The Exaltation of the Holy Cross: The Power of Love
Sunday Homily for September 14, 2008
Twenty-fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time (24A)
By Father Joseph Pellegrino
There is a popular expression that begins with: I’d do anything for............Usually, it is not meant too seriously, like a person might say, “I’d do anything for a meatball sub right now.” Well, I really don’t think the person would do anything even though good Italian food merits great sacrifice.
Sometimes the popular expression, “I’d do anything for you,” is used as part of a marriage proposal. The sentiments are lovely, but the reality contains an awful lot of “excepts”. You know, like, “I’d do anything for you except let you control the remote, or except let your sister move in with us, or except miss today’s Buc game so we can go curtain shopping.” Or a wife might say, “I’d do anything for you except let you keep that lousy old college shirt, and your high school junk.”
The expression, I’d do anything for you was far closer to reality when you held you babies. People will do anything for their children because they love them so much. That might mean working two jobs, sitting through a dance recital (“Oh, good, my seven year old is only number 83 on the program”), and saving all you can for their college. There are few limits to what you would do for your children. Even when you choose some “me time” it is basically to help you be a better Mom or Dad.
They way you all feel about your children when you say, “I’d do anything for them,” gives us a faint idea of how God feels about us.
He’d do anything for us.
And he did.
God so loved the world that he gave his only begottenSon so that all who believe in him might not perish but may have eternal life. John 3:16.
God gave his son to us as a Complete Gift. He was completely ours to treasure, to find the Father through, or, sadly, to ignore and even to put to death.And human beings did put Jesus to death in the most horrible way possible, execution through the torture that was crucifixion.
Today we celebrate this special feast, the Exaltation of the Holy Cross. The Son joined the Father’s love in doing anything for us. The feast is the exaltation of the cross because it is a demand that we recognize that this symbol of death and misery has become a of life and victory.
Jesus’ death on the cross restored our capacity to have eternal life. The power of the Cross. The power of the Cross is that on the Cross Life Destroyed Death, and Love destroyed hate.
This is totally counter cultural.Our culture asks us to accept the absurdity that physical might and financial strength are the signs of a powerful nation or a powerful person. But who were the most powerful people of the last century? Perhaps you might think Hitler, Stalin, FDR, or Churchill. I would disagree.Two of the most powerful people of the last century were both based in India: Mohatma Ghandi and Mother Theresa. Both were poor. Both were lovers of all that is right and just.Ghandi shamed the mighty British Empire into giving India independence. Mother Theresa shamed us all into recognizing our responsibility towards the poorest of the poor. The leaders of the world found that it was easier to deal with a powerful capitalist than it was to argue with Mother Theresa. We also should add Pope John Paul II to those who conquer through the cross. John Paul II’s life demonstrated the Power of the Cross.
We should never wear a cross as a piece of jewelry, even if we wear a gold cross. We should wear a cross as a sign that we are committed to Christ’s way, the way of sacrificial love. We should wear a cross as a sign that our ideal is to choose that which brings love into the world regardless of the personal cost.Love and love alone defeats hatred and, ultimately, death.
We should wear a cross as a personal reminder that even when the cost of one of our sacrifices seems terribly high and even when we can not see and may not see the good that has come from the sacrifice, we still have faith that the power of the Cross, the power of Sacrificial Love will prevail.
We should wear the cross as a sign of our commitment to a living faith and our hope that even if we die, as we probably will, we will still share the eternal life of God.
We should wear the cross as a statement to ourselves and to others. The statement is simple: this is how God loved the world.