ORLANDO – The love of Jesus Christ radiated from Myrna Rodriguez as she prayerfully approached the altar at Good Shepherd Parish Sept. 14, 2014, the feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, to venerate a relic of the True Cross. Tears filled her eyes and silent prayers spilled from her lips as she kissed the reliquary, housing a small fragment of the cross Jesus died on.
"All around we have crucifixes as symbols of Jesus' sacrifice for us, but this is the True Cross. This is part of the actual cross he died on," Rodriguez said. "I am overcome with emotions when I think about what he did for me. I cannot thank him enough. This was a humbling experience." In celebration of the feast, the faithful of the parish had the opportunity to venerate a relic after the midmorning English and the evening Spanish Masses.
A Gift from Two La Salette Missionaries
Good Shepherd Parish is blessed to have four relics of the True Cross on its premises. One relic, housed in an ornate reliquary, was donated to the parish by the Missionaries of Our Lady of La Salette, the religious order of the priests serving the parish, when the new church building was dedicated last year. The remaining relics, housed in simple reliquaries, were entrusted to La Salette Father Joseph O'Neil, pastor, by two dear friends: Brother Raymond Aubin, M.S., and Brother Peter Collins, M.S., of the religious order, upon their deaths.
"It is a great honor to offer the relic to the people, especially on the feast of the Holy Cross as well as Good Friday," Father O'Neil said. "In the humblest sense, not only is it an honor, but a privilege as well. My hope is that this will bring the people closer to God."
The Cross of the Christ has become the Tree of Life
The True Cross is the name for physical remnants that, by Christian tradition, are believed to be from the cross upon which Jesus was crucified. We venerate the relic of the True Cross because it was the instrument on which Our Lord made his supreme sacrifice for our salvation. It was soaked in his most precious blood, and through this we recognize that the cross of Christ has become the Tree of Life.
The feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross celebrates two historical events – the discovery of the True Cross by St. Helena and the dedication in A.D. 335 of the basilica and shrine built on Calvary by Constantine, which marks the site of the Crucifixion. However the feast, more than anything else, is a celebration and commemoration of Jesus' greatest work – his death on the cross and his resurrection.
"Today is a day of lifting up for you and me," Deacon Jorge Garcia said during the homily at Good Shepherd. "By Jesus being nailed to the cross and lifted up, he has united earth with heaven and has raised us up with him from the earth to the glory of heaven. That is the reality of the cross."
Pope Francis on the Cross
During the celebration of Mass on April 8 in his residence, Pope Francis spoke on the relationship between Christianity and the cross and our own sins:
"The cross is not an ornament that we must always put in the churches, there on the altar. It is not a symbol that distinguishes us from others," he said. "The cross is mystery, the mystery of God who humbles himself, he becomes 'nothing.' He becomes sin.
"Your sin is there, in the cross. Go and find it there, in the wounds of the Lord and your sins will be he¬aled, your wounds will be healed, your sins will be forgiven," he continued. "The forgiveness that God gives us is not the same as cancelling a debt that we have with him; the forgiveness that God gives us are the wounds of his Son on the cross, raised up on the cross. May he draw us toward him and may we allow ourselves to be healed by him."