In order to follow the path of Christian life, one must follow Christ, who humbled himself to save us.
This was the central theme of Pope Francis’ homily this morning at Casa Santa Marta. According to Vatican Radio, among those present at today’s Mass were members of the Council of Cardinals who are advising the Holy Father in the governance of the Church and the reform of the Roman Curia.
The Pope, recalling today’s Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross, reflected on the suffering endured by Christ out of love for mankind.
Today’s first reading recalled the people of Israel in the desert, who after being poisoned by serpents, were cured after looking at a bronze serpent mounted by Moses. The Holy Father reflected on the biblical image of the serpent, known for “seducing and enchanting.” This image of the serpent wasn’t something new, the Pope said, but rather “it was in the consciousness of the people of Israel.”
The bronze serpent, the Holy Father continued, did not only serve as an image but also as a prophecy. In today’s Gospel, Jesus said to Nicodemus: “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.”
“But why has the Lord taken this image that is so ugly, so evil?” the Pope asked. “Simply because He came to take upon Himself all of our sins and become the greatest sinner without having committed any [sin]. And Paul tells us: ‘He made Himself sin for us’, taking the image, ‘He made himself a serpent.’ It is ugly! He made Himself sin to save us, this is what the message of the today’s Liturgy of Word means, the path of Jesus.”
Humility: The Path of Christian Life
Continuing his homily, Pope Francis reflected on St. Paul’s Letter to the Philippians in which the Apostle says that Christ “humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross.”
This description, the 78-year-old Pontiff said, is the path of those who wish to follow a Christian life.
“When we look at Jesus on the Cross, there are some beautiful paintings, but the reality is another: He was all torn, bleeding from our sins,” he explained.
“This is the path He has taken to conquer the serpent in his field. Look at the Cross of Jesus, but not those artistic crosses, beautifully painted: look at the reality, what the cross was at that time. And look at His path and at God, who destroyed Himself, who lowered Himself to save us. This is also the path of the Christian. If a Christian wants to go forward on the path of Christian life, he must lower himself, as Jesus lowered Himself. It is the path of humility, yes, but also to take upon himself the humiliation as Jesus carried it.”
Concluding his homily, Pope Francis called on the faithful present to pray for the grace to weep in gratitude “to our God who loved us so much that He sent His Son to lower Himself and destroy Himself to save us.”