Wednesday, 14 September 2022 : Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we mark the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, celebrating the three moments in history related to the Holy Cross of Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. This day we mark the moment when the True Cross, the actual Cross on which the Lord was hung and nailed on, was discovered by St. Helena, the mother of the Roman Emperor Constantine the Great. It also marked the occasion of the Dedication of the Basilicas and churches built by the same Emperor Constantine on the Mount Calvary in Jerusalem. Lastly, it also marked the moment when the True Cross reentered Jerusalem in great triumph after having been captured by the Persian Sassanians three centuries after it had been discovered.

Essentially, in terms of historical significance, today’s Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross marked the moments when the true Faith and the Cross of Christ was triumphant over the forces of the world, such as the moment when the Christian faith and Church finally triumphed against those arrayed against them, as they were officially tolerated and the persecutions against them rescinded by the same Emperor Constantine the Great through the Edict of Milan. It was a moment of triumph that roughly coincided with the rediscovery of the True Cross of Our Lord and Saviour at the site of Mount Calvary. It was also another moment of triumph when the forces of Christendom triumphed over the pagan Sassanians, and reclaimed the True Cross from the enemy.

However, this Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross is much more than just all of that. The most important triumph that this Feast celebrates today is the great triumph that Our Lord and Saviour has won for all of us, as He raised His Cross and was Himself raised on it, for the salvation of all the whole world, of all mankind, of all of God’s beloved children. Through His Cross, Our Lord Jesus Christ has shown us the perfect manifestation of God’s love as well as the perfect obedience of Man, through which God reached out to us and Man reached out to Him, with Christ forming the important Bridge through His Cross, reconnecting us and God.

In our first reading today we heard the story of what happened when the Israelites rebelled against God in the desert, and we heard about the bronze serpent of Moses which was crafted to help the Israelites. At that time, the rebellious Israelites disobeyed God such that the Lord sent fiery serpents to strike at them as punishment for their sins, disobedience and wickedness. Many died from those fiery serpents and their bites, and the people begged the Lord for forgiveness and mercy. It was then that the Lord told Moses to craft that bronze serpent as a sign of God’s salvation and mercy, and all those who saw that bronze serpent after being bitten did not perish.

That occasion is mirrored in our Gospel passage today when we heard of the exchange between the Lord Jesus and Nicodemus, the Pharisee who was sympathetic to Him and His teachings. The Lord spoke of the parallel between what happened back then and what He Himself would have to undergo, as He would be raised up as the Son of Man, before all the people much as how the bronze serpent was raised up by Moses before the whole people of Israel. And just as how the bronze serpent showed the salvation, mercy, compassion and forgiveness from God for His people, sparing them from the fiery serpents, thus, the Lord has also showed the infinite love of God through His crucifixion and His Cross.

The Lord has shown us His enduring and patient love, made manifest through His Son, and this was made possible because He loved us so much that He willingly emptied Himself and took up the appearance and essence of our humanity, by being born of His mother Mary, becoming the Son of God incarnate in the flesh, and becoming the Son of Man. Through His incarnation in the flesh, God made His love visible and tangible for us, and by His voluntary sacrifice on the Cross, the show of God’s ultimate love, all of us have witnessed and received the manifestation of that undying love. By suffering and dying on the Cross, He made us all sharers in His salvation, and die to our sins, and by His glorious Resurrection, He shared with us the new life, free from sin that we shall enjoy for eternity.

Not only that, but as I mentioned earlier, Christ by His humble submission to His Father’s will has shown us all mankind how we can be truly faithful to the Lord, and breaking free from the chains of sin and wickedness that had enslaved us, and how we can gain freedom from death through Christ and His assurance of salvation and new life for us. While the first Adam faltered and failed when tested by the devil, and succumbed to the temptations of his desires, ending up with sin that corrupted us all, Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ as the New Adam showed us that we should not and cannot bow down to those temptations or to the devil, and we should instead seek the Lord and commit ourselves to Him wholeheartedly.

That is why the devil, Satan, and all of his fallen allies, the evil spirits and demons despised and feared the Holy Cross, because that tool of humiliation that was once used for the worst of criminals, as means for great suffering and humiliation, has become the means by which God saved His beloved people, and through His Holy Cross, the Lord has cast a devastating blow upon the devil and all of his forces, and broke their dominion over us forever, showing us the sure path to freedom from sin and death, and into eternal life. This is why today we mark that glorious triumph of the Holy Cross over the forces of sin, evil and death.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we reflect on the significance and importance of today’s Feast, its meaning and purpose, and how it has shown us the salvation of God and the triumph of His Cross, let us all also reflect and ponder upon our own lives. Let us all look upon the Lord on His Cross, the Crucifix, and discern how each and every one of us can be better disciples of His. We cannot continue to live our lives with apathy towards our faith, ignorance or lukewarmness, in how we practice our Christian faith and beliefs. We should not be hypocrites, and should not forget the love and compassion that God has always generously shown us.

Let us all look upon He Who has been crucified for us upon the Holy and Glorious Cross. Let us all glorify and praise Him more and more each day, by our own worthy and grace-filled lives, dedicating ourselves in each and every moments to love and serve the Lord ever more with our every living moments, with all of our might and strength. May the Lord, through His triumphant Cross, continue to guide us forward to the path towards eternal life. May God bless us always, now and forevermore. Amen.

Wednesday, 14 September 2022 : 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 2022 : 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 He slew them, they repented and sought Him earnestly. They remembered that God 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 2022 : 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.

Tuesday, 14 September 2021 : Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we celebrate together the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, remembering the three moments when the Lord’s True Cross was discovered by St. Helena in Jerusalem, and the Dedication of the Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre at Mount Calvary, which still stands to this very day as one of the holiest sites of Christendom, and finally the triumphant restoration of the True Cross of Christ to the Holy City of Jerusalem after it had been captured and seized the Persians during the reign of the Roman Emperor Heraclius.

It was told that the True Cross of Our Lord was discovered by St. Helena, the Christian mother of the Roman Emperor Constantine the Great, who went on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, and was called to discover the True Cross of Our Lord. Upon her search, three crosses were discovered around the site of Our Lord’s crucifixion in Golgotha or Calvary, two of which belonged to the two thieves who were crucified with Him. St. Helena discovered the True Cross when a sick man was completely and miraculously healed upon touching one of the crosses. Ever since then, the True Cross has been an inspiration of all the faithful.

On this day we therefore rejoice in the great triumph of the Cross of Our Lord, Jesus Christ, Saviour of the whole world, as that Cross became the symbol of hope and salvation for all, the proof of God’s eternal and undying love for each and every one of us, and the reassurance of His providence and guidance before all of us. We rejoice today because the triumph of the Cross has led us into the path towards freedom and liberation from our sins, and it is the hope that we clings onto as we journey through life in this world darkened with sin and evil.

In our first reading today, we heard from the Book of Numbers of the moment when the Israelites rebelled against God and refusing to listen to Him or follow Him, as despite having been well-taken care of by the Lord, they were still not satisfied and often grumbled at what they had received, wanting more and a better life. They grumbled that they had a much better life in Egypt even though they were enslaved, and these things were said despite the fact that the Lord had provided for them and taken care of them, feeding them and giving them ample water to drink daily through the dry and lifeless desert, for years.

And by their sins, caused of their disobedience and rebellion, they were struck by many fiery serpents that came to bite them and many perished from those serpents. This was referenced by St. Paul in his Epistle to the Corinthians, that ‘the sting of death is sin’, a reminder that sin is the cause of death and destruction, for sin is disobedience and refusal to believe in the Lord and the stubbornness in following one’s own way rather than walking in the path that God has shown us. As such, just as our forefathers, from the time of Adam and Eve, had tasted death because of their sins, hence the same applied to the Israelites and all of us as well.

We all suffer death because of those sins that we committed, and without God and His love, we should have perished and been condemned to hellfire. Yet, it was God’s enduring love for us from the very beginning that gave us the hope and the opportunity to be forgiven, to be reconciled with Him. Yes, brothers and sisters in Christ, God loves each and every one of us, as He has created us all out of love, and to share His love with us, to make us all perfect in love just like Himself. The Cross is the symbol and proof of that love.

Just like the bronze serpent that Moses made upon God’s instruction, when he beseeched Him for the sake of the people, and which he lifted up high to be seen by all, that everyone who had been bitten by the serpents might be saved and not perish, thus, the Cross of Christ is that ultimate symbol of hope and victory, the sign of God’s love and providence for His people, that from the very beginning, He has always been with us, journeyed with us, and never abandoned us, and to the Cross at Calvary, He gave us all, even His own life, for our salvation.

St. Paul in his Epistle to the Philippians, in our alternate first reading today spoke of the obedience that Our Lord Jesus, the Son of God and Saviour of all had in His Father’s will, in fulfilling the planned salvation for all of us, that He humbled Himself, emptied Himself of all glory and power, that He, the Divine Word of God Incarnate, assumed the position of a slave, a criminal and a rejected man, to be the least of all, and as One scourged, beaten and broken so that by His sufferings, He might share our sufferings and took upon Himself our multitudes of sins upon Himself.

He obeyed so perfectly and humbled Himself, as our Eternal and True High Priest, in offering for us the sacrifice for our sins, the worthy sacrifice for the atonement of our sins. And for the eternal atonement and forgiveness of all of our sins, there is only one worthy offering and sacrifice, namely the sacrifice of Christ Himself, the Paschal Lamb, the Lamb of God, Who as the High Priest also is the Sacrificial Lamb slain on the Altar of the Cross at Calvary. That Cross therefore became the source of our salvation, the hope and light amidst the darkened world.

The cross was a symbol of the ultimate humiliation and the most severe and painful punishment that was reserved only for the worst of criminals and the traitors to the state. It was a truly terrible, painful and humiliating way for someone to die, and that was exactly what the Lord had subjected Himself into, as One Who was blameless and sinless, and yet, forced to bear the punishment of the worst sinners. But this was also something that the Lord willingly accepted upon Himself, as He took up the cup of suffering, sharing with us and bearing for us the burdens that should have been ours.

And Christ turned that symbol of utter humiliation and sorrow, of tragedy and pain, into a symbol of hope and victory so great, that no one else ever looked at the cross in any other way from then on. For all Christians, and all those who believed in the Lord and His salvation, while the crucifix remind us of the sacrifice of Christ and His ultimate love for us from the cross, as He hung from it at Calvary before His death, but that same Cross has become the proof of God’s ultimate triumph and victory, the greatest victory that He has won for us, against the tyranny of sin and death.

That is why all of us have to appreciate everything that the Lord had done for our sake. He has showed us all what true love is all about, a love that is truly great and wonderful, and He has led us to triumph against the once unsurmountable forces of evil, sin and death. As we look upon the Cross of Christ, do we see the Lord and His loving face gazing down upon us, and are we reminded at just how fortunate we have been that God is willing to do all of that, just so that we may be freed from the fate of eternal damnation?

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today therefore, as we celebrate this Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, let us all keep in mind the love of God that is always ever present in our midst, in Christ our Lord, through His life-giving sacrifice, by which He has shown us the path to eternal life, by His Cross. In the glorious Cross of Christ, we have seen the Lord’s providence and love for us, and we have received the assurance of eternal life. Let us all give Him thanks and strive to love Him more and more, and regain the strength and hope through the Cross of Our Lord and Saviour.

We have once been brought low by the power of sin, but God has broken its hold and dominion over us, giving us the hope to true joy and life eternal in Him. However, we must still ever be vigilant, as temptations are still plentiful in trying to mislead us and bring us back down into the path of sin. Unless we are careful, we may end up falling into sin again, and getting further and further away from the salvation in God. This is where we should entrust ourselves to the Holy Cross of Christ, and commit our lives to Him from now on.

May the Lord, our Triumphant Saviour through His Holy Cross deliver us from the stranglehold of sin and death, and may He continue to show us the path to eternal life and true freedom through His Cross. May all of us look upon Him Who was crucified for us, and remind ourselves always of just how beloved and fortunate each and every one of us have been, to be so loved by God and to be deemed as precious in His eyes. May God bless us all, the people of His Cross, and may He lead us all into eternal joy and glory with Him. Amen.

Tuesday, 14 September 2021 : 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.”

Tuesday, 14 September 2021 : 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 He slew them, they repented and sought Him earnestly. They remembered that God 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.

Tuesday, 14 September 2021 : 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.

Thursday, 14 September 2017 : Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this great occasion today, all of us celebrate the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, a feast that originated with the discovery of the True Cross in Jerusalem by St. Helena. The cross is a symbol that is both essential and inseparable from our Christian identity, for the Cross and more importantly, Jesus Who was crucified on the Cross, is the centre of our faith.

For we believe wholeheartedly that the Cross is the means by which our Lord Jesus had brought forth for us our salvation from sin and death. It was once the symbol of the ultimate humiliation, a practice done by the Romans, who crucified those who were considered the great enemies and threats to the Roman state. It was reserved to the worst of the criminals and it was meant as a symbol of ultimate infamy and defeat. And yet, because of our Lord Jesus Christ and His death on the cross, that Cross, the Holy Cross of Christ has become the symbol of ultimate glory and triumph.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we are called to look upon the Holy Cross, just as in the days of the ages past, in our first reading, we witnessed how the people of Israel were afflicted with the plague of the fiery serpents because of their disobedience and insolence actions against God. Their refusal to obey God and their wickedness caused the anger of God to be stirred against them, and the fiery serpents struck them and many died.

The fiery serpents were reminders for the people that because of their sins, they have been made mortals and they have been struck and would be struck by death, which is the ultimate consequence for their sins. They would suffer because of their sins, and if anyone then contemplated on their situation, it might seem that their fate was sealed, and everything was hopeless and meaningless. Yet, that was not what the Lord intended for those whom He held dear in His heart.

He told Moses to fashion a great bronze serpent, that when the bronze serpent was lifted up high above, the people throughout the camp of the Israelites could see the bronze serpent, and those who have been bitten and yet saw the bronze serpent, was spared from death. This is the grace and the proof of God’s love for His people, even though they had been disobedient and having refused to listen to Him, or appreciate His love and kindness.

Jesus Himself compared this to His sacrifice on the cross, prophesying about it to Nicodemus, that just as Moses lifted up the bronze serpent high, the Son of Man, Jesus Himself, would be raised up as well, on the Cross, as what indeed happened on that day at Calvary, the hills where Jesus was crucified and condemned to die a criminal’s worst death. He died among thieves and sinners, and was accused falsely of wrongdoings that were not of His doing.

But Jesus accepted His death willingly, and willingly He suffered for our sake, as we believe that Jesus took upon Himself, the entirety of the burden of our sins, all of our wickedness, our shortcomings and disabilities, all of our disobediences and lack of faith. He has willingly took up all these upon Himself, because of His great and everlasting love for each and every one of us. We might have denied Him and not been faithful to Him, but He could not possibly deny His love for us, just because of how great is His love.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross that we celebrate today precisely celebrate the loving sacrifice of our Lord, by which He has saved us from our fate of death. And through that He has also utterly changed what was once the symbol of ultimate humiliation, shame and defeat, into the instrument of salvation, and the symbol of ultimate triumph, glory and hope.

That is why the cross of Christ is the centre of our faith, because we believe in the Crucified Christ, and that is why the Crucifix is such an important element of our faith. There are those detractors who sneered at us and complained that we have not done it right with the Crucifix, because Christ had risen from the dead, and that it is inappropriate to show the Lord crucified on the Cross. And yet, that is the reality that all of us must know, that the Cross without Christ is nothing.

The cross without Christ is just a mere cross, without meaning and without significance. An empty wooden cross may be an evidence that Christ is no longer dead, but has risen in glory. Yet, the presence of the Body of the Lord on the Cross, is a stark and constant reminder to us that Christ has been crucified for us, and that He has willingly taken up the flesh of our kind, that He might suffer in our place, and to die in our place, so that we may live.

There can be no Resurrection without the Suffering, Passion and Death of our Lord at Calvary. Thus, the Holy Cross and Christ Who hung on it is inseparably and intimately linked to the whole mystery of the Resurrection, and thus to the central tenet of our faith. And we follow the way of this same Lord and God, Who had been born into our world, and sharing our pains and sorrows, dying for our sake on the Cross, and Who has risen in glory, to show us the way that each and every one of us as Christians ought to follow.

The Lord Jesus told His disciples and the people, that if they want to follow Him, then they must be ready to pick up their crosses and follow Him. And by this, He was not referring to the physical crosses made of wood, or the crosses and crucifixes that we often wear on ourselves. Rather, what He meant was that, all of us must be ready to suffer as He had suffered, if we want to remain faithful to Him. There will surely be challenges and obstacles that we are going to face in our journey.

The question is, are we able to bear those crosses faithfully? Are we able to stay strong despite the pressure for us to give up the fight and the temptations calling us to turn away from God’s path, just because it is too difficult and challenging for us? How many of us face the temptations and choices in life, where we must choose between obeying God or satisfying our own needs and seeking our own comfort?

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all not be ashamed to carry the cross of Christ, but carry the cross with zeal and commitment, knowing that in the Holy Cross of Christ lies our salvation, and indeed our only hope to be freed and liberated from the tyranny of sin and death. Let us all remember that no matter how hard the challenges and difficulties in life we face, that Christ had suffered for each and every one of us, and bear upon Himself the consequences for all the multitudes of our sins, as painful and unimaginably horrible they may be, so that we may live.

Let us all therefore renew our commitment to the Lord, He Who has been crucified for us, Who gave up His life and suffered for our sake, that we may have life in us. May the Lord Jesus Christ be with us all, and as we walk in His way, bearing proudly the crosses of our faith, may we remain resolute and strong in our commitment to Him. Amen.

Thursday, 14 September 2017 : 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.”