Homily recording (Sat night): Click Here
This feast of the exultation of the cross in many ways is the foundation of our parish. This Catholic community would not exist, unless it were for devotion to the holy cross, inspiring a congregation of religious priests and brothers that started in France, moved over to the United States and started a University in this area, establishing a strong Catholic presence. This parish was run by priests of the Holy Cross order for about 40 years and for much longer before that on the farm.
I am just starting a book called quiet which speaks to the subtle and often unnoticed power of being introverted in a society where extraversion and flaring personality are so often praised. One example of such quiet strength is Rosa Parks, an absolute introvert that became a critical witness of the African-American civil rights movement. Human wisdom wouldn't expect such a humble, simple person to be the watershed of such a huge event in American history. But that just shows how God works.
I just finished once again the first episode of Father Robert Barron's Catholicism series, an excellent set of DVDs containing 10 one-hour sessions on the Catholic faith. Standing in the coliseum where Christians were once persecuted at the behest of the emperor, Father Barron talked about the power of God through Christ's cross and resurrection, and told a little anecdote about World War II. Pope Pius the 12th, after making some scathing criticism's of Joseph Stalin and Russia, apparently retorted back, "... And how many divisions does Pius the 12th have?" But the power of the Spirit is greater then the power of the sword, as we see in the fact that the successor of Joseph Stalin was overturned and overthrown by the successor of Pius the 12th: John Paul the second, who stopped the flow and broke the foundation of communism without a single bullet.
He spoke of the cross as a very interesting new type of battle that God uses to stop the terrible cycle of violence that we so often experience in our world. The early Christians would use the cross as a symbol of victory, even though the cross was so clearly a symbol of defeat and destruction and fear. This was a way that they would simply show them what for, to get in their face so to speak. It is a subversive act because the Romans would use the cross precisely to instill fear, saying "if you mess up, you will end up like this." The Christians held up the cross and said "we aren't afraid of that. You can't hurt us, God has already conquered death!"
I think the same thing applies to what has happened in recent weeks, and what happened 13 years ago this past Thursday, in regard to terrorism. What is going to conquer such a nebulous monster as the corruption and perversion of the human spirit? Nothing other than the power of God in the witness of his Son's victory over evil by the cross! Certainly indeed we respond prudently to stop the spread of this evil, with the guidance of our church's leaders, face-to-face. But at the same time, we must not give in to the mind of this world: that the force of power and domination alone is enough, when we know that God's power is not shown in such a way.
Another important part of today's salinity is the transformation of human suffering. So many people in our world despair about suffering. Euthanasia, suicide, and other illnesses are clear signs that people cannot make meaning out of suffering. They get caught in it, and fall to despair.
But today we recall that Jesus suffered. She knows intense pain, intense isolation, intense betrayal, absolute rejection and animosity. He took all of that upon himself, bearing our curses, and now has turned them into something that can save us. If only we do not run away from suffering. We cannot avoid it, we were made for it to some degree. Our longing heart finds suffering in our world no matter what path we take, no matter how good we have it. Suffering comes to every single one of us, so what are we going to do with it? If we want it to eat us alive, it can. If we wanted to draw us closer to God, to make us live happier lives, to transform our vision of the world, and to teach us to love, it can. Today from this cross we receive that sacrament of love poured out for us. Even in an imperfect world where our hearts will always suffer, let us allow the holy cross to be the source and center of our lives and of our joys.
Capital punishment in some ways is a sign of weakness within a society, since it is a testament that they cannot truly win over a person's mind & soul.