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Homily – Exaltation of the Cross A (Sep. 14, 2008)

September 14, 2008

Have you ever thought about what it would be like…to be able to save the world?  What if. Single-handedly, you could end hunger?  End war?  Stamp out disease?  Give everyone a home?  What if you could wave your hand and give everyone work that supplied their physical and emotional needs?  What if you could teach people how to tell the truth…how to be honest all the time…what if you could keep them from stealing, or murdering, or causing scandal to one another?

That’d be a pretty neat world, huh?

But it’s utterly impossible for any one of us to do!  In spite of the speeches and ads we hear in this political season, no vote we cast is going to save the world.  No matter the commercials we hear to the contrary, no contribution we make is going to Save The Children.

But does that mean we do nothing, then?  If we can’t do it by ourselves, then what is our role?

We know God’s role in all of that.  “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, so that he 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.”  God intends to save the world, or at least, to make it possible for all to be saved.

Jesus is explaining all of this to Nicodemus, who has come to Him under cover of darkness to ask questions, and to try to understand who Jesus is. He understands that Jesus is from God, but Nicodemus doesn’t understand how Jesus fits into it all.

And Jesus makes it clear, at least to Nicodemus, what His role is.  And He uses imagery that Nicodemus can’t miss: Moses lifted up an image in the desert to keep the people from dying of snake bites, bites they’d gotten as punishment from God; Jesus would be lifted up in the same way, so that everyone who believes in Him shall have eternal life.

So Nicodemus would have understood the Old Testament reference, even if he didn’t understand exactly how this was all supposed to happen!

How do we understand Jesus in this passage?  We have the advantage of 2,000 years of history, and  2,000 years of Church teaching to follow; but how is this supposed to work for us? The Apostles thought Jesus would be returning to Earth in their lifetimes: they figured that God’s kingdom would be established by Christ on Earth just shortly after they watched Him ascend!

But here we are, twenty centuries later, still waiting.  So when is all this saving that Jesus is going to do going to get started?

Brothers and sisters, it’s been going on for 2,000 years!  God has been saving the world continually ever since Jesus died on the Cross! God has been saving the world through Jesus ever since Jesus humbled Himself to become one like us in all things but sin!  God has given us the Way to eternal life!

But there’s a little catch to all of this saving that’s going on.  Jesus isn’t waving a magic wand and making things all better.  God didn’t just snap His cosmic fingers and make everything all better.  He’s been saving the world through the example of His saints, starting with the Apostles, and continuing through all those whose lives have been dedicated to the Truth of the Gospel!

And He’s saving the world…through us!

All those who are listening closely probably just said, “Whoa! Wait a minute, deacon! What do you mean, “through us“?  Brothers and sisters, I mean through us.

We are the Body of Christ, here and now.  We are god’s instruments, here, and now. There’s no “magic wand” in Jesus’ hands…because we are His hands.  God doesn’t have to snap His fingers…because He has us to do His will!

This weekend, or Festival of Ministries focuses on Parish Social Ministries; these ministries are the Hands and Feet of Christ, carrying His Word, and His Will, to the world.

So maybe you can’t End World Hunger…but you can feed a family for a day, or for a week, through St. Vincent DePaul.  Maybe you can’t end homelessness…but you can help build a house for one family through Habitat for Humanity.  Maybe you can’t cure all disease…but you can help one person keep track of their blood pressure through the Parish Health Ministries.  Maybe you can’t end all gang violence or thievery, but you can mentor a young man through the Not Even One program.

Wanna save the world?  Get involved.  Wanna save the world?  Start with one person!  One situation!  One!

“God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through Him“.

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, so that he who believes in Him might not perish, but might have eternal life”.

We are the Body of Christ, here on earth.  We are the ones who are called to do Christ’s work, so that “the world might be saved through Him”.

No, we can’t save the world.  But we can make one situation in the world better, by getting involved in it!  Our Parish Social Ministries are where the rubber meets the road:  these ministries are Christ, visible to the world, so that people can believe.

I urge you to get involved.  Even if it’s only through financial support, the ministries you help will in turn perform corporal works of mercy that make Christ present to those in need.

Wanna save the world?  What could do more to save the world, than to make Christ present to our world?

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