Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross
Nm 21:4b-9 Psalm Ps 78:1bc-2, 34-35, 36-37, 38 Phil 2:6-11 Jn 3:13-17
In the Name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Exaltation of the Holy Cross
Today the Church celebrates the Exaltation of the Holy Cross. This feast celebrates both the discovery of the Cross by St. Helena in 320 and the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem over the site of where Jesus was crucified in 335.
This feast occurs every year on the 14th of September, and when it falls on a Sunday we celebrate it instead of Ordinary time. This is the day when we as the Church reflect on the transforming power of the Cross.
The Cross Defines our Lives as Christians
If you think about it the cross defines our lives as Christians. Action without understanding leads to superstition. So the Church gives us this feast to call us to reflect on the way of prayer that is defined by the sign of the Cross. It is not simply the opening motions of prayer, but rather a physical reminder to our own life and destination.
Last weekend I had the opportunity to baptize a baby boy and girl into the Church. The Rite of Baptism begins with claiming a soul for Christ by tracing the sign of the cross on our foreheads. We are reminded of this every time we enter or leave a church when we dip our fingers in holy water and sign ourselves with the Sign of the Cross. It is this action that reminds us of our birth into the Church – the community of faith.
As Christians we imitate Christ by allowing the Cross to transform us
It is suitable that the Cross defines our lives as Christians, just in the same way that the Cross defined the life of Christ himself. To be a Christian means that we are to follow and imitate the example of Christ. In the Gospel today we see that Christ was speaking to Nicodemus in the early part of John’s Gospel about the end of John’s Gospel. So very early in His own ministry Christ was looking to the Cross as the means of showing God’s love to us.
Christianity does not mean an end to suffering, but a transformation in suffering
So if you became a Christian because you thought it would end suffering in your life you came to the wrong place. Christ did not climb up on the cross to end suffering, but rather to transform it into a sign of God’s love for us. When we begin our prayer, our day, or our meal with the sign of the Cross, we are inviting Christ to transform our lives so that we can be united with God.
The Cross allows our suffering to be transformed into love
Suffering is hard, unpleasant and difficult. Christ took the experience of suffering and transformed it to an experience of love. Love for one another and love for God. The witness of Christ on the cross compels all Christians to look at the way in which he approached suffering. He allowed us to abuse him, ridicule him, torture him and kill him. Why? Because he was guilty? No Because he enjoyed it? No? Because he was showing us how to love the father. He was showing us the desire of the Father to have authentic relationship with us.
How did Christ transform suffering?
The figure of Christ on the Cross transforms our understanding of suffering, from one of fear to one of Love. Christ stands on the cross looking out at the world, and inviting the world into relationship with God.
The Cross formed Christ’s humanity into the image of love that pours out itself for the other.
In this way the cross undid the sin of Adam, where the image and likeness of God was disfigured by sin.
The way of the Cross leads us to imitate the Love of God. To be open, in a radical way, in a loving way to our brothers and sisters in community.
Our lives are called to be transformed by imitating Christ, by allowing our lives to be configured to that of Christ Crucified.
Blood and Water
As Catholics we have a special opportunity to share in the life of Christ on the Cross, because Blood and Water flowed from the side of Christ as he hung upon the Cross – Water symbolizing our baptism into his death and resurrection. Blood symbolizing the Holy Eucharist that we share today. Baptism that brings us into the community of the Church, and the Eucharist that brings us into communion with Christ and through Christ with one another.
My prayer for all of us today is that on this feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross that we allow our lives to be transformed. The next time that we have the opportunity to make the sign of the Cross, we ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to us the area of our lives that needs to be transformed to more closely imitate the Love of Christ on the Cross.
In the Name of the Father…