23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time Year 2013
My brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus,
If you pay attention at Mass, you may realize that there are some objects the Church reserves special reverence for. For example: the Gospel Book that we process in with at each Sunday Mass at St. Boniface (we do not have the Gospel book for St. Mary yet) is reverenced with honor because this book is contains the word of God; each time a deacon or a priest, after proclaiming the word of God, then kisses it; he is not kissing the book but the word of God. Other object such as the altar is also treated with reverence and honor because it is symbolic of the Body of Christ. The celebrant at Mass kisses the altar twice during Mass and incenses it on some of the special feast days. The Paschal Candle or Easter Candle is also treated with reverence and honor because it is the light of Christ. On Easter vigil, the main celebrant or a deacon would hold the candle up high three-times saying, “the light of Christ!” The congregation would genuflect to honor it. This is an act of our faith that we would honor some objects that shout out that Christ who is our Savior.
There is an object that Christ had used to save the sins of the world: the Cross. The mystery that Christ died on the cross cannot be comprehended by man. However the fact is that Christ hung on it and through Christ’s act, man is saved. The Church honors this object twice during yearly liturgical celebrations. One is celebrated on Good Friday and other is the Exaltation of the Holy Cross that the Church celebrates on September 14; on this feast day not only the Catholic Church honors the cross but also the Orthodox and Eastern churches. This celebration is an important mark of Christian unity that Christ died on the cross for all.
The feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross was not celebrated right after the Risen Christ. It began with St. Helena, the mother of the Roman Emperor Constantine, when she went to Jerusalem in search of the holy places of Christ’s life. She raised the Temple of Aphrodite, which traditionally was built over the Savior’s tomb; her son then built the Basilica of the Holy Sepulcher over the tomb. During the excavation, workers found three crosses. Legend has it that the one on which Jesus died was identified when its touch healed a dying woman. The cross became an object of veneration. Then it became widespread in Jerusalem in the early fifth century. The feast won’t enter into the Western calendar until the seventh century when Emperor Heraclius recovered the cross from the Persians. A story told that the emperor intended to carry the cross back into Jerusalem himself, but he was unable to move forward until he took off his imperial garment and walked barefoot as a pilgrim.
This weekend Jesus challenged his followers, “Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.” Let us follow Jesus to the Calvary and carrying our own cross join the pilgrimage of saints who have completed their journey. The Eucharist is the food for this journey. Let us receive the Lord as we are following Him.
Rev. Joseph-Quoc Vuong