Wednesday September 14, 2005 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Triumph of the Holy Cross
Reading I (Numbers 21:4b-9) Reading II (Philippians 2:6-11)
Gospel (St. John 3:13-17)
In the first reading today from the Book of Numbers, we hear right at the very beginning that with their patience worn out by the journey, the people complained against God and Moses. This is a very important line because as we continue to journey through this world that is so infested with sin, so broken, it can get very, very frustrating for us. What can happen is that in the midst of it, if we are trying to do what is right and we are getting rejected and pushed around, we start to complain against God.
If we look at what has gone on over the last number of years, there are lots of good people who wanted to be faithful to Our Lord who have fallen away because the lure of the world and of what everyone else was doing was just a little too much for them. They were not able to withstand the social pressure, the peer pressure that was on them to be just like everyone else. Well, as things continue to get worse in the world, this is going to be a problem for all of us. We would all like to be able to think how firm our faith is, but we also know from our own experience that it might not be quite as solid as we would like to think that it is.
So today the Church places before us this glorious feast of the Triumph of the Cross to remind us of where our faith is centered. It is centered in the person of Jesus Christ crucified. If we take our eyes off of Our Lord and particularly off of Our Lord crucified for us on the Cross we are going to fall. It may be that we do not like to look at the Cross. We prefer to look at the Resurrection; we prefer to look at the glorification of Our Lord in heaven because it is more pleasant. This world is called the vale of tears, not the place of glory. As long as we are in this world, we are going to have to suffer. While it is a good thing to look forward to the glory which will be ours to share if we remain faithful to Our Lord, in this world we must always keep our eyes on the Cross.
Now we all know that we should be offering things up, but that is not easy. It is an easy thing to say; it is not so easy to remember in the midst of the difficult times. So when Saint Paul tells us that Jesus became obedient even unto death, death on a cross, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in the heavens, on the earth, and under the earth, and every tongue proclaim to the glory of God the Father that Jesus Christ is Lord, He is Lord only because of the Cross. The fact that He came into this world and taught the truth was not enough; that was not the fulfillment of Gods Will for Him. He proved His love and demonstrated that He is the Messiah by going to the Cross for us. Anything apart from the Cross is not the Christ. He is the Christ, the Messiah, the Anointed One only because of the Cross. If we are going to profess that Jesus Christ is Lord it can only be because of the Cross and it cannot be separated from the Cross. We cannot just look at His teaching and we cannot just look at the Resurrection (that could not have happened without the Cross in the first place!); we have to keep focused and the focus must be the Cross. Our Lord told us precisely in the Gospel: As Moses raised up the serpent in the desert, so must the Son of Man be raised up, so that anyone believing in Him might not perish but might have eternal life. To believe in Him is to believe in His crucifixion. And He said when He is raised up from the earth He will draw all men to Himself. If we do not look at Him raised up from the earth on the Cross, we have no part of Him.
Right now, as things continue to get worse in the world, as things become more chaotic in our own lives, not only do we have to learn to keep our focus on the Cross, but we have to learn to unite our sufferings and our struggles with that of Jesus. This is the time to learn because when things get really bad, if we have not learned the lesson now, we will not be able to do it then. That is why God is giving us this time. So we need to look at Jesus. We need to look at the Cross and not just from far away we need to be united with Jesus on the Cross. That is the only way. We need to make sure that this lesson is deeply rooted within our hearts, that we are offering up our struggles and our sufferings, that we are uniting ourselves with Christ. Then when things get really bad that will be our first movement: to go right to the Cross. Then it does not matter how bad things get; our faith will be unshakeable because it is firmly rooted in Christ, in Jesus Christ crucified.
That is what we have to be about. It is exactly what Saint Paul told us to do, that we would boast in nothing else but Jesus Christ and Him crucified; not Jesus Christ and Him risen, not Jesus Christ and Him glorified Jesus Christ and Him crucified; and that we would boast in nothing but the Cross of Christ, through which he said, I have been crucified to the world and the world to me. We do not want to be part of what is going on in the world right now; therefore, we have to be crucified to the world and the world to us. There is only one possible way that can happen, and that is to be united with Jesus in the triumph of His Cross.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.