Pope Francis presides over Mass for Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross at EXPO grounds in Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan, says from Jesus crucified Christians learn ‘love, not hate’ ; compassion, not indifference; forgiveness, not revenge.
By Christopher Wells
Although representing less than 1% of the country’s population, members of Kazakhstan’s small Catholic community turned out in their thousands to attend Mass presided over by Pope Francis at the EXPO center in Nur-Sultan on Wednesday.
Although “the Cross is a gibbet of death”, Pope Francis said in his homily“we are celebrating today [the Feast of] the Exaltation of the Cross of Christ, for on his stick Jesus took upon himself all our sins and the evil of the world, and conquered them by his love.
Snakes that bite and a snake that saves
The pope reflected on the contrasting images of “biting serpents” and “a serpent that saves,” drawn from the reading of the Book of Numbers. As they journeyed through the desert to the Holy Land, the Israelites lost their trust in God and His promises and were bitten by deadly serpents.
“The first part of the story,” Pope Francis said, “asks us to look closely at those times in our own personal and communal lives when our trust in the Lord and in each other failed.” It is also reminiscent of “other kinds of painful ‘bites'” that Kazakhstan has suffered, including violence, persecution of atheists and attacks on individual freedom and human dignity.
The pope said, “Peace is never achieved once and for all”, and insisted that “commitment is required from all if Kazakhstan is to continue to grow in ‘brotherhood, dialogue and understanding”.
Keep our gaze fixed on Jesus
This, the pope said, is the second image of the day’s reading: “the serpent that saves.” God, he continued, “does not destroy the base and worthless things that men and women choose to pursue.” Instead, Jesus comes among us, lifted up on the Cross like the serpent of brass that Moses lifted up in the desert.
“In the face of our misery, God gives us a new horizon,” said Pope Francis. “If we keep our gaze fixed on Jesus, the sting of evil can no longer overcome us, for on the Cross He took upon Himself the venom of sin and death, and crushed their destructive power.”
The Holy Father said that “the way to our salvation, our rebirth and our resurrection” is “to contemplate the crucified Christ”.
From the Cross, he continued, Christians learn “love, not hate; compassion, not indifference; forgiveness, not revenge. Christ on the Cross also shows us “the embrace of the tender love of God” and “the fraternal love that we are called to have for one another and for everyone”.
Concluding his homily, Pope Francis insisted that Christians must be “reborn from the pierced side of Jesus crucified”. And he prayed that “we may be freed from the poison of death” and “that, by God’s grace, we may become ever more fully Christians: joyful witnesses to new life, love and peace”. .