Friday September 14, 2001 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Twenty-third Week in Ordinary Time
Reading I (Numbers 21:4b-9) Reading II (Philippians 2:6-11)
Gospel (St. John 3:13-17)
Today, as we celebrate this feast of the Triumph of the Cross, Our Lord reminds us that the very purpose for which He came into the world was to save the world. And there is only one means by which the world is going to be saved: that is, the Cross of Jesus Christ. The Cross stands as the center point of all world history.
When we consider the Cross, Saint Paul reminds us that we are to glory in nothing but the Cross of Our Lord Jesus Christ; that must be our boast. "For the world," Saint Paul tells us, "that is folly." It seems foolishness to the world. "It is a stumbling block to the Jews and it is folly to the Greeks," he said, "But for those who are being saved, the Cross is the wisdom and the power of God."
For us, who believe in Our Lord, we look at that Cross. We consider what Saint Paul tells us: "He was obedient even unto death, death on a cross." It is that obedience of Our Lord and His willingness to go to the Cross for us that we celebrate in a particular way. What looks like the most humiliating thing and the most foolish thing is, in fact, the most glorious thing in human history. As Saint Paul says, "God's folly is wiser than human wisdom." On the natural level, it does not make sense. It is what Saint Paul, then, would call the "Scandal of the Cross."
That is the part that requires faith. If God came down in glory and He was glowing in the dark and did wonderful things, everybody could say, "Oh, that is God!" But when we look at God and we see that He died on the Cross, it requires great faith to be able to look at that and say, "Yes, I believe." Externally, there is nothing obvious; externally, all that is there is weakness and foolishness, from a worldly point of view. But for one with the eyes of faith and a heart filled with love, the Cross is the glory of Almighty God.
The Cross is the love of God for us. For us who believe, we need to be able to say that we, too, with Our Lord, are willing to take up the Cross; that we are willing to be hung on that Cross with Him, to suffer with Him in order to be raised with Him. So, for us, the Cross truly is the wisdom of God. And for those who are saved, they understand that the Cross is the power of God because it is only by the wounds of Our Lord, inflicted on the Cross, that we have salvation. It truly is the wisdom and the power of God at work in those who believe and the only means of salvation.
So for us, with Saint Paul, then, the Cross is not a point of shame, but it is a point of joy. It is recognized as truly the only means of salvation; the means by which Our Lord did not condemn the world, but stood condemned so that the world could be saved. And for us, the Cross, then, must be a means of glory, a means of hope, and a means of joy because it is the only means of salvation.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.