- Born on August 12, 1905
- Ordained priest on July 26, 1939
- Incardinated in the Diocese of Chur in 1950
- Nominated cardinal deacon on June 28, 1988 and assigned the title of S. Nicola in Carcere
- Died on June 26, 1988
Theology: June 2010 Archives
The Pope's homily on the role of the Cross in our theology was a good reminder of who are as a people of faith: merciful, loving, and hope-filled. Sin and death don't have the last word in life. It is sad that we don't remember this more often, clergy and laity alike. This homily made me reflect back on an experience I had a few weeks back when I was told a priest in this particular parish preached that Catholics are "Easter people" and not a "Good Friday people." Sorely misguided. On June 5th in Cyprus Pope Benedict celebrated the Votive Mass of the Holy Cross (praying the various votive Masses is a good and noble tradition when there is no specific liturgical memorial that particular day) when he acknowledged the work of devoted priests, brothers, sisters catechists and the lay movements in preaching and teaching the Truth. In the face of difficult and sometimes evil situations the Pope encouraged his congregation (and us) to base their (our) lives on the Cross. For Christians, the cross is not a failure but the symbol --the reality-- of mercy, forgiveness, faith, hope and joy. And it is the goal of priests and religious to conform their lives to their Cross because it is at the foot of the Cross that we know the full power of the Trinity's love for us. Plus, the Pope reminds us that we are not the center of the faith, Christ is: it is His wisdom and salvation we communicate to others, not our own.
Here are excerpts from the Pope's homily:
Beguiled by the serpent, Adam had foresaken his filial trust in God and sinned by biting into the fruit of the one tree in the garden that was forbidden to him. In consequence of that sin, suffering and death came into the world. The tragic effects of sin, suffering and death were all too evident in the history of Adam's descendants. We see this in our first reading today, with its echoes of the Fall and its prefiguring of Christ's redemption.
As a punishment for their sin, the people of Israel, languishing in the desert, were bitten by serpents and could only be saved from death by looking upon the emblem that Moses raised up, foreshadowing the Cross that would put an end to sin and death once and for all. We see clearly that man cannot save himself from the consequences of his sin. He cannot save himself from death. Only God can release him from his moral and physical enslavement. And because he loved the world so much, he sent his only-begotten Son, not to condemn the world - as justice seemed to demand - but so that through him the world might be saved. God's only-begotten Son had to be lifted up just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so that all who looked upon him with faith might have life.
The wood of the Cross became the vehicle for our redemption, just as the tree from which it was fashioned had occasioned the Fall of our first parents. Suffering and death, which had been a consequence of sin, were to become the very means by which sin was vanquished. The innocent Lamb was slain on the altar of the Cross, and yet from the immolation of the victim new life burst forth: the power of evil was destroyed by the power of self-sacrificing love.
The Cross, then, is something far greater and more mysterious than it at first appears. It is indeed an instrument of torture, suffering and defeat, but at the same time it expresses the complete transformation, the definitive reversal of these evils: that is what makes it the most eloquent symbol of hope that the world has ever seen. It speaks to all who suffer - the oppressed, the sick, the poor, the outcast, the victims of violence - and it offers them hope that God can transform their suffering into joy, their isolation into communion, their death into life. It offers unlimited hope to our fallen world.
That is why the world needs the Cross. The Cross is not just a private symbol of devotion, it is not just a badge of membership of a certain group within society, and in its deepest meaning it has nothing to do with the imposition of a creed or a philosophy by force. It speaks of hope, it speaks of love, it speaks of the victory of non-violence over oppression, it speaks of God raising up the lowly, empowering the weak, conquering division, and overcoming hatred with love. A world without the Cross would be a world without hope, a world in which torture and brutality would go unchecked, the weak would be exploited and greed would have the final word. Man's inhumanity to man would be manifested in ever more horrific ways, and there would be no end to the vicious cycle of violence. Only the Cross puts an end to it. While no earthly power can save us from the consequences of our sins, and no earthly power can defeat injustice at its source, nevertheless the saving intervention of our loving God has transformed the reality of sin and death into its opposite. That is what we celebrate when we glory in the Cross of our Redeemer. Rightly does Saint Andrew of Crete describe the Cross as "more noble, more precious than anything on earth [...] for in it and through it and for it all the riches of our salvation were stored away and restored to us" (Oratio X; PG 97, 1018-1019).
Dear brother priests, dear religious, dear catechists, the message of the Cross has been entrusted to us, so that we can offer hope to the world. When we proclaim Christ crucified we are proclaiming not ourselves, but him. We are not offering our own wisdom to the world, nor are we claiming any merit of our own, but we are acting as channels for his wisdom, his love, his saving merits. We know that we are merely earthenware vessels, and yet, astonishingly, we have been chosen to be heralds of the saving truth that the world needs to hear. Let us never cease to marvel at the extraordinary grace that has been given to us, let us never cease to acknowledge our unworthiness, but at the same time let us always strive to become less unworthy of our noble calling, lest through our faults and failings we weaken the credibility of our witness.
In this Year for Priests, let me address a special word to the priests present today, and to those who are preparing for ordination. Reflect on the words spoken to a newly ordained priest as the Bishop presents him with the chalice and paten: "Understand what you do, imitate what you celebrate, and conform your life to the mystery of the Lord's Cross". As we proclaim the Cross of Christ, let us always strive to imitate the selfless love of the one who offered himself for us on the altar of the Cross, the one who is both priest and victim, the one in whose person we speak and act when we exercise the ministry that we have received. As we reflect on our shortcomings, individually and collectively, let us humbly acknowledge that we have merited the punishment that he, the innocent Lamb, suffered on our behalf. And if, in accordance with what we have deserved, we should have some share in Christ's sufferings, let us rejoice because we will enjoy a much greater gladness when his glory is revealed.
Watch the YouTube clip on the teaching of Pope Benedict on the Cross