Sermon – The Sunday before the Elevation of the Cross
The Sunday before the Elevation of the Cross
By V. Rev. Timothy Baclig
September 10, 2023
The Feast and message of the Holy Cross speak to us as parents, grandparents, godparents and teachers. The Church places great emphasis on the meaning of the Cross this week that it includes three (3) gospel lessons, beginning with The Sunday before the Feast (Sunday, September 10), The day of The Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross (September 14), and The Sunday after the Feast (next Sunday, September 17).
The lesson points to the many choices we face as children, young people, young adults, husbands, wives, parents, godparents; choices that always begin with parenting and the challenge to love with the sacrificial love of God. It is the same lesson heard in the Sacrament of Holy Baptism when Godparents are reminded of their commitment to Christ and their responsibility to teach their Godchildren by example (word and deed). It is the same lesson heard in the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony when a couple is challenged to love as Christ loved the church, “submitting to one another out of reverence of Christ.” It is the same lesson heard at the time of an ordination when one responds to God’s call to service. It is also the lesson leaned in the Sacrament of Healing, and includes the Sacrament of Confession and reconciliation.
With each Sacrament, the lesson remains the same: Love is never mastered. It is always tested. It is grounded in commitment and devotion. It always begins in humility. It is selfless and (as we hear St. Paul say) is not proud, not rude or boastful, does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It is full of mercy. It protects, trusts, hopes, perseveres. It grows with patience and is never practiced in a vacuum. It is greater than faith and hope [see I Corinthians 13]. Love is eternal.
In today’s gospel we clearly hear that love took the initiative: God so loved the world that He gave… It is sacrificial but not presumptuous; not without consideration or thoughtfulness. God’s love is also not conditional. He did not say: “Get your act together and I’ll love you.” His love is not, “I’ll love you if…” or “I’ll love you when…” It’s not even something He needed to explain: “I love you because…” His love is grounded in His relationship with His creation. And as the Author of Life, however, His love is also not permissive. It cares. It speaks the truth, but lovingly. It extends itself. It reaches out. Consequently, as Christians: Love works with others for a greater good and considers a team effort more important that one’s personal agenda or interest.
The Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross is always on the 14th of September. While it is a day with historical significance tied to the Holy City of Jerusalem and specifically the Church of the Holy Resurrection—that we today, celebrate its dedication; the Feast of the Cross is observed as a day of strict fasting because (like the fast on Wednesday of each weekday), we are reminded of our Lord’s passion; and like the fast of the Friday of each weekday, we are reminded of our Lord’s Death.
Thursday’s Divine Liturgy will take place at 10 a.m. The Gospel reading for the Feast is of our Lord’s judgment and crucifixion, reminding us of his passion; his saving work. It is the most important Feast of the fall season, celebrating the redeeming love of God and renewing our lives and equipping us with virtue of spiritual power.
We are reminded that the Holy Cross is called the “life-giving” Cross: A sign of hope, as Christ is seen not as a victim but victor: He who trampled down death by Death. It is a symbol of God’s unconditional love as we hear in today’s Gospel. The Feast of the Holy Cross is among several days in the Church calendar devoted to the theme of God’s boundless love, His supreme sacrifice and what it means to committed to Christ. Finally, the Holy Cross is for us an ironic emblem. It called a “weapon of peace” and and “trophy invincible.” It is the symbol of deliverance and healing. For St. Paul the Cross is our boast. It is the cause of joy because its end is God’s victory over sin and death: His triumph in the Holy Resurrection!
These very facts are heard in the content of today’s short and very concise Gospel lesson: “No one has ascended into heaven but He who descended from heaven, the Son of man. And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. For God sent His Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.”
As Christians we must now be vigilant in knowing how to respond and not react to all that we see and hear around us. In every circumstance our response is in love. That love, however, is grounded in the truth. And our actions cannot be anything other than what is rooted in all that Christ has fulfilled and accomplished for us.
O Lord, save your people and bless your inheritance, granting victory over the adversary and by the power of your life-giving Cross, guard and protect all who follow Thee!