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  • Saturday: 8:30 AM (English)

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St. Alphonsus statue photo

Easter 2012: Our Steeple Cross
Fr. Hurlbert's Homily

The Cross now in our sanctuary has been in the shop for restoration ever since it came down from the steeple in the fall. This Cross has been battered by hail and wind and struck by lightning who knows how many thousands of times. You can see a lightning rod sticking up from the back, which channels thousands of volts of electricity into the ground through massive copper wire running from it's peak into the earth. In a sense, the Cross is a giant lightning rod, just like the faith it silently proclaims.

For 120 years, it had remained solid on its perch. When it was placed there, Leo XIII was Pope, and it stood there through reigns of his nine successors. Benjamin Harrison was the President in 1892, and the Cross was there through the Administrations of his twenty-one successors. Redemptorist FatherJohn Henry Shagemann was pastor. In fact, he built this church. I am the 28th pastor of St. Alphonsus since then.

Who knows how many hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, of people have looked up at it to draw comfort and consolation during two World Wars, during the Great Depression, during other wars, during times of personal grief and loss? This Cross stayed there, solid on its perch, even as the church below burned in the devastating fire of 1950.

It can be seen from the highway, from the L, from miles away.

In a few weeks, we will hoist this Cross 260 feet into the air, and mount it there, as a way of proclaiming to the city and to the world that Jesus is the Lord of Life because he has defeated death. This Cross is both the sign of God's suffering, and the trophy of his victory!

For those who believe in the resurrection of Jesus, death is sad and may be painful, but it is ultimately nothing more than an inconvenience, from the perspective of the person dying. It is, of course, different for those who mourn and grieve. But, from the perspective of the dead person, it is merely an inconvenience. Death has no power over us!

The Cross of Jesus was a kind of lightning rod when it was first planted into the ground with Jesus nailed to it, and the Christian faith remains a lightning rod in our own time, for the presence of the Risen one can be menacing to those who do not embrace his gift of peace. It can be scary to those who have grown comfortable living in darkness, or who are afraid of being overwhelmed by the light. The darkness hates the light, and in our world the battle continues to bring Christ's message

No one should dare leave here today with just a warm fuzzy feeling. The stirring music and beautiful setting are not meant to entertain you. You must leave not just motivated and inspired, but renewed in your commitment to Jesus and to your Catholic faith.

You are charged to bring this message into your family life, and your workplace. It must influence every choice that you make, every action that you take. There should be no aspect of your life that is not touched by the message proclaimed here today

Our Cross serves to proclaim Christ, but it is indeed a lightning rod, in both a literal and a figurative sense. If you hold onto that Cross, then have no doubt: the electrical charge of the lightning is going to pass through you. Forty days ago, many of us spent the day walking around with a cross pressed into our foreheads, crosses formed from the dust of burned palm branches used to hail the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem. We wear crosses around our necks, and tattoo them into the flesh of our arms. We mount them on the walls of our bedrooms, and hang them over the bodies of our beloved dead as they lie in a casket at the funeral home.

The final insult has been overcome, freeing us to live not in fear but in hope. Displaying the cross publicly is a way of flaunting our hope.

We have no problem boasting that Christ is Risen.

Indeed, he is Risen.