Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we reflect on the readings, which began from the opening of the Book of Exodus from the Old Testament, which told us the story of the people of Israel, the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the chosen people, in Egypt, during their time of stay there. The people of Israel had been blessed by the Lord and grew exponentially in wealth and in their number, such that the Egyptians truly might have feared that the Israelites might overwhelm them in their own country.
Thus began the persecution of Israel, led by the Pharaoh, king and ruler of Egypt, who felt the threat created by the people of Israel in his lands. He oppressed them and tried to bring them under control, and therefore begun the slavery of Israel, the years of suffering in Egypt, when the people of Israel laboured under the yoke of the Pharaohs and many died. Yet, the Lord remained with His people, and He continued to bless them, and thence, they multiplied still even more.
But the Lord did not leave His people to suffer, because He cared for them and wished for their safety, and that was why He sent them a liberator, through Moses, the son of Israel lifted from the water of the River Nile by the daughter of the then reigning Pharaoh. Through Moses, the prayers of Israel were heard, and the Lord brought His people out of Egypt on eagle’s wings, with the ten plagues He sent to Egypt to punish them for mistreating the people of Israel and keeping them enslaved in suffering.
The Lord saved Israel from the slavery in Egypt, and He brought them through the Red Sea to the land of flowing milk and honey, the Promised Land of Canaan. The Lord God brought the people through the desert to Canaan, so that they can enjoy the promise that the Lord had made to Abraham, their forefather, that they, as his descendants, will enjoy the fruits of God’s blessings which had been given to Abraham and his descendants for eternity.
But the journey was not easy, and was full of trial and suffering, just as the people of Israel had endured suffering during their time in Egypt. That is because to become the disciples of the Lord is not easy, and is not straightforward. Much sacrifices had to be made, and indeed, as Christ had told His disciples, we have to take up our crosses and follow Him, otherwise we would not be worthy of Him.
That is because there is much evil in the world, ever since the beginning of time, when the evil one came and corrupted mankind and creation, with the evils that did not belong to God. Terrible things such as hatred, jealousy, greed, lust, and many other evils that had marred the perfection of God’s creations and all of His works.
But Christ would not let us suffer alone in this darkness, and that was why He came, to be the Light that rescues all from the grip of darkness. Instead, He bear all our sufferings, caused by our disobedience, so that He would blamed instead of us, punched and received blows instead of us, and died instead of us, a death on the cross.
The cross was, at the time of Jesus, the Romans’ favourite way to deal with criminals, particularly those seen as great threat to the Romans and to the society itself. Death of the cross for Jesus was to be a sure condemnation of His memory and a completely humiliating death for the so called ‘Messiah’, according to the chief priests.
Yet, the Lord prevailed, through His death, and then, most importantly, His Resurrection, the first to be Risen from the dead by His own power. The Risen Lord turned the humiliating cross, a symbol of shame, into a glorious sign of victory and triumph. The cross reminds us always that we have been victorious against the devil, and have also been triumphant in the struggle against sin and evil, because through that cross on Calvary, we had been made whole once again, and be made worthy in the presence of God.
That is why, brothers and sisters in Christ, we must be proud to show that we are the people who belongs to God, a people of the Lord, marked by none other than by the sign of the victorious cross. Through even simple gestures like making the sign of the cross before meals would signify our pride and faith in the triumphant cross, the Lord who had brought us up from the mire of sin, and like the Israelites of old, brought with the power of God’s hands out of Egypt, thus we have been brought out of our slavery of sin, into a new, free life in Christ.
Do not be afraid to show that we are Christians, and we also should not attempt to hide it whenever we make the sign of the cross, before meals, before prayers, and in many other occasions. Behold the symbol of our salvation, our pride and faith in God, the cross, to remember our Lord who had died for us, endured suffering that should have befallen us, just so that all of us may live, and not just a life that is temporary, but eternal life in heaven.
Today we also commemorate the memorial of St. Bonaventure, who was a religious and a well-known theologian, preacher, and scholar who lived in the early part of the last millenium, living just after the time of St. Francis of Assisi. He and his works advanced the theology and teachings of the Franciscans, which he was a member of, and his great contribution made the Pope elevated him to the Cardinalate.
St. Bonaventure in his hard works, ensured that the Franciscans would be known for its depth in understanding God’s teachings and also excellent oratory skills. He had laboured hard for Christ and God’s people, and He upheld the cross that was his, and he did not shirk from the duty to carry that cross. Instead he embraced it, and carried his cross alongside Christ.
Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, inspired by the zeal and devotion of St. Bonaventure and other great saints, holy men and women of God, let us renew our commitment and faith to the Lord, the One who saved us from certain death, death that awaits us sinners and evildoers, but which had been voided by the power of Christ, through the outpouring of His Blood on the cross.
Let us bear our own crosses, and help one another to bear one another’s cross, and walk our way through the path to salvation, to Christ. It will not be an easy journey, as often there will be temptations and oppositions, especially by the world, but if we remain strong, and carry our crosses faithfully, we will reach the end, and we will reach Christ, our Lord who loves us. It is up to us, brothers and sisters in Christ, whether we end up in hell or in heaven. Let us be proactive in living out our faith, that our faith will not die, but blossom with love.
God bless us all, and let us ask St. Bonaventure for his intercession for us sinners. Pray for us St. Bonaventure. Amen.