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Saturday, 13 September 2014

Reflection/Homily: Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross (Sept. 14 2014)

Reflection/Homily: Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross (Sept. 14 2014)
Theme: Salvation through the Cross

The feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross celebrates three historic events: the finding of the True Cross by St. Helena, the dedication of the Church built over the Holy Sepulchre and on Mount Calvary by Emperor Constantine and the restoration of the True Cross to Jerusalem by Emperor Heraclius II. According to traditions, St. Helena, mother of Emperor Constantine travelled to Jerusalem in 326 on a pilgrimage with the intention of finding the True Cross. Along with some aides, she carried out some excavations around the Holy Sepulchre and discovered the True Cross on which Christ was crucified. This discovery was confirmed by some miracles and in honour of this great discovery, her son, Emperor Constantine built Churches at the site of the Holy Sepulchre and on Mount Calvary which were dedicated on September 13 and 14, 335. The anniversaries of this dedication came to be celebrated as the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross. Three centuries later, the Persians conquered Jerusalem and their king, Khosrau II captured the True Cross and took it to Persia. In 629, Emperor Heraclius II defeated Khosrau II, regained the Cross and restored it to Jerusalem and ever since then, this restoration of the True Cross became part of the feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross.

Today’s feast invites us to reflect on the place of the Holy Cross in the life of Christ, the Church and her members. The Cross is gradually losing its value as an instrument of salvation to reclaim the derogatory Jewish value of an infamous gibbet. As a result of this, our generation is more interested in the Risen Lord than in the Crucified Saviour and this explains the mad rush to healing centres and the glorious embrace of the gospel of prosperity. Today’s liturgy therefore, challenges us to reclaim the lost glory of the Cross so that in and through the Cross of Jesus, we shall gain our salvation. This is the message of the 1st Reading (Numbers 21:4-9) which prefigures the Crucified Saviour in the bronze serpent so that whoever fixes his gaze on him would live and be saved. In the Gospel reading (John 3:13-17), Jesus referring to the 1st reading confirms that he must be lifted up like Moses lifted up the bronze serpent in the desert so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life. On the Cross, Christ was lifted up by men and exalted by God. The Cross on which Christ was exalted was in turn exalted by Christ. This Cross which was an instrument of torture and death became an instrument of grace and salvation for the whole world and through this same instrument, we shall also be exalted on the last day.

Beloved friends, if Christ our leader was not ashamed to be identified with the Cross, we should equally not be ashamed to be identified with it. As the 2nd reading (Phil. 2:6-11) reminds us, because Christ accepted death on the Cross, God greatly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name. As followers of Christ, he invites us to take up our cross and follow him closely. We do this when we do not murmur against God like the Israelites in the 1st reading when we are confronted by adversities which come through no fault of ours. We take up our crosses and follow Jesus when we willingly accept and fulfil our responsibilities in life including those unfavourable ones. Trials and tribulations are things we cannot avoid in life but when we accept them counting on the grace of God to overcome them, then we are giving witness to the Cross of Christ. Therefore, when tribulations and adversities come your way, never feel disappointed by God. Look at the Cross and behold the crucified Saviour, he will give you the courage to withstand your difficulties and the grace to overcome them. Never lose hope when you are confronted with the cross for what is your cross today might be exalted to be your crown and glory tomorrow. Through the crosses we carry patiently, may God grant us salvation through Christ our Lord. Amen. God loves you. Happy Sunday.

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