On Palm Sunday, I was privileged to be the principal celebrant for the noon Mass at the Cathedral of the Assumption. Fr. Jeff Nicolas, pastor of the Cathedral, delivered this fine homily on the body of Christ on the cross and its meaning for Holy Week and for our lives. Here is the text for your reflection as Good Friday nears:
This Passion Sunday my thoughts turn to our Jubilee year of Mercy crucifix hanging over our baptismal font. You’ll recall that we blessed it on the opening day of the Jubilee Year – the Feast of the Immaculate Conception – a day we remembered that Mary was prepared in a particular way to be the first disciple. And what would that discipleship bring? It would bring the most intimate pain (“Your heart will be pierced” old Simeon had said), as well as the most exquisite joy, when on that first Easter morning the tomb would be found empty.
But there are voices that say we live today on the Easter side of that cross, so why keep the body on it? Many, it seems, are uncomfortable with the body. In my military training, I received a sheet with all of the religious symbols allowed on tombstones in national cemeteries. There are 20 types of crosses, but no body. There are 4 birds, 16 circles, 6 flames, and 2 hearts, but no body. There is even a “Hammer of Thor,”but no body of Jesus Christ. There is something about the image of Jesus Christ crucified that troubles many, but in fact it is there that we find our hope.
If you look at the backside of our Jubilee Crucifix you will read that it is dedicated to my brother, Jerry. You see, my brother Jerry died of cancer after a several year battle with the illness. I remember Jerry telling me early on that at the time of our uncle Tim’s death from cancer, he prayed that if any of his own kids or family had to take on that battle then let it be him. He took it on. Bit by bit everything was stripped away from Jerry, but not his faith. It grew stronger and stronger as did his trust in Jesus Christ. I observed my brother spiritually transform from the crucified one who wanted to bargain with Jesus (“Save yourself and me!); to the crucified one who entrusted himself to his Savior (“Remember me when you come into your kingdom.”) You see, when I see Jesus on his cross I see my brother Jerry, too, and I know he was not alone.
Some of my friends have suggested to me that perhaps sharing this with you today is too personal, too intimate, but I don’t think so. I think it is the point. Because the Passion is supposed to be personal – very personal… A father sacrificed so others could live. A son embraced his cross, so I could live. It is personal. It must be personal! It’s personal to God; is it personal to you?
Back when we dedicated that crucifix I said that in this Jubilee Year of Mercy it reminds us that Jesus promises, “I will be with you, even there.” And this is true. Today, this Passion Sunday, that crucifix promises something more. It tells us that it will be at that place that we like today’s centurion will find the eyes to recognize our Savior. It will be there, on our own cross, that we of faith will hear Jesus say, “This day you will be with me in paradise.”
Very Reverend Jeffrey S. Nicolas, Pastor
Cathedral of the Assumption
Palm Sunday, March 20, 2016