Wednesday, 14 September 2016 : Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we celebrate the great feast day of the exaltation of the Holy Cross, also known as the feast of the triumph and glory of the Cross, the Cross on which was hung the Saviour of the world, Jesus Christ our Lord. Today we revel in the glory of that sign upon which hung many of our hopes and wishes, as the new light that had penetrated the great darkness surrounding us all in this world.

The cross was once a symbol of shame and defeat, a symbol of humiliation and punishment, as the favourite method for the Romans to punish those whom they deemed to be enemies and threats to the state. And thus similarly, they have used the same method to punish Jesus, Whom the Pharisees, the elders and the leaders of the Jewish people have sent to them with the false charges of treason and rebellion against Rome.

But that symbol of the cross, the symbol of defeat and humiliation by which Satan tried his best to end the works of the salvation of mankind, had been transformed by Christ Himself, Who triumphed over all of His adversaries, conquering sin and death, which by His crucifixion, death and ultimately resurrection from the dead had freed all of the race of mankind from the bonds of their original sin, and showed them a new hope for them to escape their fate that is eternal death.

There is that clear parallel that is always drawn between what happened in the Old Testament during the time of the Exodus from Egypt, when God sent fiery serpents to punish His people for their sins and rebelliousness, with the moment of the Passion and the Crucifixion of Jesus. Rightly, Jesus Himself mentioned the link and comparison in His discussion and meeting with Nicodemus the Pharisee.

The sins of the people of Israel made God angry at them, and they have condemned themselves because of their actions. St. Paul once mentioned in his letters that the sting of death is sin, and sin has caused mankind to drift away and to reject the love of God, the only One through Whom they can be saved from certain destruction. Unfortunately, as the Israelites had shown, it is all too easy for men to fall into sin.

Those serpents represented the consequences of mankind’s sins, our own sins, that is separation from God and death. They bit the rebellious people and these suffered and died. But when they asked for God to show mercy to them and regretted all the wrongs that they had done, God instructed Moses to build up a bronze serpent on high pole and raise it up high that all who were bitten by the serpents may see it and live.

When Jesus was raised on the cross on Calvary for all the people to see, it was essentially the same as what happened that day in the desert between Moses and the people of Israel. All of us mankind have suffered grievously from our sins and from our rebellion against God and His will, and unless something is done, we shall all perish and meet our eternal damnation and fate in hell. But God had a different plan for all of us.

After all, He Who created us all out of love has no desire at all to see us perish and be destroyed in the darkness. He did not create us all to see us meet our end in that manner, and to that extent, that is why He sent us our hope, our salvation and our opportunity at liberation through His own Son, Jesus Christ, Who is the Saviour of all of us, and He had done the same to us all as well as what He had done for the people of Israel that time.

To that end, He was willing to shoulder the heavy and unimaginable burden of the cross, bearing upon Himself the burden of the punishments and consequences of our collective sins and wickedness. And that is why, while many of us know the cross as the sign of our faith, but how many of us do know that it is also a sign of hope for all? A hope in the midst of the great darkness and uncertainty, a sure hope in the midst of the troubles of this world.

And ultimately, the cross is not just a sign of faith and hope, but also a sign of love, that is God’s ultimate love for us all, for each and every one of us. Every time we look at the cross, and on the crucifix where was hung the body of Christ, when we look at the crucifixes we have with us, do we have that feeling and understanding deep inside us that God loves each and every one of us? If we do not, then perhaps we should begin to do so from now.

God’s love for us is evident from the cross, and without that love we would have perished in despair because of our sinfulness and wickedness. Yet, our devoted and loving Father decided that it should be otherwise for us. The cross of Christ has triumphed over sin and death, and what was once seen as a symbol of shame, humiliation and defeat has been transformed by Christ’s act into the symbol of victory and hope.

And thus, as we all rejoice in the triumph and victory of the cross, let us all make the effort to remember that we are all called to do the same as Christ had once done, not in terms of dying on the cross or maybe to suffer as He once suffered, but certainly all of us have been called to love as He has loved us all. And this means that we ought to know what love is, what it means and what it is about, and then practice it in our own lives through our own deeds and act filled with genuine love, both for God and for each other.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, we are people of the cross, those whom the Lord had saved through His ultimate love on the cross. Thus all of us who belong to the Lord should not just rejoice at the glory and the triumph of the cross, but also to make ourselves to embody the cross of Christ in our own lives. After all, did Christ not ask His disciples to take up their crosses and follow Him? If we are the disciples and followers of Christ, then we too ought to learn to love as He has loved us, that is our cross in this life.

May all of us from now on seek to draw ever closer to God’s mercy and grace, that through Him we may receive the everlasting gift of life, that all of us may be saved from the danger of death, and by the sign of the cross, win and triumph against our own shortcomings, our sins and all the other things that held us back, preventing us from attaining true salvation in our God. May God help us all, and may He bless us each and every day of our lives. Amen.

Wednesday, 14 September 2016 : Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red
John 3 : 13-17

At that time, Jesus said to Nicodemus, “No one has ever gone up to heaven except the One Who came from heaven, the Son of Man. As Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, so that whoever believes in Him may have eternal life.”

“Yes, God so loved the world that He gave His only Son that whoever believes in Him may not be lost, but may have eternal life. God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world; instead, through Him the world is to be saved.”

Wednesday, 14 September 2016 : Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Red
Psalm 77 : 1-2, 34-35, 36-37, 38

Give heed, o My people, to My teaching; listen to the words of My mouth! I will speak in parables, I will talk of old mysteries.

When God slew them, they repented and sought Him earnestly. They remembered that He was their Rock, the Most High their Redeemer.

But they flattered Him with their mouths, they lied to Him with their tongues, while their hearts were unfaithful; they were untrue to His covenant.

Even then, in His compassion, He forgave their offences and did not destroy them. Many a time He restrained His anger and did not fully stir up His wrath.

Wednesday, 14 September 2016 : Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red
Numbers 21 : 4b-9

The people were discouraged by the journey and began to complain against God and Moses, “Why have you brought us out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? There is neither bread nor water here and we are disgusted with this tasteless manna.”

YHVH then sent fiery serpents against them. They bit the people and many of the Israelites died. Then the people came to Moses and said, “We have sinned, speaking against YHVH and against you. Plead with YHVH to take the serpents away.”

Moses pleaded for the people and YHVH said to him, “Make a fiery serpent and set it on a standard; whoever has been bitten and then looks at it shall live.” So Moses made a bronze serpent and set it on a standard. Whenever a man was bitten, he looked towards the bronze serpent and he lived.

Alternative reading
Philippians 2 : 6-11

Though He was in the form of God, He did not regard equality with God as something to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking on the nature of a servant, made in human likeness, and in His appearance found as a Man.

He humbled Himself by being obedient to death, death on the cross. That is why God exalted Him and gave Him the Name which outshines all names, so that at the Name of Jesus all knees should bend in heaven, on earth and among the dead, and all tongues proclaim that Christ Jesus is the Lord to the glory of God the Father.