our heavenly patron, who expresses his incredulity by sharing with us, "For if the blood of goats and bulls and the sprinkled ashes of a heifer sanctify the unclean into the cleansing of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the Holy Spirit offered himself unblemished before God, cleanse our conscience from dead works to serve the living God" Hebrews 9: 13, 14?

Deliberately changing our place of view we can alter and improve our understanding of the cross. Drawing near or stepping away can help us see the cross in a new light. One dimension open to our soul puts us above the cross, viewing events and people, most importantly ourselves, from the perspective of our God and Creator. We note, for instance, that the statements of Jesus move out in concentric circles, rippling out into the world in richest pregnant meaning, beginning wit the soldiers at his feet and moving outward to reach the finish line in eternity. If we learn to alter our position as well as view, we will alter our perspective of the cross in our lives. This is literally a crucial meditation and worship opportunity which inspired and uplifts us to be present with our Lord in the coming days as we relive the moments of our salvation and redemption.

We are challenged today to remember the value of right belief. It is profitable for us to know that Christ bore my diseases of flesh and soul, that for our sake, He submitted himself to the power of our lusts. He became sin and a curse for us. He was humbled and became a servant for our sake. He becomes the sacrificial Lamb, the Vine, the Roc, the Servant/Slave, and the Son of a handmaiden because we needed it. He does not know the Day of Judgment, but for our sake is not only ignorant of the day and hour, but makes it superfluous since He redeems us by the power of his death if we only access and utilize his costly-won grace to enrich our souls from the temptations of the world, the flesh and the devil.

What a glorious remedy is the passion and cross of the Saviour! What an enormous comfort in Christ! H bears all things with astounding patience for our sake, so we definitely cannot bear them just for the glory of his name with common patience. They actually touch our lives. Who would not easily learn to forgive an enemy when the events of the cross are contemplated? Whose heart will not melt before the redeeming words of our Saviour from the cross? Christ prays especially for those who persecute him! Do we not recognize that the so-called weaknesses of Christ are precisely our strength? So why do we need to ask him about remedies for ourselves? He has already provided them. His tears wash us; his example elevates us, his weeping cleanses us. So many doubt and thus despair. For the greater the insult we offer to our God and which if we are repentant, He gladly forgives, the greater, deeper and profounder is the gratitude due.

So today we learn the perfection of love. To love even our enemies and to love them so that they might become fellow believers in Christ with us is our inspired task, because in reality actual love is not simply limited or fleshy. To wish people temporal, physical well-being is certainly good. But when this fails, hope and pray and provide the kind of atmosphere in which souls are safe. Do you wish a good life for your friend? You do well. But better yet, wish and work for the salvation of their soul! Do you rejoice at the death of a perceived enemy? Then you do evil. Have you aspired to a notable and praiseworthy vocation? You sin when you lay aside that pursuit. However, we must understand that even the good life we wish for friends may not be good for them. And the death of your enemies we rejoice in thinking may have been for the good of them because in some instances they may sin worse and endanger their soul more profoundly by living. But yet, in life there is hope, always for repentance. It is uncertain whether this present life will be profitable or unprofitable for someone, but without doubt, life with God is profitable. Love your so called enemies by making it impossible for them not to become Christians and follow the path of the Lord. Love your enemies so they might enter into fellowship with us as believers. This is the way Christ loved and the way, while hanging on the cross said, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do." Christ did not simply say, "Father grant them a long healthy life even though they kill me, let them live prosperously." He was taking eternal death of their soul away from them by his merciful prayer and by the supreme strength of God. Unquestionably, today if we have learned to pray for our enemy, we walk in the way of the Lord." That is the power of the passion and the cross of which our Lord speaks today.

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