Tìm Kiếm

15 tháng 9, 2014

Homily for the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross (Sep 14, 2014)

THE triumph of the Cross
(24th Sunday in Ordinary time) 

Fr. Joseph Nguyen, O.P.

For generations, the cross had been identified with shame, defeat and death. Among capital penalties, hanging on a cross had been the most horrible punishment, reserved only for notorious criminals. And the Jews condemned Christ to crucifixion, because they considered him such a criminal!

But precisely when dying on the cross, Christ has changed the meaning and fate of the cross : from a sign of shame to a symbol of glory; from a hideous death penalty to a sign of hope and a reward of life; from a curse of destruction to a blessing of salvation. Today people no longer despise the cross, but they glorify, honor, venerate the cross. They kiss the cross, they embrace the cross. Nations no longer condemn the cross, but they worship the cross and pray to the cross. St. Andrew, seeing the cross reserved for his crucifixion, cried out with joy : ”Oh the cross, the tree of life, I have been longing for you all my life!”

Millions of martyrs the world over were willing to die for the sake of the cross. They were willing to exchange everything for the cross of Christ : money, social position, beauty, riches and even their life. And billions of Christians today are proud of the cross. They are proud of being called the disciples of the cross. They make the sign of the cross when they wake up in the morning and before going to bed in the evening; they make the sign of the cross before going to work and after a long working day; they make the sign of the cross before and after every meal; they make the sign of the cross in good luck and in bad luck, in happiness and in danger, in success and in failure. We have seen soccer players make the sign of the cross after they score a goal.

And specially at the moment of death, if Christians are to choose between the cross and everything else that people ordinarily desire, they will surely choose the cross of Christ. They feel more secure to die with the cross on their chest rather with money, gold and diamond around them. 
Nowadays, looking around we see the cross everywhere: in the streets, markets, public parks, schools, monuments. We find the cross on top of bell towers, on roof of churches, on gates of private homes, on ships, boats, airplanes, private cars, trucks, trains, buses, taxis. The cross is embroidered on vestments, on fashion dresses, on caps and hats. Young people wear earrings, necklaces, rings with the image of the cross carved on them. St. Paul said : “To the Jews the cross is an obstacle, to the pagans madness, to the Romans contempt, but to Christians the cross of Christ is their pride and their glory”  (I Cor. 1:23-24).  
A woman had a serious heart defect. The doctor told her that the only way to save her life was a heart surgery. At the time, when anesthesia had not been invented, live operations would be extremely painful. The woman agreed to the operation, on the condition that her only son be allowed to enter the operating room to witness the operation. As the knife of the doctor touched her heart, she screamed out of pain. Seeing that, the son angered and began blaming God for the pain his mother was undergoing. Suddenly, the woman, with her eyes wide-open, looked straight at her son and said : “You stupid, my son. Why do you blame God for the suffering I am going through.” Then, opening her right hand with a small cross on it, she said, “Don’t you know that thanks to this cross that I am able to bear all this pain?”
Indeed, the death of Christ on the cross has changed the people’s view on the cross. They no longer look down on the cross as a figure of shame and infamy. Instead, they look up to the cross as a sign of hope and a symbol of salvation, because from now on no one will ever be saved without the cross of Jesus. And today, the Church honors the cross precisely because it frees us from eternal death and brings us salvation.

Happy Birthday to Fr. Joseph Nguyen, O.P.