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Homily for 3/26/06 - Lent 3 - the Cross

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  • Protopriest David Moser
    At the crucifixion of Jesus Christ there stood on the hill of Golgotha not one but three crosses. On the center cross was nailed our Lord Jesus Christ and he
    Message 1 of 1 , Apr 4, 2006
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      At the crucifixion of Jesus Christ there stood on the hill of Golgotha
      not one but three crosses. On the center cross was nailed our Lord
      Jesus Christ and he was surrounded on either side by two other crosses
      on which were nailed two thieves. Both of these men were being
      executed for their crimes and there at the door of death, they too
      began to join in the mockery of the crowd towards Jesus. But one of
      the thieves stopped his mockery and thinking of his own condition
      cried out to be forgiven and his repentance was counted as
      righteousness and he too entered into the Kingdom of Heaven.

      This thief was quite literally "bearing his cross" and so gives us an
      idea of what it means for us to "take up our cross". The thieves were
      being crucified for their own sins - they were paying the penalty for
      their own misdeeds. Our cross can also be said to be the consequences
      or the result of our own sins. We suffer, we endure various difficult
      situations, mental, emotional, even physical pain all of which is the
      consequence of our sin. Even the fact that we live in a sinful world
      brings suffering that is the consequence of our sinful way of life.
      We certainly do carry our own cross - the cross of our own sins.

      The thieves who were crucified with Christ were going not to life, but
      to death. Their own deaths could not save even themselves - let alone
      the rest of the world. They were sinners and death is simply the
      consequence of that sin. We too are sinners and as a result we too
      are headed towards death. No matter how righteous and perfect a man
      might appear, he still bears within himself the kernel of sin and so
      he too will suffer death. And our death will save no one, not even
      ourselves.

      The death of Jesus Christ, however, was different. He, alone among
      all of mankind, did not sin, did not carry within Himself the kernel
      of sin and therefore He, alone among all mankind, had not cause or
      reason to suffer death. He is God incarnate, fully man and yet fully
      God. When He ascended the Cross, having no sin, He received upon
      Himself the burden of all our sins. He suffered death so that we
      might receive life. Think of the burdens born by those crucified on
      that day. Each thief bore the heavy burden of his own life of sin and
      that burden weighed upon his shoulders, pushing him down until finally
      he could breathe no more and died. But Jesus Christ bore the burden
      of the sins of the whole world - not just of one man, but of every
      man. Only He Who is God could have borne such a burden. And this
      burden pushed down upon Him, but did not kill Him, rather He gave up
      His own life willingly that this burden of sin might be eliminated.
      Having eliminated the burden of our sins leading to death, He gives us
      in exchange His own life.

      So why then must we "take up our cross"? The cross of each man is the
      responsibility for his own sins. In order to follow Christ we must
      take up responsibility for our sins - that is we must confess our
      sins, admit to God that we have fallen short of His grace and repent.
      When, by bearing our own cross, we confess our sins, He forgives us
      our sins and cleanses us from all unrighteousness. When we repent
      from our sins by turning away from them and no longer walking down the
      path of sin, this is where we turn from our former path that led to
      death and instead follow Christ which is the path that leads to
      eternal life. We must "take up our cross" that is the heavy burden of
      our sinfulness, so that we can in turn hand our cross to the One Who
      bears it for us and so destroys its power over us. If we "take up our
      cross" and carry it by ourselves, it leads only to death. But if we
      "take up our cross" and give it to the One Who willingly has carried
      it for us and Who, by bearing it has destroyed it, then this path
      leads to Life.

      Today we venerate the Cross - but not *our* cross. Today we venerate
      the Cross of Jesus Christ for by voluntarily ascending the cross for
      us and by voluntarily taking on the burden of our sins and by
      voluntarily giving up his life - He has destroyed the power of our own
      crosses (which lead only to death) over us. And so the Cross - and
      not just any cross, but the Cross of Christ - has become for us the
      symbol not of death and defeat but of victory and Life. Today then we
      bow down and honor the Cross of Christ for it was by ascending this
      Cross that our Lord Jesus Christ destroyed the power of our own
      crosses. He takes our death and gives us life, He takes our sorrow
      and gives us joy, He takes the heavy burden of our sin and gives us
      instead the yoke of His love which is easy and light.

      By the Cross of Christ, death is put to death, the enslavement of sin
      is destroyed and the power of hades is vanquished. We bow down today
      before the Cross of Christ by which we are freed from sin and we
      glorify His holy Resurrection by which we are given Life.
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