Your Excellency, Mons. Apostolic Nuncio to Bosnia and Herzegovina,
Your Excellency, Bishop from Paraguay,
Dear priests and religious,
Dear parishioners and pilgrims, dear brothers and sisters,
One day after the Feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, we gathered for the 23rd Sunday in the Year, so as to celebrate the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, just a few days before its feast.
How come that the Cross - the instrument of the cruellest and most shameful death, became the symbol of the Christianity? This cross is exalted on the towers of the churches and shrines, it has been erected at the tops of so many hills, it is hanging at the walls of our homes and working places and we put it around our necks proudly.
At the time of the apostles, the cross did not have good reputation: it was foolishness to Greeks who looked for wisdom, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, as St. Paul said. (1 Cor 1, 22-23) We notice that today there is a battle held against the Cross that disturbs many, even though it became the noble symbol of various civil traditions such as the Red Cross, the cross of honour for different merits and accomplishments as well as others.
The Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross gives as the new opportunity to recall the greatness and the value of the Cross. We discover that Jesus’ Cross, as the symbol of the infinite love, possesses the attractive strength within it.
Let us see why.
In the first reading (Phil 2, 6-11) St. Paul shows us how Christ humbled and emptied himself, came down from high above to the deepest end:
Who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped, rather he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness, and found human in appearance, he humbled himself…
God, who became men, lowered himself. The infinite becomes ultimate and confined. Then he becomes obedient to death, even death on a cross.
This is the death of a criminal despised and rejected by everyone!
In the Apostles Creed we profess that he descended into the hell, to the very end of suffering, to the end of the death!
Man-God had tasted the destiny intended to him by people he came to save!
Because of this, God greatly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.
This is how St. Paul explains Christ’s exaltation, this incomparable act of the Merciful Father.
St. Cyprian helps us understand that foolishness of God. He says, that His Son wanted to become Son of Man, so we would become sons of God. He wanted to humble himself so as to raise his fallen people. He suffered for the wounds he got, so our wounds would be healed. He became the servant, so we, servants and slaves, could become free. He suffered death so through his death, we mortal people would become immortal.
Now we well understand why we venerate here every Friday Holy Cross of Jesus. Veneration of the Holy Cross should be, above all, the act of thanksgiving and consolation. Why do we pray the Way of the Cross along Cross Mountain on whose top we have glorified Cross dominating over the area, erected in the Holy Year of Redemption in 1933?
In the midst of his indescribable and immense suffering, Jesus did not think of himself, but he always thinks of us, sinners. Raised on the Cross, he pronounces the words that save the world. Those first are most moving surely when he says:
“Forgive them Father, for they do not know what they are doing!” (Lk 23, 34)
The response to vastness of sin of killing God and utter blindness of those who did it is the forgiveness of God who is rejected and crushed.
Charles Journet wrote that through God’s forgiveness „in the hearts, where sin mowed down roses of first love, their purity and freshness, now there are equally as beautiful, sometimes even prettier darker roses of other love, their repentance, their tears and their fervour.“ What a hope for us sinners!
Other piercing words come also from the Cross: „Behold, your Mother.“ (Jn 19, 27). Even when dying, Jesus does not leave us orphans, but He leaves us His Mother. What a love and generosity!
The Cross became the symbol of the victory, the victory confirmed to us in the Resurrection. Ever since then, the liturgy has been pointing often to the Risen Christ with the Cross, glorified Cross in the background.
Here in Medjugorje, the Risen Christ that faithful venerate so much contains the mystery of the Cross being is the source of our salvation and the promise of the life worthy of God. Amen.