Sunday, March 21, 2021
Fr Richard's homily for the 5th Sunday of Lent
Readings: Universalis: Mass
Devotion to the Cross
Today begins “Passiontide”, when Lent deepens and the focus becomes very much the Cross of Our Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus says in the Gospel: “…when I am lifted up from the earth, I shall draw all people to myself.”
This is Jesus’ prophecy about His own death which will become the means of our salvation. St Paul says: “The Cross of Christ is the tree of life for us.”
The Cross is the very symbol of our Faith. On the Cross God the Son glorified. St Rose of Lima, a saint of the 17th century, says: “Apart from the cross there is no other ladder by which we may get to heaven.” We must therefore have respect, honour and be devoted to the Cross of Our Lord Jesus Christ.
I just want to briefly highlight a few simple ways we honour the Cross.
Firstly, the Sign of the Cross. It’s a very simple gesture but extremely important and one which marks us out as Catholics. My grandmother, God rest her, when she watched sport with us it was very amusing! She used to make really cutting remarks like: “Oh he’s a dead loss isn’t he?” Footballers sometimes make the Sign of the Cross very quickly when they come onto the pitch or score a goal. Grandma used to get excited and say: “OOoohhhh Catholic, Catholic!” It amused all of us. Of course, none of us knew for sure whether they were – I suspect some of them do it as a sort of ritual or something. But it’s important that we as Catholics do it properly and with reverence and devotion as it’s a profound prayer in itself. We should think about the words which invoke the Holy Trinity. The Sign of the Cross is a “sacramental”, that means a spiritual sign which resembles the Sacraments, and it prepares us better to receive them. This Sacramental is a powerful protection for us from evil. St John Mary Vianney, the patron saint of priests, says that a genuinely made Sign of the Cross, “makes all of hell tremble”.
Secondly, we honour Jesus’ Passion by placing the Crucifix in prominent places in our homes, schools, places of work. This is an important witness to our Faith and also brings Divine protection to us and our families. Is there a Crucifix nearby to us at all times? Do we spend a few moments in prayer before it? Are we not afraid to venerate it with a kiss?
And most wonderfully we honour Christ’s Cross by participating in the Mass. Because whenever we come to Mass, we come to Calvary itself. The Crucifix, the Sign of the Cross are signs of a reality, but the Mass is the reality of the Cross itself. That one single Sacrifice of Christ upon the tree for the whole world is made present to us in the celebration of the Eucharist. The Sacrifice of the Mass and the Sacrifice on Calvary one and the same. It is an awesome truth. St John Mary Vianney again said: “If we really understood the Mass; we would die of joy.”
And so now, once again, we now prepare to offer our whole selves with Christ’s offering on the Cross as Calvary again becomes present for us.
“We adore you, O Christ and we praise you. Because by thy Holy Cross you have redeemed the world.”