Here you will find the full text of the homily the Pope gave on Wednesday at his mass in Nur-Sultan (Kazakhstan).
All of the Pope’s pronouncements are published in their official version on the Vatican’s website.
number. 3 The Blessing of the Holy Father
Divine Liturgy on the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross
Nur-Sultan September 14, 2022
The cross is the instrument of death, yet on this feast day we celebrate the glorification of the cross of Christ. Because on this tree Jesus took our sins and the evil of the world upon Himself and defeated them with His love. That is why we celebrate the Holy Cross. The word of God that we have heard tells us about this, as it contrasts on the one hand between snakes that bite and on the other, the snake that saves. Let’s stop at these two pictures.
First: snake bite. They attack people who have fallen into the sin of murmuring for the thousandth time. Complaining about God is not just insulting and grumbling about him. This actually means that the confidence in him in the hearts of the Israelites, in his promise, has disappeared. In fact, the people of God wander in the desert towards the Promised Land, tired and exhausted from their journey (cf. Numbers 21, 4). So he loses heart, loses hope, and at some point it feels like forgetting the promise of the Lord. These people no longer had the strength to believe that he would lead them to a rich and fertile land.
It is no coincidence that at the moment when people lose faith in God, they are bitten by deadly snakes. They evoke the first serpent mentioned in the Bible in Genesis, the tempter who poisons the human heart and makes him doubt God. In fact, Satan in a living form seduces Adam and Eve and sows distrust of them and convinces them that God is not good and that he is jealous of their freedom and happiness. And now, in the desert, the serpents return, the “fire serpents” (v. 6); That is, the original sin returns: the Israelites doubt God, distrust Him, grumble, rebel against Him who gave them life, and thus face death. So this is what leads to suspicion in the heart!
Dear brothers and sisters, this first part of the story invites us to look closely at the moments in our personal and societal history when trust in the Lord and in others has waned. How many times have we dried up in our deserts, frustrated and impatient, oblivious to the purpose of the road! Even in this great country there are deserts, beautiful landscapes, but at the same time they tell us about the hardship and drought that we sometimes carry in our hearts. These are the moments of weariness and adversity when we do not have the strength to look to God; These are the situations of personal, ecclesiastical and social life in which we are bitten by the serpent of distrust that instills in us the poison of disappointment, despair, pessimism and surrender, closing us in on ourselves and stifling enthusiasm.
But in the history of this country there were other painful bites. I think of the fiery serpents of violence, atheist persecution, and religious persecution, and I think of the sometimes arduous path that threatens people’s freedom and violates their dignity. It is good for us to keep the memory of what we experienced. It is better not to erase some dark event from our memory, otherwise we may come to the idea that it is yesterday’s news and that the path of good is set once and for all. No, peace is not achieved once and for all, it must be earned anew every day, just as the coexistence of different ethnic groups and religious traditions, comprehensive development and social justice. And in order for Kazakhstan to grow further “in brotherhood, dialogue and understanding”, “which are indispensable conditions for building “bridges” of solidarity with other peoples, nations and cultures” (Johannes Paul II, Speech at the Welcome Ceremony, September 22, 2001), the commitment of all is required. Nevertheless, first of all, it is necessary to make a renewed faith in the Lord: to look up, to look up to Him, to learn from His universal love, and from His devotion on the cross.
This brings us to the second picture: the snake that saves. And when people were dying from the python of fire, God heard the intercession of Moses and said to him: Make yourself a fire serpent and hang it on a pillar! Whoever bites it lives by looking at it” (Numbers 21:8). Indeed, “If someone is bitten by a serpent and looks at the brass serpent, he will live” (verse 9). However, we might ask: Instead of giving Moses these detailed instructions, Why didn’t God simply eliminate venomous snakes?This way of acting reveals to us His dealings with evil, sin and human mistrust.Then as now, in the great spiritual war that is going on throughout history to the end, God does not destroy the evil in which man freely indulges: Poisonous snakes don’t go away, they are still there, they are waiting, they can always bite.So what has changed, what does God do?
Jesus explains this in the Gospel: “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, so that everyone who believes may have eternal life” (John 3:14-15). This is the turning point: the serpent has come to us, Jesus, glorified on the cross, not allowing the poisonous snakes that attack us to lead us to death. God meets our right to give us a new sublimity. When we set our eyes on Jesus, the bites of evil can no longer harm us, because he took upon himself the poison of sin and death on the cross and defeated his destructive power. This is what the Father did in the face of the spread of evil in the world. Jesus, who gave us his closeness in a way we could never have imagined, “made sin for us who did not know sin, that we might become the righteousness of God in him” (2 Corinthians 5:21). This is the infinite grandeur of divine mercy: Jesus who “made himself to sin” for us, Jesus who on the cross – we might say – “made himself a serpent” so that, looking at him, we could withstand the bites of evil, poisonous snakes that attack us.
Brothers and sisters, this is the only way to our salvation, rebirth and resurrection: to look at the crucified Jesus. From this height we can see our lives and the history of our peoples in a new way. Because from the cross of Christ we learn to love, not to hate. We learn compassion, not indifference; We learn forgiveness, not revenge. The outstretched arms of Jesus are the gentle embrace with which God wants to accept our lives. They show us brothers that we must live among each other. It shows us the way, the Christian way: not the way of imposition and compulsion, of power and importance, nor of the way in which the Cross of Christ is used against the other brothers and sisters for whom he gave his life! The way of Jesus, the way of salvation, is different: it is the way of humble, free and universal love, without “ifs” and “but.”
Yes, because on the cross, Christ removed the poison from the serpent of evil, and to be a Christian means to live without poison: not to bite each other, not to grumble, not to accuse each other, not to gossip, not to spread evil deeds that do not pollute the world with sin and the suspicion that comes from evil. . Brothers and sisters, we are born again from the side of Jesus opened on the cross. There is no poison of death in us (see Wisdom 1, 14). Instead, let us pray that by God’s grace we may become more and more Christians: joyful witnesses to new life, love and peace.
(vatican news – sk)