Homily for Saturday of the 23rd Week in Ordinary Time Year A
Theme: IN THE CROSS WE HAVE LIFE, OUR IDENTITY
By: Rev. Fr. Jacob Aondover ATSU
Homily for Saturday September 14 2019
FEAST OF THE EXALTATION OF THE HOLY CROSS
READINGS: NUMBERS 21:4b-9, PS. 78, PHILIPPIANS 2:6-11, JOHN 3:13-17
Dearly beloved in Christ, today the Catholic world celebrates her identity; her mark of salvation, the instrument of redemption. She celebrates that which the worldly-minded consider foolishness. St. Paul’s address to the Corinthian Community comes to mind here: “for the word of the Cross is certainly foolishness to those who are perishing. But to those who have been saved, that is, to us, it is the power of God” (1Cor. 1:18). Today, we celebrate the mark of God’s ownership on us, for God adopted us to be Sons in and through His Son, Jesus Christ (Gal.4:5). We celebrate the Most Holy wood of the Cross on which hung the saviour of the world; that Cross that the Lord carried all the way to Calvary and died on it for the remission of our innumerable sins. (Jn. 19:17-18). Indeed, we celebrate the glory of the Cross, ‘The Exaltation of the Holy Cross’.
Legend has it that after the burial of Christ, his Cross was thrown into a ditch and covered with stones and earth so that his followers may never access it. Those who did this knew consciously or unconsciously that the Cross of Christ was powerful and meant more than mere wood to Christians; hence they hid it from them. In 326 AD however, the Cross was found by St. Helena at Jerusalem. King Chosroes II of Persia invaded Palestine in 614 and took the Sacred Cross but Emperor Heraclitus of Constantinople having forced the Persians to sue for peace and restore the Cross, returned it to Jerusalem in AD 629. According to Church historians, Heraclitus laid aside every mark of royalty on his body, wore sackcloth and ascended Calvary barefooted to restore the Cross to its place in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. We are called to reverently uphold the dignity of this Most Sacred symbol of our redemption for through it, we recall the events that made us free from the entanglement of sin and the law.
The official translation of the Roman Missal calls this feast ‘The Exaltation of the Holy Cross’, but hitherto, in the 1973 translation, it was called ‘The Triumph of the Cross’. Moreover, some parts of the Anglican community and the Lutherans term it the ‘Holy Cross Day’. It is also called ‘Feast of the Glorious Cross’. These names depict victory, glory, success as against defeat, pain or failure. As foreshadowed in (Numbers 21:4b-9) where the fiery serpent was lifted up and all who looked onto it were saved from the venom of the snake bites, the Cross of Christ signifies our victory, our glory. it is indeed our strength and life, because our salvation is a consequence of Jesus’ death on the Cross. Looking intently upon it therefore, we are sure of being saved from the venomous bites of sin; corruption, evil influences, suffering; pains of various kinds and to say the least, we are sure to be saved from the venom of this vice-stricken world. By submitting humbly to him, who though God took on this lowly state, underwent the agony of the Cross for our salvation, and by bending to him whilst confessing his triumph over death (Phil. 2:6-11), definitely, we shall be on course to new life here on earth and of course in eternity.
May we be reminded of the sacrificial love of God the Father, who through shame and pain on Calvary saved us. May we be reminded too that Jesus, raised up high, made the Cross his pulpit where he preached the sermon of life by word and deed. Let us also be reminded that on this mount of suffering, our Lord forgave (his killers), and gave graces to the Church and his mother too. That is not all, on that Cross; Jesus linked man to God and man to man eternally. Man became inseparably joined to God at the instance of the Cross. This feast also reminds us of the triumphal sign of the Cross at the last judgment “…as Moses lifted up the serpent…so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life” (Jn. 3:14-15). Finally, today’s celebration enjoins us all to enthrone the Sacred Cross of Christ, the Crucifix in our hearts, our homes, work places and so on.
As the Cross divided those present in two on Good Friday, so will it be on the last day; it will still place some on God’s right and others on his left (Matt. 24:30). May we follow the way of the Cross today so that tomorrow we may be judged worthy of positions of honour at God’s right hand. Amen.
FEED AND EDUCATE ONE POOR…