Prayer and Meditation for Thursday, September 14, 2017 — “Everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.”

Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross
Lectionary: 638

Image result for Exaltation of the Holy Cross, art, photos

Reading 1 NM 21:4B-9

With their patience worn out by the journey,
the people complained against God and Moses,
“Why have you brought us up from Egypt to die in this desert,
where there is no food or water?
We are disgusted with this wretched food!”

In punishment the LORD sent among the people saraph serpents,
which bit the people so that many of them died.
Then the people came to Moses and said,
“We have sinned in complaining against the LORD and you.
Pray the LORD to take the serpents from us.”
So Moses prayed for the people, and the LORD said to Moses,
“Make a saraph and mount it on a pole,
and if any who have been bitten look at it, they will live.”
Moses accordingly made a bronze serpent and mounted it on a pole,
and whenever anyone who had been bitten by a serpent
looked at the bronze serpent, he lived.

Responsorial Psalm PS 78:1BC-2, 34-35, 36-37, 38

R. (see 7b) Do not forget the works of the Lord!
Hearken, my people, to my teaching;
incline your ears to the words of my mouth.
I will open my mouth in a parable,
I will utter mysteries from of old.
R. Do not forget the works of the Lord!
While he slew them they sought him
and inquired after God again,
Remembering that God was their rock
and the Most High God, their redeemer.
R. Do not forget the works of the Lord!
But they flattered him with their mouths
and lied to him with their tongues,
Though their hearts were not steadfast toward him,
nor were they faithful to his covenant.
R. Do not forget the works of the Lord!
But he, being merciful, forgave their sin
and destroyed them not;
Often he turned back his anger
and let none of his wrath be roused.
R. Do not forget the works of the Lord!

Reading 2 PHIL 2:6-11

Brothers and sisters:
Christ Jesus, though he was in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God something to be grasped.
Rather, he emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave,
coming in human likeness;
and found human in appearance,
he humbled himself,
becoming obedient to death,
even death on a cross.
Because of this, God greatly exalted him
and bestowed on him the name
that is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus
every knee should bend,
of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue confess that
Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.

Alleluia

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you,
because by your Cross you have redeemed the world.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel JN 3:13-17

Jesus said to Nicodemus:
“No one has gone up to heaven
except the one who has come down from heaven, the Son of Man.
And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert,
so must the Son of Man be lifted up,
so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.”

For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son,
so that everyone who believes in him might not perish
but might have eternal life.
For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world,
but that the world might be saved through him.

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Homily for The Exaltation of the Holy Cross
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Today we celebrate the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross.

Christian faith is faith in a crucified Christ – But – this does not mean that we are glorifying suffering, because no one wants to suffer and carry his cross if given the choice but rather – today it is that celebration that we exalt the supreme power of God’s love… although in truth, this is the paradox, it is precisely at the heart of a human suffering that we discover a crucified Christ who calls us to enter into the mystery of redemption.

The cross is in truth the center of the evangelium, the glad tidings, the Good News, of the Gospel… that is why the cross is the symbol of our Christian faith. The Resurrection shows the power of God to conquer even death. The Cross shows the power of God to conquer sin; the power of God to conquer hatred and the Cross shows the unconditional power of God’s love and mercy.

God finds man so important that God Himself suffered for man… man means all human persons. The cross is proof of how important we all are to God; how important that we exist and live life to its fullest. God showed it not in words, but in an act of radical self-sacrificing love completely that God became human and suffered to save us.

Today, we celebrate the power of God’s infinite love for us; the awesome truth that God spared nothing to save us, not even his only Son, to rescue us. To God, it was worth it, we are worth the death of his incarnate Son.

There is this beautiful prayer as part in the Divine Office or Liturgy of the Hour – the official prayer of the Church prayed by priests, deacons, religious and by many lay people now.

It goes like this: “Lord Jesus, We stood condemned and you came to be judged in our place. Send your saving power on us and when you come in glory bring your mercy to those for whom you were condemned.”

The cross is a reminder of the sacrificial love of Jesus Christ. The cross is a reminder of the Gospel of the Lord and the Gospel of Christ demands forgiveness. It demands that we let go of that grudge that we harbor deep in our hearts. The Gospel of Christ demands forgiveness when we have been offended.

The Gospel of Christ demands that we live in our daily lives the condition of the Lord’s Prayer: “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” The Gospel of Christ is not easy, it is tough to say the least. But by putting our hatred to death, we give life to our love and more importantly, by putting our hatred to death, we give life to God’s love.

The news of the barbaric treatment of the prisoners, Christians and Westerners by Islamic militants and terrorists in Iraq and Syria, admittedly, makes our blood boil to think of all the innocent people who were savagely killed; whose lives were destroyed; some were beheaded. Sadly, even in our society, we see often in the news so much violence not only by the terrorists but even by youth who just randomly hit innocent people just for the fun of it.

Of course, we need protect and defend ourselves from terrorists and any form of violence and injustice – But we also need to realize and always remember not to respond to hate with hate because that reaction often can be responsible for people acting in ways that certainly are not the ways of the Lord.

During the Memorial Mass in a packed church of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary for the beheaded American reporter, James Foley, Roman Catholic Bishop Peter Libasci of the Diocese of Manchester, N.H. invoked the prayer of St. Francis to implore the gathered not to hate but to heal:

“Lord, make me an instrument of your peace. It is in giving that we receive. It is in pardoning that we are pardoned. It is in dying that we are born to eternal life.”

To these words, the Bishop added, “Yes, I wish we could all do that. Yes, it is not beyond our capability. It is not impossible. Our Lord lived it. Our most Blessed Mother lived it. Many saints have lived it.”

What gave the Bishop the confidence and hope that living the words of the Prayer of St. Francis to be instrument of peace is really possible?

When Jesus gave his life on the cross, he gave a whole new life for all who would believe in him. His victory over sin and death was complete. He bore every sin—past, present, and future—and took every evil inclination of our hearts and nailed them to his cross.

By his death, he defeated the power of Satan and destroyed death forever. He triumphed over the ways of the world that are opposed to God. He opened up heaven and poured out unlimited grace and mercy.

That is why Jesus said: ‘In this world, you will have troubles… but take courage; do not be afraid, I have overcome the world.”

There is more to this celebration of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross than bold statements of spiritual victory. We also celebrate Jesus’ personal touch upon every person who believes in him; upon each one of us.

Please look at the image of Jesus on the cross. If you cannot see the image from where you sit or stand, then just close your eyes… and now everyone – imagine Jesus telling you these words personally as if you are the only one here:

“My beloved child, heaven has been opened up for you. Because of my cross, you have been forgiven and cleansed of all sin. You are justified and made righteous. You are protected from Satan’s evil schemes. You have been rescued from darkness and the ungodly ways of the world, and you now have power to live a holy life on earth. My child, do you believe this? Place your faith in me, and you will see my victory.”

My brothers and sisters in Christ – You see – Jesus’ triumph is really our triumph. May we surrender our hearts to Jesus, who loves us so deeply, so unconditionally; much more than we can even ever imagine.

May these beautiful, profound and mysterious words of the Gospel, dwell in us and resonate in our hearts and whole being: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him might not perish but might have eternal life.”

http://stcatherinevallejo.org/wp/2014/09/14/homily-on-exaltation-of-the-holy-cross/

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From 2014

Homily from the Abbot

My sisters and brothers in Christ,

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The Cross of Christ! We are so used to the Cross that we no longer feel the awfulness of this symbol in our lives. It has become something ordinary. For the early followers of Christ, the Cross was a symbol of how a human had undergone the very worst of human torture and had accepted it for our sake. Always we hear this phrase: for our sake. Jesus became human for our sake. Jesus lived for our sake. Jesus suffered for our sake. Jesus died for our sake. Jesus rose for our sake. For our sake means also for my sake, for me personally.

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It is not often that a feast such as that of the Cross takes a more important place than the normal Sunday liturgy. But a feast of Christ takes such a place when it falls on a Sunday in Ordinary time. So today we contemplate the Cross of the Lord.

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Did Jesus have to die on the Cross? This is a question that avoids the simple fact: Jesus did die on the Cross for my sake, for our sake. The Cross is foolishness and is for really bad people and for slaves. Jesus took all of that on Himself for my sake, for our sake.

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What was a symbol of deep shame becomes a symbol of eternal love, of boundless love–for my sake, for our sake. It is not easy for any of us to accept that another person loves us completely, even in marriage or in a religious community. It is not easy to believe in love, especially when we see desires all around us which are not love. It is not easy to want to give our lives in love, even when we may have fallen in love. Love is such a compelling commitment to another person–and it requires everything we have and all that we are.

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Part of the symbol in the celebration of today is the lifting up of the serpent by Moses for the healing of the people. The people are healed by that which they were trying to kill. The serpent is lifted up on a pole and by looking at it, the people were saved. For us who come after Christ, it is easier to see this symbol. We are healed of our sins by look at the one we have caused to die, the one we have killed, the one who gave Himself in love for us.

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Truly the mystery of God’s love for us is beyond understanding, even when we accept it. Why would God want to love such rebellious people? Why would God want to love me when I so often pay no attention to Him? This is the mystery of love. It is a mystery of suffering love, a love willing to die for me.

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Let us spend some time today with the Cross, giving thanks, meditating, letting our hearts be touched by the Lord. The Letter to the Philippians tells us that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Through His Cross we are saved.

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From 2014

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Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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SHARING IN CHRIST’S TRIUMPH OVER THE CROSS

SCRIPTURE READINGS: NUM 21:4-9;  PHIL 2:6-11; JN 3:13-17
http://www.universalis.com/20140914/mass.htm

No one on this earth is exempted from suffering and the crosses of life.  Whether we are babies, youth, adults or elderly; studying, working or retired, we have our share of sufferings.   Where do our crosses come from?

The first source of suffering comes from our fragile humanity.   As human beings, we suffer the weakness of the human body and of the mind.  Our suffering comes from the inconvenience and humdrum drudgery of daily life.   In themselves, they need not cause us great pain, if we are able to accept them in stride and take them as part of being human.   Only those who seek to escape from suffering will suffer more than the hassles themselves.  This was the case of the Israelites in the desert.  They were short in tolerance, always complaining about the situation they were in, and comparing with what could have been.  By fighting against the daily discomforts of life, we make ourselves miserable, for instead of focusing on the joys, we focus on our pain.  Sadness is experienced when we see things out of perspective.  Joy comes to those who see everything positively.

The second source of suffering is the consequence of our sins.  Instead of being grateful for what they had received, especially their freedom from the slavery of the Egyptians, the Israelites grew discontented with their new found freedom.  They valued material comfort more than personal freedom.  Hence, they grumbled against God and Moses, accusing them of leading them into the desert to be destroyed.  Such a response showed the self-centeredness of the Israelites and the utter lack of gratitude.

As a result, God punished them by sending “fiery serpents among the people; their bite brought death to many in Israel. “  This must not be misunderstood as God taking revenge on them.  Rather, it symbolized that their sins and lack of contentment ultimately destroyed them. People who are selfish and self-centered eventually bring destruction upon themselves.

The third source of suffering comes from the sins of others.   Quite often, our sins not only harm us, but also the innocent people around us.  The sins of the people of Israel not only affected those concerned, but the whole nation as well. This was particularly true of the sins of their leaders, religious and political. Because of the sins of parents, children suffer as well.  Because of the sins of church leaders, the members’ faith is shaken. Because of the sins of society, we are all contaminated.  Jesus’ death on the cross of course was caused by our sins.

What is the antidote to sin and suffering?  The paradox is that the key lies in the suffering itself.  It is strange that God chose the serpent that bit them as the instrument of healing.  He told Moses, “Make a fiery serpent and put it on a standard. If anyone is bitten and looks at it, he shall live.”  Why did God want them to look at the serpent?  So that they would be reminded of what their selfishness and ingratitude had caused them, and thereby desist from repeating their mistake.  Indeed, the responsorial psalm says, “Do not forget the works of the Lord! While He slew them they sought Him and inquired after God again, remembering that God was their rock and the Most High God, their redeemer.  But He, being merciful, forgave their sin and destroyed them not. Often He turned back his anger and let none of His wrath be roused.”

Of course we know that the serpent mounted on the pole foreshadows the sacrificial death of Jesus on the Cross.  Jesus told Nicodemus, “No one has gone up to heaven except the one who came down from heaven, the Son of Man who is in heaven; and the Son of Man must be lifted up as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.”  Truly, the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross has become the source of salvation for the whole world.

For the death of Jesus is not just any suffering or death, but the suffering and death of God Himself in His Son.   St Paul made clear the identity of Jesus when he wrote, “The state of Jesus Christ was divine, yet he did not cling to his equality with God but emptied himself to assume the condition of a slave, and became as men are; and being as all men are, he was humbler yet, even to accepting death, death on a cross.”  St John the evangelist brought out the significance of Jesus’ death, which is nothing less than the expression of God’s unconditional and total love for the world.  He wrote, “Yes, God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not be lost but may have eternal life. For God sent his Son into the world not to condemn the world, but so that through him the world might be saved.” Such is the extent of His love, that He would suffer the humiliation of His Son, so that His love would be revealed to us all.

If we contemplate on the love of God in Christ Jesus, especially in His passion on the cross, then the realization of what our sins have done to God will move us to repent of our sins and ingratitude towards His love.  It is not just an intellectual belief in the death of Christ, but a personal conviction of Jesus as the Son of the Father, that would cause us to grieve for our sins, not simply because our sins hurt us, but because our sins hurt the One who loves us so much, God Himself.  Hence, by reflecting on our sins in the light of God’s suffering and mercy, we are changed.  Unfortunately, many of us do not believe in Jesus as the Son of the Father.

If we still live in sin today in spite of our conversion to Christ in baptism, it is because, like the Israelites, we have forgotten the works of the Lord!  Today, as we celebrate the Triumph of the Holy Cross, the Church is not just asking us to contemplate on the love of Christ for us on the cross, but most of all, His triumphant victory over sin and death.   Yes, the Cross might appear to be a failure, but for God, it is His instrument of victory.  As St Paul wrote, “But God raised him high and gave him the name which is above all other names so that all beings in the heavens, on earth and in the underworld, should bend the knee at the name of Jesus and that every tongue should acclaim Jesus Christ as Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”  By His cross, He destroyed sin.  By His death, He destroyed death.

So if we are suffering today, be it on account of our own sins or the sins of others, or because we have chosen to suffer with and forJesus in His Body the Church, let us be confident that our sufferings, when carried out positively and vicariously, can bring about our own redemption and that of the world.  Like Jesus, by emptying ourselves, we become one with the world. Just as Moses interceded for the sins of his people, our innocent sufferings offered for the sins of the world, will be the most powerful form of intercession for its conversion.  May we carry our sufferings and crosses cheerfully for our own conversion and for others, so that His mercy and grace will fill us all!

– See more at: http://www.csctr.net/14-september-2014-the-exaltation-of-the-holy-cross/#sthash.uE1eeBuv.dpuf

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