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Tribute to Fr. Greg and Crosses

Serving Others with Heartfelt Compassion

Those words come to mind when I think about Father Greg’s ministry to people in the four parishes in our Area Catholic Community.  “Serving others with heartfelt compassion “was just his way of relating with everyone:  Catholic and non-Catholics alike.  He had an instant rapport with everyone and a special empathy for those who were hurting.  He listened with genuine concern to those who were suffering with health problems and those with relationship problems those who were grieving and those who were incarcerated. 


He prayed with people and helped them to find healing deep within their hearts.  That is why we miss him so and grieve his leaving us. 


At this time of sorrow our faith is our consolation.  Our faith reminds us of what Saint John says in the Book of Revelation, Chapter 21: He has no more suffering, no more tears, no more sadness but only the fullness of joy and peace.  I was with Father Greg when he died and his passing was very gentle and peaceful.  Like we say in our funeral liturgies: May his soul and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace! 


His funeral Mass will be at 11:00 a.m. on Saturday, March 16, with luncheon to follow.  Everyone is welcome!


Today’s Liturgy


Turning now to my reflections on today’s liturgy: During the season of Lent we place a large cross in a prominent place in our churches because the cross is the focus of our prayer while we prepare for Good Friday and Easter Sunday.


Today’s gospel is about the cross even though the word cross is not used in the conversation between Jesus and Nicodemus.  Nicodemus was a Pharisee who had great respect for Jesus.  Nicodemus had seen the miracles that Jesus had performed and he had heard him teach in the synagogue.  He believed that Jesus had been sent by God and he wanted to go and talk to him; but he was afraid that the other Pharisees would see him.  They were looking for a way to kill Jesus.  So Nicodemus went to see him at night.  Jesus told him, “God sent me into the world not to condemn it but to save it.  Whoever believes in me will be saved.


But first I must be lifted up.  Yes, I will be lifted up just as the bronze serpent was lifted up on a pole by Moses in the desert.  When Jesus said “lifted up” he was referring to the cross.  People were dying in the desert because they had been bitten by serpents.  But those who looked at the bronze serpent were healed.  In much the same way, Jesus said, the people who look at me when I am lifted up and put their faith in me will be healed.


The bronze serpent brought physical healing to people and I will bring spiritual healing.  Sin has hurt people and caused people to need spiritual healing and spiritual healing is what I bring into the world.  I came into the world not to condemn it but to save it.  Whoever believes in me will not be condemned.”  Nicodemus became a believer that very night.  He came to the cross after Jesus died on the cross and he helped Joseph of Arimethea to give Jesus a proper burial.   


Time for another story about the cross and that is the story of this church.  We see crosses everywhere.  We see a cross on the roof and a cross on the bell tower.  We see the very large crucifix on the front wall of our church.  We see the Stations of the Cross all around the walls of our church.  We see each other making the sign of the cross at the beginning of our liturgy.  We make the sign of the cross on our foreheads, on our lips and over our hearts before the Gospel is proclaimed.  We see the priest making the sign of the cross over the bread and wine during the Eucharistic Prayer.  And we see everyone making the sign of the cross during the final blessing. 


Our crosses are very important to us because they remind us of what Jesus did and what Jesus said on Good Friday.  The cross points to Jesus and during his time on the cross Jesus shows us how to live.  Jesus shows us…how to be compassionate when he feels sorry for the good thief; He shows us to forgive by forgiving the soldiers who nailed him to the cross; He shows us to how to place our trust in God by placing his life into God’s hands.


During the season of Lent we honor the cross and take to heart the challenge that Jesus extends to us from the cross.  He calls us to be trusting and compassionate and forgiving.  I will close with a very short summary.


During his time on the cross Jesus called everyone to be trusting, compassionate and forgiving.  We pray now that these virtues will become stronger in our hearts and in our lives.  Trust, compassion and forgiveness.


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