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