because by your Holy Cross, You have redeemed the world.
Yesterday’s Church feast of the Exaltation of the Cross reminded me of a beautiful scene from last week’s West Indian Day Parade and the Diocese of Brooklyn’s necessary presence there.
At times the annual parade looks a lot like a tamed version of Mardi Gras. Lots of colors. Lots of costumes. Lots of music, dance, and food. Unfortunately, the celebration of Mardi Gras (the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday) has been corrupted in many places to become a scandalous celebration rather than one honoring the glorious gifts of the Lord and our diverse, beautiful cultures. And we must admit, many of the costumes and behaviours surrounding the West-Indian Day Parade have been infected with the same spirit. Some tasteless, offensive music and many tasteless, offensive costumes leave a lot to be desired (and little to the imagination).
During his homily at the West-Indian Day Mass in the morning, Fr. St. Charles Borno, a Haitian priest of the diocese, spoke about the Catholic community’s need to give convincing testimony to Jesus’ transforming power in our lives. That is the reason for our very presence in this world and especially at a parade which isn’t known for its Christian character. We were present to make known the Real Presence in our souls. Beyond the proud glitz and glamor of various cultural backgrounds (as beautiful and necessary as they are) we were united in Jesus, bound to His Cross and in His Church.
The most powerful witness came from a two or three-year-old child in the diocese’s parade group. He was being carried by his mother. As she greeted Bishop Nicholas, the boy reached out for his pectoral cross –an ornamented gold cross worn around the neck by bishops as one of the signs of their role as chief shepherd (i.e. chief servant, chief cross-bearer) of the diocese. I thought the child was only interested in the gleam of sunlight which bounced off of what he perceived to be a toy. But as the bishop handed the cross over to the boy, the child grasped it, kissed it, and placed it back in the bishop’s hands.
He understood nothing about the role of bishop. He could not have possibly been able to assess the monetary value of this golden jewelery. All that child knew is what his mother had taught him: when you see the cross, you kiss it. She had taught and is still teaching him to see through glitz and glamor to reality, to the Cross, and the beautiful, inexplicable mysteries therein contained.
To be a part of the diocese’s presence at the parade was so important because it was a truly sacerdotal moment –a moment to re-present to the people the joy of loving and living with God. I pray they were able to see the gilded Cross in splendor but also through it– to the deep of Truth which courses through its wood.