On the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross, Pope Francis used basic questions about the necessity of salvation to draw listeners deeper into Christ’s saving mystery.
Addressing the crowds gathered in Saint Peter's Square before leading them in praying the Angelus, the Pontiff explained that the cross which Christians “exalt” is not just any cross: it is the Cross of Jesus Christ, in which “is revealed the greatest love of God for humanity.”
“The Father 'gave' the Son to save us, and this has entailed the death of Jesus, and the death on the cross.”
This cross, moreover, is necessary “because of the gravity of evil which enslaved us. It conveys all of the negative strength of evil,” as well as “all of the omnipotent gentleness of God's mercy.”
While it may seem that the cross is a sign of Jesus' failure, it in fact is a sign of his victory over sin and death. Recalling those who mockingly told Jesus to come down if he is indeed the Son of God, (Mt. 27,40), Pope Francis said that it was precisely because he was the Son of God that he remained on the cross, “faithful until the end to the design of Love of the Father. And it is precisely for this reason God has 'exalted' Jesus, conferring on him a universal kingship.”
As we look upon the crucifix, the Holy Father continued, “we contemplate the sign of God's infinite love for every one of us, and the cause of our salvation.”
“From this cross flows the mercy of the father which embraces the entire world”: evil is defeated, death is overcome, and “we are given life,” and hope is restored.
“The Cross of Christ,” he said, “is our only true hope.” It is for this reason, Pope Francis said, that the Church exalts the Holy Cross, and why we, as Christians, bless ourselves with the Sign of the Cross.”
In contemplating and celebrating the Cross, Pope Francis continued, we also think about “our many brothers and sisters who are persecuted and killed because of their faith in Christ,” especially in regions where “religious freedom is not guaranteed or fully realized.”
However, such persecution occurs also in countries which protect “freedom and human rights” in principle, but where believers, “especially Christians, encounter restrictions and discrimination.”
Before commencing the Angelus prayer, Pope Frrancis recalled how the Virgin Mary was at the foot of the Cross, and that the Virgin of Sorrows is celebrated on Monday.
Christ entrusted to her the “present and future of the Church, that we may all always discover and welcome the message of love and the salvation of the Cross of Jesus.”
The Pope concluded by also entrusting the married couples whose marriages he presided over earlier in the day in Saint Peter's Basilica.
Following the recitation of the Angelus, Pope Francis noted how the United Nations Security Council would begin efforts to promote peace in the Central African Republic, which continues to be ravaged by ongoing violence.
He “assured the commitment and prayer of the Catholic Church,” and encourage the international community to help bring an end to the crisis.
“May violence give way to dialogue, opposing factions leave aside particular interests and strive to ensure that every citizen, regardless of ethnicity or religion, can collaborate to build up the common good.”
Pope Francis then spoke about his visit on Sept. 13 to the Redipuglia region where he visited the Austrian-Hungarian cemetery and the Military Shrine and prayed for those who died during the First World War.
The “shocking” numbers of deaths — 8 million soldiers and 7 million civilians,” he said, leads us to “understand that war is madness, and humanity has yet to learn the lessons from this madness!”
Recalling the wars which have followed WWI over the past century, and which continue today, the Pope asked: “But when will we learn? When will we learn this lesson?”
Pope Francis concluded by inviting everyone “to look at the Crucified Christ to understand that hate and evil are defeated by forgiveness and goodness, to understand that the response of war only increases evil and death!”