Sunday Homily (Full Text)

Sunday Homily


Gospel                    John 3:13-17

Jesus said to Nicodemus: “No one has gone up to heaven except the one who has come down from heaven, the Son of Man.  And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.”


For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not parish but have eternal life.  For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him.


Homily by Deacon Terry Ellerman

This morning we come to church to celebrate the Exaltation of the Holy Cross.  So we come to look at this crucifix and to thank God for this crucifix.  When we look at this crucifix, what do we see?  Do we all see the same thing, or do we see something a little different?


If I took a crucifix and went back 2,000 years into the time of Christ and went up to someone and asked, “What do you see?”  And that person would answer,  “I see a horrible death.  I see death by crucifixion which is the worst that can be.”  If I asked,  “Do you want this cross and death by crucifixion? That person would say, “No. Why would I want that, that’s horrible.”


If I went to a non-Christian and asked, “What do you see?”  And he or she would respond,  “Well, I see someone on the cross, dying or dead.”  And I ask, “Do you want that cross?”  And that person would answer, “No.  Why would I want this cross that is a symbol of something terrible?” 


If I come up to you and ask,  “What do you see?” You would probably say something similar and answer, “I see Jesus suffering and dying on a cross.”  But is that all you would say, or is there something more?


You know that if Jesus died on the cross and that is all that there was, he would have been a holy man who lived a good life and helped a lot of people, but that’s all.  What we celebrate today is what we call the Pascal mystery — the passion, the suffering, the death and the resurrection.  We see this story differently because we know the whole story.  We know that God so loved us that he sent his son into the world to die for us so we can live and have eternal life, and that is what the Gospel told us today. 


So this cross to us — even though we didn’t want Jesus to die — we see it as something good.  We see it as God so loving us that he sent his Son, and his Son so loving us that he agreed to die for us.  And also, that he rose from the dead and ascended into heaven.

How many of you have a cross or a crucifix at home?  How many of you wear a cross around your neck?  The cross pervades our life because the cross has meaning for us.  It is not a symbol of sorrow, but a symbol or joy. It’s a sign of hope. Because of the cross coming into the world we can now have the possibility of everlasting life.  We are redeemed and we can be with Him.  


When we look at all the things we do in our life and what we do in our church, we are pervaded and we constantly have the cross in front of us.  If there was a baptism today, the family would come down the aisle and stand here in front of the congregation, and Father Mike would ask the parents, “What do you want for your child?” And they would answer, “Baptism.”  He would ask, “Are you willing to raise this child in the faith?” And they would answer, “Yes.”  He asks the godparents if they are willing to help raise this child in the faith.  And they answer “yes.”  He asks,  “Is this Christian community willing to help raise this child in the faith?”


Then with the parents watching, Father Mike makes the sign of the cross on the child’s forehead, then the godparents do this, marking that child for life.  So when the child is baptized “in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit,” that child is marked as a child of God, just as we were.


From the time that you came into church today, from the time that you walk out the door and leave, how many times do you make the sign of the cross?  How many say you made it once?  How many say you made it twice?  How about three times?  How about four times?  How about five times?  How about six times?  How about seven times? How about eight times?  How about nine times?


Nine is a good number.  When you came into church what did you do? You put your finger in the holy water and crossed yourself to remind you of your baptism, and to remember the fact that Jesus died for us so that we will have redemption.


Father started the Mass by saying, “Let us begin in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit” and we make the sign of the cross.  Before I begin to read the Gospel, what do I say,   “The Lord be with you, and with your Spirit. The Holy Gospel according to John,” and we make the sign of the cross on our forehead, on our lips, and on our hearts so the word that we hear will be in our mind, on our lips, and in our heart.


When we take communion many of us make the sign of the cross.  If you receive the bread and the cup, you make it twice.  At the end of Mass, what does Father say?  “All mighty Father blesses you in the name of the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit,” and we cross ourselves. And when you go out the door you put your finger in the holy water font and cross yourself again — nine times in all.  Do you think that is an accident?


Today is a reminder that we are deeply rooted in the cross of Christ, and that this cross is salvific to us, and although we didn’t want him to suffer — it is glorious to us because we have eternal life because of it.


This is a true story of a brother and sister.  Their mother was sick and growing old and she ended up in a nursing home in the Alzheimer’s unit.  She really could not remember anything, and she couldn’t remember who her children were, or their names, or when they came to see her.  Sometimes she would sing a song in German, the country of her childhood, but she really didn’t know what was going on.  One day the children received a phone call from the nursing home and were told to come because their mother was dying.


For whatever reason, the daughter went to her bedroom and took the crucifix from the wall.  She and her brother went to the nursing home, and when they went into their mother’s room, the mother still didn’t recognize them.  The daughter held up the crucifix in front of her mother, her mother took the crucifix and held it to her heart, and several hours later died.


When you visit people in nursing homes, many of them have lost a lot of things.  When you say a familiar prayer with them, instantaneously they say the prayer as well.  What I am trying to say here is that as Catholics and Christians, we are rooted in this cross of Christ.  It is so much a part of us that sometimes we don’t even realize it.


When I asked if you made the sign of the cross when you came in the door, you probably answered “yes” because you always do it.  And that is OK.  But today is bringing the recognition of the fact that what a wonderful gift we have from Jesus that allows us life forever.


When we say the “stations of the cross” there is a sentence that summarizes what this whole day is about.  It reads:


We adore you O Christ,

and we praise you,

because by your holy cross,

you have redeemed the world.


We adore you O Christ,

and we praise you,

because by your holy cross,

you have redeemed the world.


We are a lucky, lucky people because we have a God who truly loves us, and wants us to be with him some day.


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Terry Ellerman is a retired educator and serves as a deacon at Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church in Quincy, Illinois.



















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