Rev. Leo M. Goodman III
Today we celebrate the triumph of the Cross. What does that mean to you? Seriously, what does the triumph of the cross mean to you?
Think about it, the cross, an unbelievable method of capital punishment. Someone had to think it up. Someone had to decide that it would be appropriate as a form of punishment to hang a body up; they had to think of a cruel way to fix a living body there. In thinking it up, someone was actually seeking to inflict a long and tortuous death.
Death could result from many things: loss of blood, dehydration, but most often asphyxiation, where it was just too painful, too exhausting to breathe anymore. And all the while it was a public death. You were naked, humiliated, and exposed to the passing crowds who would hurl out insults about criminals deserving what they get. Someone invented crucifixion with a diabolical creativity. And then, society bought into it. Yeah, we as a society are going to torture, humiliate, make an example of, and kill those WE JUDGE to be criminal. And the cross was successful in carrying out all these things in the most inhumane, sinful, diabolical way ever conceived. Without Christ, the triumph of the cross is the triumph of evil in the world, evil in society, evil in humanity.
Our theme for the school year is "RESPECT." Any one of us here can come up with a whole host of things that WE as a community should focus onÖ WE should respect life, we should respect others, we should respect authority, we should respect property, we should respect our bodies... Yes, we should do all of these things. But in this the first homily of the year, Iím not going to talk about we should do, but rather I want to focus on the fact that for most of us whatís important is not what we should do, but rather what "YOU should do".
"Why should I respect you when you disrespect ("dis") me? You should respect me. You should respect my authority, my freedom. You should respect my body, my space, my property." And when you donít, when you disrespect me, "Iím ticked; Iím angry; Iím getting revenge. When you disrespect me, Iím surprised; Iím shocked."
Look at the Cross! "Iím shocked when they disrespect me." This is the ultimate act of disrespect. This is the depth to which we can go in our sinfulness. This is what fallen humanity is capable of doing to an innocent man. And "Iím shocked when people disrespect me with all of my faults." This is what we, humanity, are capable of doing to the Son of God, and "Iím shocked that people disrespect my authority, my freedom." How can I be shocked? We disrespect God when we fail to fall to our knees in His presence, when we donít even acknowledge Godís presence by genuflecting when we enter the Chapel, yet I expect others to bow to me and my feelings; I expect people to respect me. It shouldnít be an eye opener to anyone one of us, but we live in cruel world, and we as a people can be extremely disrespectful and hurtful to one another.
Itís only when we acknowledge this, when we stop acting surprised and scandalized by the fact that we can be disrespected, that we can truly understand the Triumph of the Cross! Whatís the Triumph of the Cross? The Triumph of the Cross is that in the midst of our sinfulness, in response to the most diabolical act of disrespect to God, Jesus didnít say, "To Hell with you!í Not that we didnít deserve that. No the triumph of the Cross is that from the agony of the Cross Christ says to us, "Father forgive them, they know not what they do." "You have no idea how much you disrespect me, but I love you. Iím not surprised; I know you are sinners. Iím not angry; I love you. Iím not going to get revenge; I forgive you." This is the Triumph of the Cross. God didnít send the Son into the world to condemn the world. God sent his Son to save us, save us from ourselves, from the insanity of the worldís ways, from the evil that we are capable of. This is the Triumph of the Cross. Look at it, and believe. Life from Death!
Yes, our theme this year is RESPECT. My prayer is that we do grow as a community in our love and respect of one another, that we become a more gentle community, that people can look at the community of Bishop McDevitt and know we are his disciples by our love for one another. But letís get this clear from the start. People are going to disrespect me. Itís reality in a sinful world. Iím not excusing it or condoning it, and neither should you, but Iím going to try to forgive it. Iím going to forgive them and try with all my energy and with the grace of God to love them and respect them.
Iím sorry, but itís reality. People are going to disrespect you, and Iím going to ask you to forgive them, respect them, love them. I know; it sounds insane. But this is how God loves us, and Iím just asking us to do what Christ asks of us, "Love one another, as I have loved you." Do this and know the Triumph of the Cross.