Paul was not afraid to show this defeat and even this can enlighten our moments of darkness ...
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Life has failures and victories, and we shouldn’t be afraid to contemplate the cross as a sign of defeat, says Pope Francis.
The pope offered this reflection during his morning homily at Casa Santa Marta on this feast of the Triumph of the Cross.
“All that Jesus did during his life” failed on the cross, he said, and all the hope of his followers came to an end.
We must not be afraid to contemplate the cross as a moment of defeat, of failure. When Paul reflects on the mystery of Jesus Christ, he says some powerful things. He tells us that Jesus emptied himself, annihilated himself, was made sin to the end and took all our sins upon himself, all the sins of the world: He was a ‘rag,’ a condemned man. Paul was not afraid to show this defeat and even this can enlighten our moments of darkness, our moments of defeat. But the cross is also a sign of victory for us Christians.
The pope recalled that in the first Reading, the Book of Numbers tells of the moment during the Exodus when the people who complained “were punished by serpents.” This, he said, refers to the ancient serpent, Satan, the “Great Accuser.”
But, the pope continued, the Lord told Moses that the serpent that brought death would be raised and would bring salvation. Francis explained that this “is a prophecy.” In fact, he said, “having been made sin, Jesus defeated the author of sin, he defeated the serpent.” And Satan, the pope commented, was so happy on Good Friday “that he did not notice” the great trap of history in which he was to fall.
As the Fathers of the Church say, Pope Francis continued, Satan saw Jesus in such a bad state, and like a hungry fish that goes after the bait attached to the hook, he swallowed Him. “But in that moment,” the pope said, “he also swallowed His divinity because that was the bait attached to the hook.” At that moment, the pope said, Satan was destroyed forever. He has no strength. In that moment the cross became a sign of victory.”
“Our victory is the cross of Jesus, victory over our enemy, the ancient serpent, the Great Accuser,” the pope said. “We have been saved” by the cross, by the fact that Jesus chose to sink to the very lowest point, but with the power of divinity.”
Jesus said to Nicodemus: When I am lifted up I will draw all people to myself. Jesus was lifted up and Satan was destroyed. We must be attracted to the cross of Jesus: We must look at it because it gives us the strength to go forward. And the ancient serpent that was destroyed still barks, still threatens but, as the Fathers of the Church say, he is a chained dog: Do not approach him and he will not bite you; but if you try to caress him because you are attracted to him as if he were a puppy, prepare yourself, he will destroy you.
The devil is like a dog in chains, and he’ll bite if you draw close, says Pope Francis
Our life goes on, Pope Francis concluded, with Christ victorious and risen, and the Spirit he sends, but also it continues with that chained dog, the devil, “whom I must not draw close to because he will bite me.”
The cross teaches us that in life there is failure and victory. We must be capable of tolerating defeat, of bearing our failures patiently, even those of our sins because He paid for us. We must tolerate them in Him, asking forgiveness in Him, but never allowing ourselves to be seduced by this chained dog. It will be good if today, when we go home, we would take five, 10, 15 minutes in front of the crucifix, either the one we have in our house or on the rosary: Look at it, it is our sign of defeat, it provokes persecutions, it destroys us; it is also our sign of victory because it is where God was victorious.
A “little sermon” from the crucifix, and Satan’s conquest from a tree