Sunday, September 14, 2014

Homily for Today's Mass

Today commemorates the liturgical Feast of the "Triumph of the Cross." My brothers and sisters in Christ, permit me to give you a brief summary of this special Feast that originated in the 4 th century. In those days, on September 14 th, two Churches in Jerusalem were dedicated to the cross, that special event being remembered annually since that time. It was not until the 7 th century that Rome adopted this Feast, commemorating it as the "Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross." More recently, the title of the Feast has been changed to the "Triumph of the Cross." Its purpose was to honour the work of Jesus Christ. And that is the reason as to why, on this date, we are united here in the Church of God.

Today's First Reading began with the words, "Though Christ Jesus was in the form of God, He did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited." [Phil. 2:6] In other words, while Jesus possessed Divine equality and the right to appear like the Heavenly Father in the fullness of His glory, he refrained from adopting such honour. Jesus did not treat His divinity as something to be exploited during His incarnation.

Instead, Jesus "emptied Himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness." [Phil. 2:7] In accordance with the Divine Plan, as part of the humiliation that came with the incarnation, taking the status of a slave, Jesus set aside His Divine glory. He did not "empty" Himself of His divinity but of the status of glory to which He had a right until such time as His Divine glory would be restored at His exaltation. [Jn. 17:5; Mt. 17:1-8] It is said that Jesus did not "empty" Himself of His divinity because during His incarnation, "Jesus Christ possessed two natures, one Divine and the other human, not confused, but united in the one person of God's Son. (C.C.C. # 481)

As the Second Letter of Paul to the Corinthians relates to us, "For (we) know the generous act of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for (our) sakes He became poor, so that by His poverty (we) might become rich." [2 Cor. 8:9] "Although He was a Son, He learned obedience through what He suffered." [Heb. 5:8] Jesus made Himself a "slave" so eventually He would become the "Lord."

When it is said that Jesus assumed a human form, [Rom. 8:3] being "born of a woman," [Gal. 4:4] His outward appearance "in the days of His flesh" [Heb. 5:7] was that of a man. "And being found in human form, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death - even death on a cross." [Phil. 2:8]

When Jesus died on the cross, His obedience was not an ordinary one. It was an heroic obedience, one expected of a "servant." [Col. 3:22; Heb. 5:8] For He knew that the lowest humiliation that He could endure was that of death on the cross, such a severe punishment being reserved for the worst of criminals.

In view of the sufferings that Jesus endured for us, "Therefore God highly exalted Him and gave Him the Name that is above every name." [Phil. 2:9] The Heavenly Father super-exalted Jesus, elevating Him to the highest honours, from the cross to exaltation. He gave Him the Most Holy of all names, a Name that passes all celestial beings, [Heb. 1:4; 1 Pet. 3:22] "far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the age to come." [Eph. 1:21].

Why did the Heavenly Father give Jesus such great honours? It was "so that at the Name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth." [Phil. 2:10] To bend our knees in the Divine Presence of Jesus is an act of religious devotion, a display of total gratitude and respect to our Saviour.

And at that moment, when we will all bend our knee before the Lord Jesus, "every tongue (shall) confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." [Phil. 2:11] By glorifying Jesus for His perfect sacrifice as the Lamb of God, such honour redounds towards the Heavenly Father who sent His only begotten Son.

Every tongue shall confess that "Jesus Christ is Lord." These words are the basic confession of every Christian. They have been echoed by Christians since the foundation of the Holy Catholic Church by Jesus Christ. [1 Cor. 12:3; Rom. 10:9; Col. 2:6] "For to this end Christ died and lived again, so that He might be Lord of both the dead and the living." [Rom. 14:9]

During today's Gospel Reading, we heard Jesus say to Nicodemus, "No one has ascended into heaven except the one who descended from heaven, the Son of Man." [Jn. 3:13] Some may claim to know of heavenly things and speak accordingly. But, no one can speak of heavenly things with "authority" unless He has come down from Heaven and ascended into Heaven as the Son of Man has done.

We also heard of Moses lifting up the serpent in the wilderness, this being a symbolic prophecy of the Son of Man Who was to be lifted up. The reason Moses lifted up the serpent is because when God's people set out by the way to the Red Sea to go around the land of Edom; they became impatient on the way. They spoke against God and against Moses, 'Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and we detest this miserable food.' Then the Lord sent poisonous serpents among the people, and they bit the people, so that many Israelites died. The people came to Moses and said, 'We have sinned by speaking against the Lord and against you; pray to the Lord to take away the serpents form us.' So Moses prayed for the people. And the Lord said to Moses, 'Make a poisonous serpent, and set it on a pole; and everyone who is bitten shall look at it and live.' So Moses made a serpent of bronze, and put it upon a pole; and whenever a serpent bit someone, that person would look at the serpent of bronze and live. [Numb. 21:4-9]

According to the Wisdom of Solomon, the bronze serpent was a symbol of salvation. [Wis. 16:5-6] In that book, we read, "And they were being destroyed by the bites of writhing serpents, your wrath did not continue to the end; they were troubled for a little while as a warning, and received a symbol of deliverance, to remind them of your law's command."

In both cases, the lifting of the bronze serpent in the wilderness and the lifting of the Son of Man on the cross, salvation came through a "raising up." Through the raising of the Son of Man, the Spirit of salvation was given to man so that he may qualify to enter into the Heavenly Kingdom, this exalting our Lord Jesus Christ above all creations. For those who believe, [Jn. 1:12] through the exaltation of the Lord Jesus, life is in him. [Jn. 1:4]

Many reasons may be given to explain why we qualify to receive the gift of eternal life through the redemptive plan that was achieved in Christ. But there is only one reason. It is the incredible love of God for the world. God sent the Son into the world in order that it might be saved through Him. [Jn. 3:17]

As we continue with the celebration of the Holy Mass, let us remember that the Son of Man had to be lifted up so that we may obtain our salvation through Christ, Our Lord Jesus. Let us praise His Most Holy Name and always be grateful for the undeserved gift of life that we have received. Praise be the Lord Jesus!

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