Homily for the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, Year A 2014

Homily for the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, Year A 2014

Today is the Sunday that we talk about vocations, in particular to the religious life of priests and deacons, but remembering that we all have vocations with our own particular gifts of the Spirit that can make the functioning of our parish church run more smoothly, and allow us to share our gifts with others.

It is appropriate that today I am ordaining a deacon to the service of God, and that I am celebrating my first anniversary of my Episcopal ordination as well. Service, then, is a main theme of today.

It is also appropriate that the Reading from Paul, on the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross is all about service. God became a servant, a slave – Paul says, totally humbling himself, but through that act, that humbling act, was glorified. If there is a lesson to be learned from Christ’s emptying of himself is that we too need to be like Christ, humble ourselves and be a servant to our community of believers.

Paul’s writing today is full of irony. Our expectations of a God have been turned around, and as I so often remind you, God’s ways are not our ways. It is in service that we are glorified and exalted, not in show of power or wealth or influence. The more we can serve, the greater our glorification will be in the eyes of God.

As you know, in the spirit of St. Charles, our founder, our priests and deacons have to be self-sufficient in terms of supporting themselves. What we offer is service, not tied to earning potential or having to court the rich. We have the same financial problems as do most of our parishioners, and so it can be easier to identify with people and help them in their need. What we do as deacons and priests is to offer our service to the community, mostly in spiritual ways, but hopefully in other ways of support as well. The new deacon to be has been called to service and will become part of a community of like men and women who have been called to this vocation of service.

Our role model is Christ and our goal is to be perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect. Not an easy task because the bar is set so high, and while this is no different for any Christian, we feel called in a special way to serve this community in confessing Jesus Christ the Lord.

All of you Christians have callings – vocations – as well. Next week there will be a sign-up sheet of services to our community that I will ask you to consider. In the spirit of service that you see shown through this ordination today, I ask you to consider your calling, your talents, and to share them with this community , just as our new deacon is preparing to share his to serve you.

And now a quick look at the other two readings.The first reading and the Gospel today work together today because John saw a connection between the Hebrew and Christian Testaments with the story of Moses serving God by creating a serpent on a pole which was held high and saved all the people who looked at it.

Similarly, John says, the cross – a symbol of execution, a hated thing – became something that saved when Christ was lifted up on it for all to see. If the serpent on the stick gave life, how much more will Christ, like Moses with the hated stick, his tree, his cross, save all who look at it.

The cross, a symbol of torture, of execution, of criminality, becomes used by God to bring salvation to all the world. The ‘sign of the cross’ becomes the Catholic symbol of the Trinity and the victory over sin – glorifying the Savior that died on it for us. The sign of the cross can be something easily taken for granted because we do it so often. Take the time this week to think about it while you are doing it, remind yourself of the power of it, and what it has meant in your own life. As we continue with the ordination ceremony I ask you to reflect on service – what our new deacon  is doing with his life – and what you can do with yours. If any of you feel called to a ministerial service of priest or deacon, don’t be afraid of it, and please feel free to talk to me about it any time. God could be calling you, too. And think about the way you, too, can be of service to the community and sign our list next week.

And this is the Good News of the Cross that we are given today!

Bishop Ron Stephens

Pastor of St. Andrew’s Parish in Warrenton, VA

The Catholic Apostolic Church in North America (CACINA)

[You can purchase a complete Cycle A of Bishop Ron’s homilies, 75 of them, from amazon.com for $9.99 – “Teaching the Church Year”]

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