Sunday, September 14, 2014

Exaltation of the Cross - John 3:13-17 - "Cross of Hope"

In the name of the Father, of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.

We begin all things with the sign of the cross: the enduring symbol of Christ crucified.  The reminder of God’s love for the world, 
“. . . that He gave is only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him might not perish, but have eternal life.”
This is the symbol of our Christian heritage - the Cross upon which hung Our Savior, Jesus Christ.  In the mystery of God’s love for us He uses the Cross as an everlasting reminder of His love - found in the holy sacrifice of His Son, Jesus - for the forgiveness of our sins and the salvation of the world.  

We make the Sign of the Cross as a reminder of Christ’s sacrifice - an innocent, suffering and dying to forgive the sins of the guilty.

Recently, I read an essay written by a fairly well-known and respected Catholic writer who was expressing great personal doubts about the strength of his faith. In the face of worldly crisis, - persecutions of Christians for their faith, accelerating secularism in our American culture and the rapid marginalization of the teachings of our Church and the questioning of the relevance our belief in the Risen Lord has in our society – he was despaired and disheartened.

It was not his faith or belief in God that he questioned, but an emptiness he felt in his life.  His prayer life – his worship – his faith practices were, as he described – empty.  He no longer felt the enthusiasm – that fire within – that propelled his usual faith practices.  He attended daily mass, sang the hymns and continued to teach religious instruction in the parish program, but feels he was just going through the motions. 

He feared that he was losing direction and despaired of falling away from the Church – a Church he loved – a Church that held great meaning in his life – a Church, central in the lives of his family, for it was at the very heart of his family life – not just for him, but for his wife and their children.  He feared he was losing hope.

  • The Cross, this Roman device of shame and degradation, this cruel and painful suffering, this horrid death – God uses to bring joy into our lives; endowing us with faith in the promise of the resurrection.  
  • On this Cross, Jesus’ suffering sacrifice for the salvation of God’s beloved children secures for us something greater than we have ever imagined, - nor can we possibly imagine in our present lives.
  • In this Cross, where our Christ hung in expiation of our sins, we are freely given God’s grace – Divine Hope.

This is not a hope found in optimism - where we pray for good weather for a parish festival or that if we get to the bakery early enough we hope they will still have those bagels we and everyone else likes best or even hope that our favorite team will make it to the play-offs.  

  • In the Cross we have a Hope that gives us a courage, a joy and an anticipation of something greater than we presently know.  
  • This is the Hope of Christians, disciples of Jesus – the Son of God who came into the world as one of us.  
  • It is the Hope of knowing that Christ lived among us experiencing all we experience – joys and sufferings – all human experience, but sin. 
  • It is the Hope we have in Jesus taking our human sinfulness upon his shoulders as he was raised up on the Cross – dying – once, for all - in sacrifice to the Father in His great love of us. 

“What eye has not seen, and ear has not heard,and what has not entered the human heart,what God has prepared for those who love him,” 1 Cor. 2:9

This is God’s gift of the Cross – His grace of Hope.  Our Hope in God’s promise of something beyond the joys and sufferings of this life.  The Hope of what is to be.  The Cross is the Hope of Christians, the Hope of the Resurrection.  The Hope of coming into God’s promise of His heavenly Kingdom and abundant life - forever and ever. ~ Amen

Deacon Don

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