September 14, 2015
If we want to move forward “on the path of Christian life" we must fall, just as Jesus did when he carried the Cross.
This was the message at the heart of Pope Francis’ homily on Monday morning during Mass at Casa Santa Marta.
The Mass, which took place on the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, was also attended by the C9 Cardinals who are meeting in the Vatican until September 16.
Pope Francis took his cue from the reading of the day which tells of the serpent in the desert and speaks of the temptations of evil that seduce and then destroy us.
Noting that the protagonist of the parable is a snake, Pope Francis pointed out that “he is cunning and he also has the ability to charm."
The Bible, he said, also tells us that "he is a liar and he is a jealous, and because of the devil’s envy, sin entered into the world." This capacity to seduce us—the pope said—ruins us.
The pope said “He promises many things” but when time comes, his price is high.
And speaking of Paul who got angry with the Galatian Christians and said to them: “Foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Did you experience so many things in vain?” the pope pointed out that they had been corrupted by the snake. This—he said—was nothing new; it was in the consciousness of the people of Israel.
The pope then focused on the fact that the Lord told Moses to "make a bronze serpent" and those who looked at it would be saved. This, he explained is also "a prophecy, a promise which is not easy to understand." That’s why Jesus says to Nicodemus, "As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must be lifted up the Son of 'Man, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.”
Therefore—Pope Francis said—that bronze serpent represented Jesus raised on the Cross.
"Why did the Lord choose this bad and ugly image? Simply because He came to take upon himself all our sins, and He became the greatest sinner without having committed any. Paul tells us: 'He became sin for us', by taking on the image 'He became the snake. He became sin to save us’; this is the message in the Liturgy of the Word today, the path of Jesus."
The pope said God became man and took his sin upon himself. And Paul explains to the Philippians of whom he was so fond: “though he was in the form of God, He did not regard equality with God something to be grasped. Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance, He humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross."
Jesus Francis continued: "emptied himself, became sin for us, He who knew no sin."
The mystery he is said is this: “he became ugly like the serpent.”
"We see beautiful paintings of Jesus on the cross, but reality is different: He was torn and bloodied by our sins. This is the path that He took to defeat the serpent in his own camp. We must look at the Cross of Jesus, not the artistic, well-painted ones, but at reality. And we must look at his path and at God who annihilated himself, stooped to save us.”
This—the pope concluded—is the way of the Christian: “If a Christian wants to move forward on the road of Christian life he must fall, just as Jesus fell. It is the way of humility, yes, it also means he must take humiliation upon himself just as Jesus did."