September 14, 2009
Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross
Then the people came to Moses and said, "We have sinned in complaining against the LORD and you. Pray the LORD to take the serpents from us." So Moses prayed for the people, and the LORD said to Moses, "Make a seraph and mount it on a pole, and if anyone who has been bitten looks at it, he will recover." Numbers 21:7-8
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.
St. Francis' Prayer Before the Crucifix
Most High, glorious God, enlighten the darkness of my heart; Give me right faith, sure hope, and perfect charity. Fill me with understanding and knowledge, that I may fulfill your command. Amen.
Being a Christian takes a conscious and concerted effort. After all, Jesus does not say to pick up your sugar cube and follow me. In some ways, choosing to be a Christian is counter-intuitive. Why would we want to join a group where the short-term payoff is pain and suffering? Jesus does just the opposite of what Madison Avenue and
Maybe you can become a casual fan of the local sports team but you can not be a casual Christian. That is not to say that some people do take their Christianity casually. They show up at Mass on Sunday, standing in the back of the church, head to communion and slip out the side door. Going through these motions, they get their proverbial ticket punched and then move on to the shopping mall, the NFL Sunday ticket or dinner at their favorite bistro.
People even take the cross casually. Walk down any city street and notice how many people are adorned with a cross of gold or silver around their neck, embroidered on their clothes, or tattooed on their body. In one search engine, there were nearly 40,000 pages on the internet devoted to the sale of crosses to adorn everything from clothes to cars, homes to grave sites. The cross has become a fashion statement rather than a religious witness for some. Jesus is not looking for us to be fashionable.
Moses had to deal with real issues. His people were lost in the desert. They had no food. No water. Snakes were biting and killing his people. As the leader, he had to figure out a way to stop that from happening. To accomplish that, Moses listened to what God wanted him to do and then to put that plan into action. God’s prescription though involved embracing the very source of their affliction…the snakes.
Jesus also had to deal with real issues. The hypocrisy of the church leaders. The hatred of the Romans. The betrayal of his friends. Illness all around him. Yet he did not despair. Have among yourselves the same attitude that is also yours in Christ Jesus, Who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped. Philippians 2:5-6
Today, our Church celebrates the Exaltation of the Holy Cross. We praise that which was the instrument of execution of our Messiah. We praise that which our Messiah proclaims we must pick up in order to follow him. It is only through the cross that Jesus can save the world. It was only on the cross and through the cross that the Roman soldiers realized that Jesus was before them. “Indeed, this is the Holy One of God!”
Even though Jesus prayed that the cup might pass from his hands, he knew it could not. Jesus embraced the cross with outstretched hands. Today, we venerate that same cross every Good Friday.
Just like Moses, we have real issues to face. Poverty. Unemployment. War. Euthanasia. Racism. Personal illness and tragedy.
A friend once gave me a small banner to hang in our house. On it was the phrase, “The soul would have no rainbow had the eye no tear.” Without the cross leading the way, there would be no Resurrection, no Easter and no eternal life. Life with the cross may not be easy. Jesus did not promise comfort. He only promised love, a love that sticks with us through every cross we have to pick up.
Wear your cross today, not as a fashion statement, but as a faith statement. Through our loving embrace of the cross, we can overcome the problems we face.
(PS: Yes...your editor made a mistake and posted the reflection for Tuesday (The Memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows a day early and this -- for Monday quite late in the day. Apologies if you thought the order of the liturgical year was a little off. It was just me. ADC)