by Most Reverend Michael Fr. Burbidge of Raleigh, NC, 2007
Whenever we gather for the celebration of Mass, we are powerfully reminded of the unity that is ours. We are privileged to offer praise and worship to God, Undivided Unity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We celebrate the Eucharist, the Source of Unity, the one bread that unites as one body, brothers and sisters in Christ. We gather as the holy people of God united to the bishop and his priests.
My brothers and sisters, our diocese must be known for its unity. It is my hope and prayer that we grow together in (1) recognizing, appreciating and celebrating our holy Catholic faith in all its beauty and richness; (2) deepening our love for and devotion to the Most Blessed Sacrament; (3) experiencing a renewed reverence and respect for the celebration of the Sacred Liturgy; and (4) increasing our love for one another. Such a way of living reflects the Holy Father’s vision that our one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church will continue on a path of reform and renewal.
On this Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, our unity is pronounced. All of us, without exception, share in the sufferings of Jesus Christ. We all know what it means to carry the cross of Christ: the cross of physical or emotional suffering (either our own or that of someone we love); the cross of grieving the death of someone dear to us; the cross of being betrayed or rejected by someone we love; the cross of family burdens, professional difficulties or personal problems; the cross of addiction or of a particular sin that has a firm hold on us — and the list continues.
Yet, we do not despair. We are not alone. The Letter to the Philippians speaks of the depth of Christ’s sacrifice: His emptying of Himself, His taking on the powerlessness of a slave, becoming obedient unto death, even death on the cross. There is nothing we experience in our lives, except sin, that Jesus did not experience: false judgment, persecution, betrayal, physical and emotional punishment and suffering. Yet, through it all, He submitted to the will of the Father and trusted completely in His abiding presence. Thus, His suffering did not end in defeat. God greatly exalted Him and the Son of Man was lifted up. He proved victorious, and His victory is ours. No wonder we sing, “Lift High the Cross.”
As we gather on this solemn occasion, we give thanks to God for His countless blessings upon the Church, our diocese and each one of us. We also pray at this Mass for the grace we need to reflect always the unity that is ours, and to embrace our sufferings with deep faith in God’s mercy, and in the sure and certain hope that by dying He destroyed our death and by rising He restored our life. This is why we celebrate the feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross. This is why we proclaim, “We adore You, O Christ, and we praise You, because by Your holy cross You have redeemed the world.”
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