Homily: Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross


+  Pax et Bonum!  Peace and goodness to you this day!

Have you ever wondered why they chose the cross as the symbol for Christianity?  It was an odd choice from the very beginning.  To the Romans, the cross was an instrument of death and torture.  The cross brought back lots of bad memories of the very worst that the Romans had been.  Islam had the crescent moon and the star, and Judaism had the Star of David, perhaps Christianity could have chosen another celestial image to raise people’s minds to Heaven, like a comet or perhaps an image of the Star of Bethlehem.  From the beginning, Christianity was associated with the Holy Spirit, perhaps an image of a dove or another bird would have made a good choice.  Then again, maybe they didn’t want the symbol for our Faith to get confused with the AFLAC duck.  Then of course, there is the rainbow.  It was already the symbol for God’s covenant with mankind following the Great Flood in Genesis.  The Church could have used it again as the symbol for Christianity, but then the gay and lesbian community started using it, and then we would have had to find something else.  God must have known this.  It was never easy.  It has been controversial from the very beginning.  But Christianity uses as its symbol the instrument that we used to kill our God.  That, by the way, is NOT why we use it as our symbol.  We use it as our symbol because of what God chose to do with that cross.  God changed the cross from a sign of death, and defeat, and grief, to sign of hope, and promise, and expectation!  Today, we stand proudly with the cross as our symbol, because God is NOT done bringing resurrection to His people.  The power of the Cross continues even today!

And then of course, for us as Catholics, it can’t just be a cross, it’s gotta be a crucifix.  We keep the body of Jesus, the corpus as it is called, on the cross so that we never forget what Jesus did on the cross two-thousand years ago.  The cross is not a piece of art.  It is not just a symbol.  It’s not just a piece of jewelry that we wear around our necks.  The crucifix reminds us of this.  The crucifix keeps the cross from being too nice, too easy, and too common place.  Most of our crucifixes are inspiring.  Notice that I said “most”.  They are meant to inspire us and raise our minds to God.  In the Spanish tradition, crucifixes are much more graphic.  In Spain, the crucifixes are meant to make you feel the pain that Jesus went through on the cross.  And they look like it too!  There’s lots of blood, and torn flesh, and gore.  You definitely get the idea that you’re not looking at a beautiful piece of art.

So why is the Cross the symbol of our Faith?  Why is the Cross so important to Christianity, and most especially, to Catholic Christianity?  Why do we have this Feast Day today “Exalting” the Cross?  It is because the Cross is that essential to the story.  You can’t talk about Christ, your can’t talk about the Gospel, you can’t talk about Heaven, and NOT talk about the Cross.  It is an integral part of the story.  Jesus Himself that each one of us must pick up our crosses and follow Him!  Nobody gets out of it.  The Cross is Christianity.  And we can’t be real followers of Christ, if we don’t pick up our crosses and follow Him!  As Christians we keep the Cross of Christ in front of us always.  We don’t want to ever forget what Jesus has done for us on that first Cross.  And nor do we ever want to forget that the Cross waits for all of us at the end of this life, just as it did for Jesus.

Jesus is telling us the whole truth.  He’s not sugar-coating anything.  He’s not pulling any punches.  Jesus must really have believed in “truth in advertizing”  because He’s not holding anything back from us.  There are going to be crosses.  Being a Christian doesn’t get you out of crosses, instead, just the opposite, being a Christian promises you crosses.  But what’s the good news?  The good news is that by the Cross and by our crosses, God IS saving us.  Our salvation is being achieved by our picking up our crosses, big or little, no matter what they may be, and following Jesus Christ!  And that really is good news!

And so every September this Feast Day is a little reminder for us all.  God loves us very much.  He loves us enough to die on that Cross to save our souls.  Now, the question is, what are we going to be willing to do for Him?

May God bless us on this Feast Day,  Father, Son, and Holy Spirit…                      AMEN !!!

St. Maria Goretti…               Pray for us !!!