We live in a world which, despite phenomenal advances in knowledge and technology, has forgotten its origin and destiny in the love of God. Because we are called to interact every day with society and to provide daily care for the world, we are in danger of forgetting the source of all being in God and the destiny for which He has called us into being: communion with Him now in an imperfect way, and perfect communion with Him—Father, Son and Holy Spirit—one day in Heaven. In fact, we witness in the Church a mundane way of thinking and speaking in which Christ and His Cross have no place. Too often, the Church herself gives way to confusion and error, imitating the world, instead of calling the world to conversion. Too often, even the shepherds of the Church give the impression of having nothing to offer to the world for its eternal salvation, when, with Saint Paul, they should “know nothing among [the flock] except Jesus Christ and him crucified” (1 Cor. 2, 2).
Soldiers of Christ, we are called to combat the confusion and error which more and more enslave the Church and society, in general, by following ever more intently and wholeheartedly the Way of the Cross. The Cross is the sole reason for the Incarnation, for the Coming of God the Son in our human nature. Our Lord Jesus Christ was incarnate in the womb of the ever-Virgin Mary for one only reason, so that He might suffer and die for us on the Cross and so win for us the gift of everlasting life by His Resurrection. In His instruction to Nicodemus, during His public ministry, our Lord Jesus made it clear that He must die on the Cross in order that we might have eternal life. He told Nicodemus: “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life… For God sent the Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him” (Jn 3, 14-21).
The bronze serpent in the desert, through God’s favor, saved the people from the poisonous bite of the saraph serpents, and became a foreshadowing of the eternal salvation to be accomplished by the Incarnation of God the Father’s only-begotten Son, Who was raised up on the Cross at Calvary in order to save us from sin and everlasting death. Dying on the Cross, Christ fulfilled the promise he made in the Gospel: “Now is the judgment of this world, now shall the ruler of this world be cast out; and I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself” (Jn 12, 31-32).
The crucifix, then, our most common and sublime object of religious devotion, is not a source of horror or shame for us. On the contrary, it is the sign of our salvation through the immeasurable love of God for us. As Saint Paul wrote regarding the Cross of Our Lord Jesus Christ, “being found in human form he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross” (Phil. 2, 8-10), the cruelest form of execution practiced in His day. He died on the Cross, in order that He might be Lord for us always in the Church born from His wounded side, from the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the day of His Resurrection and on Pentecost Sunday. So it was that God inspired Saint Francis of Assisi to pray, upon entering a church: “We adore you, Lord Jesus Christ, here and in all your churches in the whole world, and we bless you, because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.” The crucifix is the great sign of our hope that we who die with Christ in baptism will also rise to everlasting life with Him. Seeing the cross, we rightly pray, in the words of the ancient Christian hymn, Vexilla Regis, “Ave Crux Spes Unica – Hail the Cross, Our Only Hope.”
In the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, we discover anew the mystery of salvation at work in our lives. Before the image of the crucified Savior, the Holy Spirit dwelling within us inspires and strengthens us to live our faith in a world which is often hostile to God and to His plan for our salvation. Faithfully carrying the Cross with Our Lord, we know that indifference, opposition, persecution and even death because of our daily witness to Christ and to His life within us are the way by which Our Lord wins in our human nature the victory over sin and eternal death, the victory of eternal life. The Holy Spirit inspires and strengthens us to take up the cross together with our Lord Jesus Christ, offering our lives in self-sacrificing love of God and of one another. Through the Indwelling of the Holy Spirit in the Church and in us as members of the Church, our Lord Jesus Christ faithfully accompanies us during our earthly journey along the way of His Cross. He brings us finally to our eternal home in Heaven.
During this month of September, especially when the liturgical calendar of the Church celebrates the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, let us thank God for the gift of His very life which is ours in the Church. Let us rededicate ourselves to dwell always in the Heart of God through His only-begotten Son, our Savior. Let us embrace once again the Cross of the Savior in which alone we find our salvation.
Imploring Our Lord, through the intercession of Our Lady of Guadalupe, to bless you, your homes, your families, and all your labors, I remain yours in the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary, and in the Purest Heart of Saint Joseph,