Fifth Sunday of Lent – Year B Solidarity Sunday

18 March 2024

Appears in: Messages and Homilies

Fifth Sunday of Lent – Year B

Solidarity Sunday


[Jeremiah 31:31-34; Psalm 51; Hebrews 5:7-9; John 12:20-33]

To enter into the message of God’s Holy Word today, I invite us to seek the assistance of this parish’s patron saint, Dominic Savio. In particular, I draw attention to an episode in his life that took place one day while he was at school.

Two friends of Dominic were quarreling, and decided they would meet on a certain day and fight by throwing stones at one another. Dominic had tried to reason with them so that they would not do this, but to no avail. So, on the appointed day he stood between his two friends and held up his crucifix. He then asked that the first rocks be thrown at him, which shamed the two other boys into releasing their stones and ending the fight. He then encouraged them to go to Confession.

This incident strikes me as a very apt metaphor to describe the condition in which much of our society and world is enmeshed, and how we, as followers of Christ, are called to address it. We are in the midst of an epidemic of “stone throwing”. Following the example of our patron saint, our duty is to lift up the Cross of Christ and issue the call to repentance.

Let’s consider first the stone-throwing. It is all too painfully easy to see. Social media has become a cesspool of verbal rocks launched at people of differing viewpoints. Political discourse has debased itself into a blood sport of ever more aggressive barbs and insults hurled at opponents. The lethal stones of weapons, yielding enormous destructive power, are propelled with terrifying force between nations, leaving countless people dead and injured.

Clearly, this state of affairs is untenable and must stop. Saint Dominic understood instinctively, and reminds us, that the only sure way to have people put down the stones is to lift up the crucifix. Our patron saint’s insight stems from the words of Jesus himself in today’s Gospel passage from Saint John.

“And I, when I am lifted up from the earth,” Jesus says, “will draw all people to myself.” He is referring, of course, to being lifted up on the Cross. On the Cross, Jesus gave his life, and from the dead rose again, precisely to bring the “rock throwing” to an end, as it were. His crucifixion was the re-direction to himself of all the stones of sin people were hurling at both God and each other. By his resurrection from the dead, he poured out upon all those casting rocks the grace of forgiveness, and manifested the plan of God to reconcile all people with Himself and one another. To put this more biblically, by his self-gift at Calvary, Jesus established an unbreakable bond between God and His people, the new and definitive covenant of love. In fact, Jesus is, himself, this covenant, as foretold by Jeremiah. In other words, hostility and stone throwing will come to an end only if we allow Jesus, Crucified and Risen, to draw us to himself and grant us a share in the covenant of reconciliation that he is. This is why we must lift up the crucifix in the midst of the multiform fighting in which our world is trapped, and invite everyone to turn to the Lord Jesus, whose love impels us to let the rocks fall to the ground, once and for all.

How do we do this? Today we focus upon one way in particular, on what we call “solidarity”. This fifth Sunday of Lent is designated by the Bishops of Canada as “Solidarity Sunday”. It is an occasion to reflect with gratitude upon the work of the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace, which was established by Canada’s Bishops nearly sixty years ago to stand in solidarity with the people of the Global South.

Solidarity is a deliberate and firm determination to make of my life a gift for other people, to work for the common good of all. The exercise of solidarity “lifts up the crucifix” because by dying to oneself in order to live for others, we reflect what Jesus did for us all on the Cross. In the regions of the world where D&P acts in solidarity with the needy, “throwing stones” is too weak a term to describe the plight of our brothers and sisters. In many ways, they have long been crushed by the massive boulders of injustice and indifference. D&P stands in solidarity with them, lifts up the crucifix, by working with local partners who seek to ease their plight and by advocating here at home on their behalf.

All of this invites each of us to ask, “Where is the Lord calling me to lift up the crucifix?” We can do this, certainly, by supporting the ministry of Development and Peace. In addition, how is the Gospel speaking today to my personal situation? Is there strife in the home, name-calling at school, back-stabbing in the workplace? How might the Lord be inviting me to give of myself in the service of reconciliation? Or, are there rocks I carry in my own hands, ready to throw via social media or gossip, that need to be dropped, now? Saint Dominic urged his quarrelling friends to get to Confession. He would encourage anyone engaged today in any kind of stone-throwing to repent and do the same, especially in this holy season of Lent.

Jesus stood in deepest solidarity with us sinners when he was lifted up on the Cross. In doing so, he became the one and only source of salvation for those who obey him, as we hear in Hebrews. The Lord’s very same act of dying and rising is rendered present here on this altar at mass. Let’s pray, then, that the gift we receive of communion with our Crucified and Risen Lord will enable us anew to obey his call to be free from all inordinate self-concern and stand in solidarity with others. Empowered by the love of Christ, may we be ready at all times to lift up the crucifix, as did our patron saint, and lead people to our Lord, so that, in him, the many forms of stone-throwing can end.

Most Reverend Richard W. Smith

Saint Dominic Savio Parish, Edmonton

March 16th-17th, 2024