In his homily this afternoon in Cyprus, the Holy Father spoke of the world’s need for the “Cross of Christ,” and explained that it alone is capable of providing the “unlimited hope” that every human heart craves.
Pope Benedict began his homily in reference to the Cross of Christ, saying that while many wonder why Christians “celebrate an instrument of torture,” he explained, it is because of the death and resurrection of Christ that the cross also represents “the definitive triumph of God’s love over all the evil in the world.”
After briefly reflecting on man’s struggles in Salvation History, the Pontiff said that, “we see clearly that man cannot save himself from the consequences of his sin. … Only God can release him from his moral and physical enslavement. And because he loved the world so much, he sent his only-begotten Son, not to condemn the world – as justice seemed to demand – but so that through him the world might be saved.”
This makes the cross “something far greater and more mysterious than it at first appears,” he continued. “It is indeed an instrument of torture, suffering and defeat, but at the same time it expresses the complete transformation, the definitive reversal of these evils: that is what makes it the most eloquent symbol of hope that the world has ever seen. It speaks to all who suffer – the oppressed, the sick, the poor, the outcast, the victims of violence – and it offers them hope that God can transform their suffering into joy, their isolation into communion, their death into life. It offers unlimited hope to our fallen world.”
The Pontiff emphasized that the world needs the cross, adding that it is “not just a private symbol of devotion,” but it “speaks of hope, it speaks of love, it speaks of the victory of non-violence over oppression, it speaks of God raising up the lowly, empowering the weak, conquering division, and overcoming hatred with love.”
“A world without the cross would be a world without hope, a world in which torture and brutality would go unchecked, the weak would be exploited and greed would have the final word. Man’s inhumanity to man would be manifested in ever more horrific ways, and there would be no end to the vicious cycle of violence. Only the cross puts an end to it.”
Benedict XVI then explained that in proclaiming the Cross of Christ with our lives and works, we do not proclaim ourselves, but rather we proclaim Christ. “We are not offering our own wisdom to the world, nor are we claiming any merit of our own, but we are acting as channels for his wisdom, his love, his saving merits. We know that we are merely earthenware vessels, and yet, astonishingly, we have been chosen to be heralds of the saving truth that the world needs to hear.”
The Holy Father then turned to the priests present at the Mass and asked them to reflect “on the words spoken to a newly ordained priest as the Bishop presents him with the chalice and paten: ‘Understand what you do, imitate what you celebrate, and conform your life to the mystery of the Lord’s Cross’."
As we proclaim the cross, the Pope continued, “let us always strive to imitate the selfless love of the one who offered himself for us on the altar of the cross, the one who is both priest and victim, the one in whose person we speak and act when we exercise the ministry that we have received. As we reflect on our shortcomings, individually and collectively, let us humbly acknowledge that we have merited the punishment that he, the innocent Lamb, suffered on our behalf. And if, in accordance with what we have deserved, we should have some share in Christ’s sufferings, let us rejoice because we will enjoy a much greater gladness when his glory is revealed.”
Benedict XVI spoke of the priests and religious communities that bear witness to the Cross of Christ in the Middle East: "Their presence alone is an eloquent expression of the Gospel of peace, the determination of the Good Shepherd to care for all the sheep, the Church’s unyielding commitment to dialogue, reconciliation and loving acceptance of the other. By embracing the cross that is held out to them, the priests and religious of the Middle East can truly radiate the hope that lies at the heart of the mystery we are celebrating in our liturgy today.
To read the Pope’s full homily, visit: http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/cyprus10/resource.php?res_id=1428