March 22nd. Fifth Sunday of Lent Year B.

“When I am lifted up from the earth I’ll draw all men to myself”. Our Gospel sees Christ anticipating the cross and its result, the universal new covenant Jeremiah foretells in the first reading. On the cross the Christ became for all who obey him the source of salvation. Were called to dedicated service of our crucified Lord so that we’ll be part of His redeemed humanity. Conscious of failures in that, lets confess our sins..

Recently on TV, a presenter interviewed youngsters who had camped for days in the cold to get tickets to a pop concert. They were prepared to suffer for the one they loved. Our reading asks us to do the same for Christ. His great pop performance on the cross should win our total love and worship, so that in the final great light-filled concert of heaven we will share in his glory.
The old stations of the cross were so full of sweat and blood, they failed to see the triumph of the crucifixion: “lifted up, I’ll draw all to myself”. All human cruelty, Satanic power and worldly corruption were conquered when Christ offered his back to those to those who would strike him, his cheeks to those who would tear out his beard. That’s the mystery of faith.
Christ is ultimate world pop star on the cross. As supreme lover and Lord He mounts the tree, as in the old Anglo-Saxon poem, The Dream of the Rood”. Not understanding this, the apostles found his talk of the cross shocking. They wanted him to be a worldly political Messiah and themselves top dogs at his side. They were baffled when He chose instead the scriptural role of suffering servant of God and Humanity. They didn’t understand true leadership is service. If lay leaders in society did likewise we wouldn’t be in the mess were in now. That’s what Christ talks about when he says he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Its the choice Christ made in he desert when Satan tempted him to serve himself alone. Only after Pentecost did the apostles make the same choice.
Our gospel says we must do likewise. Like Christ, we must choose service of God and others even if it hurts: getting up on Sunday when its easier to lie in bed; visiting sick relative when we want to go to the pub; there’s always some dying to self involved in the service of God and others. But in the long run this will bring greater glory like it did to Christ. Like the grain that dies to bear fruit, there’s no lasting Christian or any joy without the cross. Christ says, “if you love me be prepared to suffer”. For He knows that in doing so we’ll gain greater life. That’s true of the Christian calling in every age. Standing up for his church in the present climate of increasingly militant secularism requires courage. So does standing against the institutional church itself when its witness is anti-Christian as in child-abuse cases.
In every age the chief temptation church and people face is to reject the cross of life for the worldly way of death. Look at the many who abandon faith & become slaves of materialism, drugs, immoral living and worldly greed. There’s more life in the celibate priest, the humble religious, the dedicated lay person, the faithful partner in marriage. Suffering self-giving love saves; all else is dust and ashes. Ruthless pursuit of self at all costs may brings temporary pleasure but ultimately it destroys the soul. By the cross Christ overthrew that and its lord Satan. For worldly values fade to ashes at last, but Christ on the cross is lord of love, beauty, truth, grace, peace and salvation for happiness in this world and forever and ever, amen.
So as God’s own called to the cross, to self-giving service of God & others for the world’s redemption, lets profess our faith.

Prayers of the faithful
For leaders of the church, especially the Pope and hierarchy, that they may abandon pomp and power to fulfil their Gospel role of humble service of God and others, and so redeem the world…

For civil leaders that they may show courage, integrity and total dedication in building up the earthly city in their care..

For ourselves that we may affirm our dedication to Christ and his church despite the many sacrifices this entails, for that is the way of life and salvation for us and the world around us..

For our young people that they may follow Christ in bearing the crosses of faith and loving service of others so as to come like Him to the glorious resurrection of the just…

For the sick of our community that they may find comfort in their faith and through our care experience the love of Christ who suffering to liberate and raise up the oppressed…

For the dead, that the trials of this world over and having kept the faith, they may reap the rewards of their faithfulness in the eternal happiness of the life to come with their loving Saviour..

We ask these prayers through the same Christ who raised up on the cross brought all people to salvation, and who is lord of life, peace, faith, and hope for humankind forever and ever, amen.

You may know the story of Padre Pio the modern mystic. He wore blood-soaked bandages on his hands which were supposed to bear the marks of the nails that pierced Christ. Whether or not that is true is not important. What is, is that he suffered ill-health all his life and offered his suffering every day in union with the suffering Christ. Through this dedication he became a great light to his day and still inspires many people. All of us have crosses but like Padre Pio if we offer them up they can become a great light for the world. We pray to Mary for that grace…