Exaltation of the Holy Cross
September 14, 2014 – Year A
Readings: Nm 21:4b-9; Psalm 78; Phil 2:6-11, Jn 3:13:-17
by Rev. Salvador Añonuevo, Pastor
About 28 years ago as a newly-ordained priest, a grandmother told me her granddaughter could recite all the basic prayers in three languages: in our own local language, in English and in Spanish. So I asked her, “Do you know the Our Father?” “No,” she answered.
So I said, “Your grandmother told me you know all the prayers.”
“What prayer do you know?”
“In the name of the Father.”
So I said, “Why don’t you pray ‘In the name of the Father?’” So she started, “In the name of the Father, Son…” and then, “Our Father, who art in Heaven” and then “Hail Mary, full of grace” and then the Creed. So she did know all those prayers by heart, but she called all of them: “In the name of the Father.”
Actually, every time we say, “In the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,” we are professing our faith. This is probably the shortest summary of the Creed. We believe in the Father, the Creator of Heaven and Earth. We believe in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord. We believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Catholic Church, and the Communion of Saints.
Every time we make the sign of the cross, we are reminded how blessed we are, because by our Lord’s cross and suffering and death, we were saved. When we received the sacrament of baptism in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, we became sons and daughters of God.
Today we are celebrating the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross. We are commemorating the day when St. Helena, the mother of Emperor Constantine, discovered the original cross of Christ, but also, our holy Mother Church would like us to remember and reflect upon the meaning of the Cross and its significance in our lives.
Every time we pray, in the beginning of the Mass, we make the sign of the cross. At the end, we make the sign of the cross. During the children’s liturgy, we bless them in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. One thing we notice with the children is that they are all so eager to carry the cross. Here at Holy Name of Mary, you carry the cross if you or a member of your family are celebrating a birthday, or even your dog or your cat. I notice one little boy celebrates a birthday all the time, because he just wants the privilege, the honor, of carrying the cross.
But as we become adults, carrying the cross has a whole different meaning. We all have our own crosses to carry. We have our difficulties and problems in life. Even those who don’t believe in Christ and his cross have crosses to carry. This is just part of our earthly existence. But our advantage is that our crosses have meaning. Yes, it is a privilege to carry the cross. It means we are still breathing. We are still alive. If we have the privilege to walk on top of the grass and not underneath, that is a blessing.
Today our holy Mother Church would like to remind us of this great news; to once again reflect on the meaning of this sign, every time we make the sign of the Cross. We are not only professing our faith, we also make the promise as we did when we received the sacrament of baptism to follow the footsteps of our Lord. As he said, “If you want to follow me, you have to take up your cross and follow me.”
Not only that, but to also help each other, as much as possible – in whatever way we can – to lighten their burdens, to help them understand that life is worth living because we have a God who loves us! Today’s gospel gives us one of the most beautiful verses in the Holy Bible: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son so that whoever believes in him may not die but may have eternal life.”
In 1941, a man named Franciszek Gajowniczek was in the concentration camp in Auschwitz, Poland. He was there with St. Maximilian Kolbe. He told him his dream was to be with his wife and his children again. One day, one of the prisoners escaped. The policy of the Nazis was that when one escaped, ten would be put into the death chamber to die. One of those then chosen was Franciszek Gajowniczek. He shouted, “My wife! My children!” St. Maximilian came forward and said, “I will take his place.”
Well, the guards didn’t know what to say, but they consented. So St. Maximilian went to the death chamber to die. Franciszek Gajowniczek eventually left the concentration camp. His life was chronicled by NBC. He took them to his house and showed them a marble memorial where he wrote, “In memory of St. Maximilian Kolbe. He died in my place.” Every year, he would go to Auschwitz to honor St. Maximilian Kolbe.
Today, we are all here in the sanctuary of Holy Name of Mary because we know our Lord Jesus died in our place. That is why we always pray in the Stations of the Cross: “We adore you, O Christ, and we praise you. Because by your Holy Cross, you have redeemed the world.”