Pope Francis warned against the use of religion for partisan ends, saying that the cross should not be used as a political symbol.
“Let us not reduce the cross to an object of devotion, much less to a political symbol, to a sign of religious and social status,” said Pope Francis in his homily in a Byzantine rite in Slovakia on September 14.
The pontiff spoke about Christian identity, noting that crosses and crucifixes were often used superficially by Christians around their necks, on walls in their homes, in their cars and in their pockets.
“What good is this, unless we stop to look at the crucified Jesus and open our hearts to him,” he said.
In his homily, Pope Francis posed the question: “Why did Jesus die on the Cross?”
“Why did he do this? He could have saved his life, he could have kept his distance from the misery and brutality of human history,” he said.
“Instead, he chose to enter into that history, to immerse himself in it. That is why he chose the most difficult way possible: the Cross. So that no one on earth should ever be so desperate as not to be able to find him, even there, in the midst of anguish, darkness, abandonment, the scandal of his or her own misery and mistakes.”
“There, to the very place we think God cannot be present, there he came. To save those who despair, he himself chose to taste despair; taking upon himself our most bitter anguish,” he said.
“‘We proclaim Christ crucified … the power of God and the wisdom of God.’ So St. Paul tells us, but he does not hide the fact that, in terms of human wisdom, the Cross appears as something completely different: it is ‘scandal’ and ‘foolishness,’” the pope said in his homily.
“The cross was an instrument of death, yet it became the source of life. It was a horrendous sight, yet it revealed to us the beauty of God’s love. That is why, in today’s feast, the people of God venerate the Cross and the Liturgy celebrates it.”
The Catholic Church marked the feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross on Sept. 13. The observance dates back to the 4th century, when the solemn consecration of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre took place on Sept. 13, 335, at the site of Christ’s crucifixion in Jerusalem.
“We can fail to accept, except perhaps in words, a weak and crucified God, and prefer instead to dream of a God who is powerful and triumphant. This is a great temptation,” Pope Francis said.
“How often do we long for a Christianity of winners, a triumphalist Christianity that is important and influential, that receives glory and honor? Yet a Christianity without a cross is a worldly Christianity, and shows itself to be sterile.”