Friday, 14 September 2018 : Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we celebrate the great occasion of the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross of Our Lord Jesus Christ, remembering that Holy Cross through which we have received our salvation, by none other than the suffering, crucifixion and death of Our Lord on that same Holy Cross, at Calvary, as the Altar of His offering and perfect love for us.

The cross is the first and most visible symbol of our Christian faith, the mark which has been given to us, not as a symbol of shame and punishment, as how it was intended to be, but rather as a symbol of triumph and victory against sin and death, the final victory which God has won for us all, against the tyranny of the sins that have bound us for time immemorial ever since the first time we disobeyed God and fell into the temptation of Satan.

And let us keep this key tenet of the importance of the Cross to our faith, as we continue along our today’s discourse. First of all, let us begin by looking at the passage from the Book of Numbers, in which we heard about the moment when the people of Israel rebelled against God, so much so that despite all that God had done for their sake, liberating them from the Egyptians, protecting them from their enemies and providing for their needs along the way even while in the middle of the desert.

But they continued to grumble and to complain, even rising up against Moses, wanting to kill him and replace him, and providing for themselves an alternative ‘god’ and idol, in the golden calf and in the pagan gods and idols of the neighbouring people. This disobedience and rebelliousness is the same kind of disobedience that Adam and Eve have once shown the Lord, and therefore, brought sin into the hearts of those people.

And the just consequence and punishment for sin, is the separation from God, by our own deliberate and willing rejection of God’s love and grace. And when we are separated from God, Who is the source of all creation and life, what is left for us is death. That is why, in the first reading, this is symbolised dramatically with the moment when God sent the serpents to strike at the disobedient and sinful people of Israel, and many died as a result.

That represents the death that comes about because of sin and disobedience. The serpents represent the sting of sin, the poison of sin, that will bring about death, should nothing be done to try and save those who were bitten by its poison. But the people regretted their sinful attitudes and begged God through Moses to show mercy on them and save them. And God showed clearly how He truly did not wish for their destruction, but rather, for them to be reconciled and be saved.

In the first place, if God did not love us or has wished for us to be destroyed, He would not even have created us in the first place. God is all good and perfect, and He could not have created us just that we can be destroyed and annihilated. Instead, as mentioned, it was our own conscious and willing rejection of God’s love and grace that has caused us to fall into eternal damnation in hell. Hell is in reality, a state of total separation from God because of our own rejection of Him.

But again, linking back to what we have discussed at the start of this discourse, the Cross is the symbol of God’s perfect love for us, which He made evident, clear and real through none other than His beloved Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, as we heard in the Gospel passage today, that God so loved the world that He gave us all His one and only beloved Son, Jesus Christ, that through Him, all who believe in Him may not perish but instead receive eternal life.

In the first reading, we heard how God asked Moses to craft a bronze serpent placed on a staff, where the bronze serpent was displayed and lifted up high before all. All those who have been bitten by the serpents would not die should they look upon the bronze serpent. And this is linked to what the Lord Jesus Himself did at the time of the fulfilment of His ministry and work, that is His crucifixion.

As the Lord Himself explained to Nicodemus, one of the Pharisees who came to believe in Jesus, just as the bronze serpent was raised high in the desert at the time of Moses to be the sign of hope and deliverance for all those who have suffered from the fiery serpents, He too would be raised up for the salvation of all mankind, who have been ‘bitten’ by the sting of sin.

The Lord gathered willingly towards Himself, the sins of all mankind, from the beginning of time, to the present and to the end of time, that all of us have been, by the will of God and His grace, by His loving and most selfless sacrificial act on the Cross, the Man Who was without blame and sin, but made to suffer the consequences of everyone’s sins, on the Holy Cross on Calvary.

This is the proof of God’s ultimate love for us, that despite all that we have done, in our disobedience and refusal to listen to Him, God’s love for us is so great, that He was willing to do everything, even to suffer such great pain and suffering, of bearing the whole weight and burden of our sins, by dying on the Cross. The cross at that time was the symbol of ultimate shame and suffering, reserved by the Romans who ruled Judea, where the Lord Jesus was, to be the punishment for the worst of criminals.

But this symbol of ultimate shaming, disgrace and humiliation has been transformed completely by what the Lord has done, in taking the symbol of the Cross to be the sign of certain and sure victory in the battle between good and evil, and in the ultimate downfall of Satan and all those who have brought us all to sin. The Cross is the proof of God’s triumph over sin and death.

That is why, the Cross occupies such a central and important part in our faith. The sign of the Cross is the sign of our Christian faith, and is the profession of our faith and belief in the Lord’s saving grace and love. All of us who look upon the Cross, on our Crucified Messiah, have seen a new hope, and we who believe in Him and seek His merciful love, will be saved and will receive new life in God.

As St. Paul said, in his Epistle to the Romans, Jesus is the New Adam, Who is unlike the old Adam. While in old Adam, through the disobedience and sin committed, all of us have suffered the consequences of sin and therefore, all of us are bound to die, but through the New Adam, that is Christ, all of us are brought to share in His death, in dying to our old ways of sin, and embrace the new life He offers us.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, as we rejoice together and exalting the glory of the Holy Cross, the triumph and victory which Our Lord has won over the dominion of sin and death, let us all therefore rediscover our love and genuine devotion to God, especially through the Cross by which He has shown us His perfect, selfless and ultimate love for each one of us, without exception.

Let us now therefore renew our commitment to live like true Christians, as we turn ourselves towards the Cross, and be people of the Cross, bearing proudly within ourselves, the symbol of our faith, this Holy Cross, by which we have been saved. Let us keep in mind always, God’s everlasting love for us all. Amen.

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