2011 Carigara Fiesta Homily

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Homily for Carigaran-on fiesta 2011
in Mississauga Ontario Canada
by Rev. Fr. Cosme de la Peņa
at Sts Martha & Mary Parish
1872 Burnhamthorpe St. E 
Mississauga, ON. Canada

          The Carigara town fiesta celebration honors the Triumph of the Cross of Jesus. It also honors the finding of the relics of the Cross of Jesus by Saint Helena, the Mother of the Roman Emperor Constantine, in 326 A.D. Helena commissioned a church to be built over the site of the discovery. The Church of the Holy Sepulcher was consecrated on September 13, 335 A.D. The day after was proclaimed as the official feast of the Exaltation of the Cross of Jesus.

          The readings for the feast invite us to reflect on the meaning of the cross of Jesus. The Church has always meditated on the story of the bronze serpent hanging on a pole as a foreshadow of the cross of Jesus.

         When the chosen people complained about the desert’s severe conditions and regretted that they had left Egypt, Yahweh became angry.  In punishment, the Lord sent among the people seraph serpents, which bit the people so that many of them died” (Numbers 21: 6). The people begged for clemency, and Moses interceded on behalf of them with Yahweh. God heard their pleas for mercy that He instructed Moses, “Make a seraph and mount it on a pole, and if anyone who has been bitten looks at, he will recover.” Moses did as he was instructed. “Moses accordingly made a bronze serpent and mounted it on a pole, and whenever anyone who had been bitten by a serpent looked at the bronze serpent, he recovered.” (Numbers 21:8-9).

           In a remarkable passage, the Gospel of John makes an explicit reference to this desert incident. “Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, so that all who believe may have eternal life in him” (John 3:14-15). This “lifting up” of Jesus is, of course, a reference to his Crucifixion, Resurrection, and Ascension. By His Cross and Resurrection, He becomes the living sign of salvation to all who believe in Him. The exaltation of Jesus brings to all believers the Father’s healing and redeeming love. Through Jesus, the cross became the means of reconciling fallen and sinful humankind with God. Amidst the disobedience of the people of Israel, God exercises his benevolent power. Amidst the rejection of Israel and continued sinning of humanity, the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross is a perpetual reminder of God’s power to heal and forgive. Christ was crucified on the cross for mankind to experience the saving love of God. The crucifixion is a visible sign of God’s passionate love for us.

          As the bronze serpent was the “symbol of salvation” for the Israelites (see Wisdom 16: 6), so Jesus is the ultimate symbol of salvation for us. Like the Israelites, in the desert of our lives, we frequently complain about God’s plan for us. We fall into a habit of self-pity: a habit of concentrating on our daily troubles and sorrows. We allow this negative pattern to alienate us from God, erode our relationship with others, and cast a black shadow over our lives.

            Thus, like the Israelites, we are given the “grace moment” through this Carigara town fiesta celebration in Canada to acknowledge that “we have sinned in complaining against the Lord.” Now, let us look upon the exalted Savior, so that we can be healed. Lifted up on the cross, he is in truth the supreme manifestation of the Father’s love for us. Through our sins, which he took on himself, and by his holy cross, Jesus redeemed the world.  Renewed, refreshed, and reconciled in this fiesta celebration, we who have sinned are a “new creation.” Once more we are made new. Once more we are healed.

            The way of Christian spirituality is the way of the cross. There is no other route. We are known as followers of the cross. The true privilege of following Christ is the privilege of the cross. But the cost of discipleship involves a dying to self which is inescapable if one wants to become a new creature in Christ. Jesus teaches us, “If a man wishes to come after me, he must deny his very self, take up his cross and follow me” (Mt. 16: 21-27). Once we decide to follow Jesus as disciples, we are destined to share in his sufferings, but only that we might save ourselves in the process and also share in his glory.

            The cross is always a scandal. It is more so today in our push bottom civilization that emphasizes the easy way in everything. Materialism becomes the center of the human heart. We simply want a life free from trials and sacrifices. In fact, most of our prayers are directed toward alleviating human sufferings.  But human experience teaches us that in this life there is no great achievement without effort, pain, and sacrifice. The common athletic locker room slogan of “No pain, no gain” fits equally well in our journey of faith to follow Jesus. Really, beautiful things are difficult. This applies to sports, arts, science, and technology. And this also applies to our commitment to follow Jesus.

            Like pebbles on a beach, suffering is part of the human landscape. And, like pebbles, suffering comes in different shapes and sizes. From experience, we know that everybody suffers in one way or another. Each one of us could easily pinpoint the suffering that most severely touches our lives. There is physical suffering: not only the aches and pains of daily life but also the serious illnesses that can come upon us in the blink of an eye.  There is emotional suffering: the loneliness, depression, or fear that bedevils so many lives. There is spiritual suffering: the desire to overcome temptation, the intention to grow in holiness, and the failure to do so. The list of human sufferings is endless.

           The key question that confronts us, then, is not whether we will suffer but how we will suffer. How are to deal with suffering? Through history, people have sought a solution to suffering. There are many philosophies and schools of thought. The stoic, for example, insisted on an attitude of endurance in the face of pain, a refusal to acknowledge suffering or give in to complaint. The Buddhists, on the other hand, said that the best approach was to suppress all desires, experience nirvana of oblivion. If you desire nothing, you cannot be hurt or disappointed. The Christian view, in most simple terms, is acceptance of suffering in union with Christ. The sufferings of Christ were redemptive because they were enriched with love. A disciple of Jesus must have the same attitude toward suffering that Jesus had.

           Celebrating the Carigara Town Fiesta in Canada challenges our faith that we cannot allow ourselves to quit whenever some crosses confront us. Instead, as Jesus says, we have to take up that cross and resolutely follow in his steps.

           There is a popular Protestant hymn that summarizes what it means to be a determined and resolute Christian. A couple of it read: “The cross before me, the world behind me. No turning back, no turning back.  Though none go with me, still I will follow. No turning back, no turning.”

         Maupay nga Patron ha iyo ngatanan!


webmaster Feling Marpa July 16 2011