Homily: The Cross of Christ – Why Does Death Matter

   A638HolyCross_1_cf03_4cToday the church interrupts the usual flowing of the numbered Sundays after Pentecost to celebrate the Feast of the Exultation of the Cross. It gives us a chance to bring together several realities. First and foremost is the importance of the cross of Christ in understanding the meaning of both life and salvation. Secondly, we must not but notice that this feast of the importance of the Cross will forever fall just three days after September 11th, with all that it means in context of the fragility of life and of the horrors of evil in our world. And finally, this feast helps us to face the importance of accepting death – our own and that of those we love – as an integral part of life itself, and to find in death the ultimate completion of living for God in order to be with God forever.

   Death can bring the reality of fear into our lives, making us afraid to live life because we are afraid anything we do will threaten life and cause our death – or some little death, like loss of love or respect by a partner or friend, or loss of our savings, or loss of our health. And so we half-live life, or do not live it at all — stifling all the wonderful potential for love, excitement or of doing good that God introduces us to.

   But we cannot forget the place of real sacrifice, of altruism, in our life. In a previous parish I was stationed at, the cross above the altar in our rather small worship space hung literally above the altar. It was large, beautiful and free-standing, a reminder to all of the place of the Sacrifice of Christ in our worship. At one point, we decided it might be good to put a large projector screen in the sanctuary, to better illustrate the homilies, to help in the singing of the hymns and so on.

     So we brought in an audio-visual team to help us install it. But it seemed that everywhere we tried to place the screen, the cross hung in the way. Finally the sales rep said, “I guess we just have to face it, anywhere we put the screen, the Cross will be there before it, covering it and overshadowing it.”

   And this is the reality. Once one accepts faith in Jesus and the Jesus story, the cross becomes the overshadowing reality. Jesus died for us, and by doing so, brought salvation into our lives. We can trust in the Father’s love for us, because of the cross of Jesus.

   The cross also reminds us that, no matter what the disaster or calamity in our lives, life goes on, changed but not ended. The cross is not the end. New life is both the promise and the reality , even in death, in sadness and loss.

   A very powerful meaning of the cross for us has to do with our own death. The cross above our altar, the one that hangs around our neck, the cross of the end of our rosary – they all are reminders of the inevitable fact that we all must die.

   Even psychologists tell us that the strongest force working within us and guiding our life – for good or for bad – is the fact that we are going to die. It unconsciously drives us to reckless behavior or to fear of acting at all in risky situations. Fear of death can lead us to cruelty to others to protect our own life or to unwillingness to reach out to help others — all because the shadow of death over us immobilizes us or brings out the worst in us.

   There are only two options in life – to either stay continually in absolute dread of death and as a consequence, make unfortunate decisions, either hurtful in protectiveness to others or immobilizing to oneself, or to accept death by trusting absolutely in the loving power of God to get us through death. And then, and only then, can we relax, and live life fully, knowing that death is not the end, but only the beginning for those who love God.

No comments yet

Comments are closed