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.