Today’s feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross reminds us that the way of Christ and his followers is one of humble surrender, Pope Francis said in his homily on Monday.
“(I)f a Christian wants to make progress on the path of the Christian life, he must lower himself, as Jesus lowered himself: this is the path of humility,” the Holy Father said during his Sept. 14 Mass at the chapel of the Saint Martha guesthouse in the Vatican.
He said that while many beautiful images of the crucifixion may help us meditate on the Lord’s sacrifice, what happened was “very different” from what most paintings depict. The reality is that Christ “was all torn and bloodied by our sins,” the Pope said.
To illustrate this point, the Pope turned his attention to the figure of the serpent, which seemed to be the “protagonist of today’s readings.”
In the first reading, from the book of Numbers, the Lord’s instructions for Moses to raise up the bronze serpent to save the people from the serpent’s venom illustrates “a promise that is not easy to understand.”
The Lord chose “this bad, ugly figure” of the serpent to prefigure Christ on the Cross “because Jesus came to take all our sins on himself,” the Holy Father said. Focusing on the second reading, Philippians 2:6-11, he said Christ became as “the greatest sinner, without having ever committed a sin.”
In the Gospel reading, John 3:13-17, “Jesus himself explained Moses’ act a bit further to Nicodemus.” Just as the prophet had “lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.”
It is through this image that we understand that, “this is the way that (Jesus) has taken in order to defeat the serpent in his field”, he said.
If we ask God for help on our Christian journey, the Roman Pontiff concluded, he “gives us the grace that we ask of Our Lady who was under the Cross: the grace to cry, to cry out of love, to cry out of gratitude, because our God loved us so much that he sent his Son to lower himself and allow himself to be crushed in order to save us.”