March 24, 2024

Deacon Tim Papa Homily
Only the Cross Brings Salvation

Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion Cycle B

Isaiah 50:4-7; Philippians 2:6-11; Mark 14:1-15:47

Having just jointly proclaimed Saint Mark’s account of the Passion of our Lord, I want to return to the Gospel that we heard just two weeks ago at Mass. The crucifixion of Christ brings out the meaning of that Gospel in a very vivid way. In the Gospel from the Fourth Sunday of Lent, Jesus told a man named Nicodemus exactly why his life and ministry would unfold the way that it did.

If you remember, the Jesus told Nicodemus this: “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.” [John 3:14-15 NABRE] The reference to Moses is from the account of the People of Israel in the Sinai desert [Num 21:4-9]. God told Moses to raise up a bronze image of a snake on a staff, and all the Israelites that had been bitten by deadly snakes that looked upon this staff would recover. Nicodemus was a Pharisee, so he would have known this exodus passage well, but it wasn’t until the events of Good Friday that he would truly understand them. Like the ancient Israelites, we too can now look on a figure held up on a staff and can be saved from certain death. Only this time its not a bronze snake; it is the body of our Lord right there on the crucifix, lifted up on the staff of the cross.

Returning to the Gospel from two week ago, the cross of Christ now brings the truest meaning for what he then told Nicodemus. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him.” [John 3:16-17]. Now this scripture passage is the famous John 3:16 passage that people hold up on banners in the crowd at sporting events and put on bumper stickers for their cars. People I guess are enthusiastic about their Christian faith and they want to share this short synopsis of that faith, our promised salvation. But they are jumping to Easter without mentioning Good Friday. But Jesus made the connection clear to Nicodemus: John 3:14-15, the Son of Man being lifted up on the cross, then in turn results in John 3:16, eternal life. This is the problem with plucking isolated verses out of the bible: you get an incomplete understanding of what God is telling us. So today, our challenge is to contemplate the cross, so that next weekend, we will truly be ready to welcome the salvation that our Lord will bring us in his glorious resurrection.


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