The feast of the Exultation of the Holy Cross takes precedence in our celebration this weekend at liturgy. Celebrated on the 14th of September each year, it allows us to "lift high the cross" in our life of faith as we celebrate the Lordship of Jesus Christ in our lives. I shared a few of the following thoughts at the Masses this weekend.
The cross is the strangest symbol and a sign of hope and goodness and love for the world. It was and is a degrading form of execution in the world. For the Roman citizen, even notorious criminals and murders condemned to death, crucifixion was beneath their dignity, it was so horrible and degrading. And yet crucifixion continue to be used to put people to death, with reports recently of ISIS crucifying Christians and others in Iraq. Not a beautiful symbol for our homes or around our necks. Could you imagine a picture of a hangman's noose or a chopping block or a lethal injection apparatus hanging in your home or on a chain around your neck? What makes the cross so different and allows us to exalt in it is the great act of sacrifice and love that took place on the tree of the cross two thousand years ago. When Jesus embraced the cross out of love for you and me and brought sin and death to that tree, it was forever transformed. From an object of abjection it became a sign of hope. From darkness and death it became light and life. When we gaze upon Christ crucified and are reminded of his sacrifice and death for us embraced in pure love and selflessness, we are reminded of our continued hardness of heart and sinfulness but also of God's mercy and love.
Just as with Moses and the people of God in our reading from Numbers today, when the serpents entered the camp and brought death with their bites to the hard hearted people who rejected the gifts of God, God instructed Moses to make an image of the serpent - an image that would remind the people of their sin and its results, and to lift that serpent high on a pole. When those who saw the bronze serpent realized their sin against God and repented, changing their hearts, they would be shown the mercy of God, and live. Jesus says to Nicodemus that the Son of man must also be lifted up to bring salvation and life. That Son of man was lifted up on the "tree of the cross". I mentioned that the symbol for the medical profession, - the snake on a pole - while having meaning in ancient mythology, is a great reminder of the saving power of God in our fragile, self centered lives.
It is in the holy cross that the love of Christ is revealed. It is the cross of mercy and mystery.
We adore you of Christ and we praise you; because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.