Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, September 14
May Each of Us Never Lose Sight of the Cross Which Saves, the Cross Which Heals, the Cross Which Invites Each of Us to Share in the Eternal Glory of the Divine Son.
“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish, but might have eternal life.” – words in today’s Gospel which speak of the profound Love which God has for each of us, and His desire that we spend our eternity with Him in His Heavenly Kingdom.
Today, we celebrate the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross. The symbol of the Cross of Jesus Christ is always before us: we see it on the tops or the front of many religious buildings; we see it inside the buildings of different Christian denominations and behind the altars of our Catholic Churches; it hangs from our Rosary beads, and we see it as decoration on many different pieces of jewelry.
And with the symbol of the Cross almost always before us, it is only natural that we start to become somewhat complacent as to its meaning or impact it has in our daily lives. And sadly, a few people, especially in the entertainment industry, have even taken the Cross and abused its symbolism and all that it stands for.
When you and I look upon the Cross, or upon a Crucifix with the image of Jesus’s body hanging from it, what do we see? Or, more importantly, what do we feel? I know that when we look at a carved or painted image of the corpus of Christ hanging from a wooden beam – in other words, the body of Jesus – the image is very much sanitized in our minds.
But for those of us who remember a few years ago viewing Mel Gibson’s movie, The Passion of the Christ, the movie presented what could best be described as horrific realism as crucifixions were historically understood under Roman rule.
Based upon considerable research, the agony of the sufferings leading up to the death of Christ, which the movie portrayed, came about as close to reality as one could film or present to the viewer, without the film becoming too explicit or excessive in its portrayal of nakedness and violent realism! Yet, the Roman rule was renowned for its excessive use of violence and subjection of its victims to shame in its use of the cross for both men and women!
I know that many people came out of the movie theater with a much deeper and more profound understanding and appreciation of Divine Love, for the sufferings of Christ and His Cross speak to us of the immeasurable Love which our Lord has for each and every one of us!
And Jesus is explaining to Nicodemus, in today’s Gospel, “…just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.”
In our First Reading from the Book of Numbers, God told Moses, “Make a saraph and mount it on a pole, and if any who have been bitten look at it, they will live.” The people of Moses’ day were tired and bitter about traveling through the dessert. And their complaints brought about God’s anger.
A saraph was the Hebrew name for a certain species of venomous snake; the word probably signifies “the fiery one”, since one would suffer greatly from the burning effect of its poisonous bite – suffering to the point of even death in most cases!
But God also relented in His punishment by hearing the prayers of His people and telling Moses to raise a bronze saraph, mounted on a pole, so that anyone who was bitten, if he or she should gaze upon it, would recover and live. As a result, God showed His Mercy to the Jewish people who were repentant of their sins and they would be physically healed.
The Son of Man, being lifted up upon His Cross, also gives us healing, not so much healing of the body, but healing of the spirit, healing of the soul.
And it is through His Death, a death which He freely accepted, which has given to you and me life – not the life with which we struggle in this world, but a life which is eternal, a life which is filled with lasting peace, happiness and joy which cannot be described adequately in human terms.
Saint Paul tells us in our Second Reading, “…though he was in the form of God, [Jesus] did not regard equality with God something to be grasped. Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross.”
It is oftentimes difficult to even begin to comprehend the immeasurable Love which God has for you and me, a Divine Love which brought Him, in the Person of the Divine Son, to this world, a Love which took Him away from the awesomeness and glory of His Divine Throne, so as to take upon Himself our humanity, a humanity which would, one day, lead Him to a horrific and agonizing death.
Are you and I able to love each other anywhere near that much? Can we remove from ourselves the pettiness and the selfishness which destroys or belittles our ability to love selflessly and to love each other freely? Can we love without placing terms or restrictions on that love – a love which is as pure and beautiful as the Love which God has for each of us?
I know that, in our human weaknesses, in the shortcomings which sometimes fill our hearts, we find this ability to love as Christ loves lacking within us.
And yet, it IS in our weak human nature which gives God even greater glory, for as our psalmist tells us in today’s Responsorial, “Do not forget the works of the Lord! [For God] being merciful, forgave their sin and destroyed them not; Often he turned back his anger and let none of his wrath be roused.”
For it is in the very Merciful Nature of our God which compels each of us, together with all the Angelic Hosts, whenever hearing the Most Holy Name of Jesus Christ that, as Saint Paul tells us today, “…every knee should bend, of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
I am sure that when we stop and take the time to truly reflect upon the meaning of the Cross, God’s saving Love for both you and me, we must truly be thankful to our Heavenly Father for giving us not only the gift of life, but also the gift of faith in His Son, and the invitation to share in His Son’s Eternal Glory as co-heirs of His Kingdom.
How can we not be thankful for such a call to holiness and eternal joy?!
May each of us never lose sight of the Cross which saves, the Cross which heals. May we never lose sight of the invitation which God the Father, through His Son Jesus, extends to each and every one of us, His children, as Jesus explains to Nicodemus in today’s Gospel:
“…so that everyone who believes in him might not perish, but might have eternal life.” †
Please Comment, Like and Share, and Suggest to your Facebook friends – to spread the message of God’s Merciful Love.
Por favor Comente, Le Gusta y Comparta, y Sugiera a tus amigos en Facebook – en difundir el mensaje del Misericordioso Amor de Dios.
Scripture for the Day
- “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him.” (John 3:16-17)
- “And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.” (John 3:14-15)
- “And the LORD said to Moses: ‘Make a saraph and mount it on a pole, and if any who have been bitten look at it, they will live.’ Accordingly Moses made a bronze serpent and mounted it on a pole, and whenever the serpent bit someone, the person looked at the bronze serpent and recovered.” (Numbers 21:8-9)
- “…though he was in the form of God, [Jesus] did not regard equality with God something to be grasped. Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross.” (Philippians 2:6-8)
- “Do not forget the works of the Lord! …But God being compassionate forgave their sin; he did not utterly destroy them. Time and again he turned back his anger, unwilling to unleash all his rage. He remembered that they were flesh, a breath that passes on and does not return.” (Psalm 78:7b, 38-39)
- “In this way the love of God was revealed to us: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might have life through him.” (1 John 4:9)
- “…I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.” (John 11:25-26a)
- “…at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:10-11)
Prayer for the Day
“O Cross of Christ, immortal tree
On which our Savior died,
The world is sheltered by your arms
That bore the Crucified.
“From bitter death and barren wood
The tree of life is made;
Its branches bear unfailing Fruit
And leaves that never fade.
“O faithful Cross, you stand unmoved
While ages run their course;
Foundation of the universe,
Creation’s binding force.
“Give glory to the Risen ChristBenedictines of Stanbrook Abbey
And to His Cross give praise,
The sign of God’s unfathomed Love,
The hope of all our days.”