September 14, 2012
Exaltation of the Holy Cross (Feast)
by Rev. Fr. Bob McConaughey
Afternoon Mass at Megamall, Chapel of the Eucharistic Lord
Second Reading: Philippians 2:6-11
Gospel: John 3:13-17
13 No one has ascended into heaven but he who descended from heaven, the Son of man. 14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in him may have eternal life." 16 For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God sent the Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him.
The Cross is a symbol of triumph. Certainly a triumph over evil, or of good over evil. Certainly a triumph over sin and death. Those are the ones we are familiar with, but there is one more triumph of the cross - and that is the triumph on the way we live, and the way we love. And that is triumph over useless, meaningless suffering and pain.
Before Jesus died on the cross, pain made no sense. It even drove Jesus to the point when he said, "My God, why have you abandoned me?" But when you look at the cross itself, the cross is a symbol of love. It was not only a symbol of great suffering or pain but a symbol of unconditional, sacrificial, redemptive love. With the death and resurrection of Jesus, there should be a meaningful way to which we can live up and carry our own personal cross.
When I first came to the Philippines, I met a doctor. And we became friends. He was a Christian, and I was a Catholic. I would discuss with him; I would argue with him. My goal was to convert him into becoming a Catholic. In December of 1983, my friend was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer at the age of 41, and I promised to ask my friends to pray for him. These friends of mine did pray for him, but they did something unexpected of them when they pray. And when they did something unexpected when they prayed, they did send him a card.
On December 8, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, my friend wanted to see me immediately, and so I visited him in the hospital. The first thing he said to me was, "Father Bob, I want to become a Catholic." And I said, "Why?" And he said, "It's not because of anything you've ever told me". And he said, "Let me read some notes to you. One of them said that "I know you are going through a rough time right now, so tonight, I will pray for you, and while doing so, I will sleep on the floor instead of on my bed." And then he said, "Someone does not even know me, and he is doing that for me?"
Then he said, "Someone told me that 'I know you are going through a lot of pain today, so I'm going to put a stone in my shoe, so that every time I go out and I feel pain, I will remember that you are in a lot of pain and I will pray for you.'. Another one sent "I will say the rosary today in cruciform". He asked me, "what does she mean by that"? And I explained that in the whole 15 minutes that she is praying the rosary, she will extend her arms like this (Jesus crucified). Have you tried praying the rosary that way? In 5 minutes, you will feel your arms like dead and that they are going to fall - and she will do that in 15 minutes.
Then he said to me, "I want to become a Catholic because I want to be part of that. These people have witnessed to me in such a powerful way, and yet they do not know me?" He said, "That's love. That's real. I want to become a part of that". I brought him to the church on the 16th. I confirmed him, heard his first confession, and his first communion, and he died on Christmas day - a Catholic, in God's grace. All because people simply did what was unexpected of them.
What's with the cross? The next time you visit the hospital and see someone in pain - very uncomfortable, ask him to take 5 minutes of his experience, and unite it with the cross of Christ who suffered and died for us. Some crosses you choose, but some crosses choose you. Some crosses come across your life, that you don't expect. Some crosses are those that you have carried for a long time - in a wheelchair or chemotherapy or radiation. You can take up that cross and unite it for something or someone specific. You can have all the love - you can give it all away, and have it still - that's the best, that's God's will.
The Relic of the Cross of Jesus Christ
God So Loved The World - Stainer