“Everything is a reminder of the Cross. We ourselves are made in the shape of a cross.” ~ St John Vianney
Although I did look over the Daily Readings for today (Numbers 21:4-9 & John 3:13-17) late last night while in Eucharistic Adoration, when I arrived at Mass this morning I had forgotten that today was the Feast of The Exaltation of the Holy Cross. This Feast I should point out memorializes two seminal events, the discovery of the True Cross in the year 320 by Saint Helena, the mother of the Emperor Constantine, and the dedication of the basilica and shrine built on Calvary by Constantine in 335, which marks the site of Christ’s Crucifixion. Despite my forgetfulness, something apparently seeped into my subconscious nonetheless, because while I sat waiting for Mass to start, I began to contemplate a question that I had never considered before as I gazed upon the large Crucifix that hangs over the altar at my church:
What if God did not send his only begotten Son to die for our sins?
It is a grim and very sobering thought in every way imaginable. Hope would be replaced by doubt and fear. Faith would give way to despair. Eternal life would meld instead into an anti-climatic and abrupt demise.
In our 1st Reading (Numbers 21:4-9), we look in on a beleaguered, impatient and demoralized group of Israelis intent on griping, groaning and bemoaning their way to the promised land, disgusted with both Moses and God. Their journey would appear to be an allegory wrought with the symbolism of those who were unwilling to carry their cross. It wasn’t until they confessed their ingratitude that they were healed.
In today’s Gospel (John 3:13-17), Jesus revisits this story in a conversation with Nicodemus when he foreshadows his own crucifixion by saying “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.”
No Cross, No Resurrection. No Cross, No Crown. Just as this was Jesus’ reality, it too is ours. “Do you want to become a great saint?” asks Saint Ignatius of Loyola. “Ask God to send you many sufferings. The flame of Divine Love never rises higher than when fed with the wood of the Cross, which the infinite charity of the Savior used to finish His sacrifice.” Today’s appropriate Communion Antiphon (1 Peter 4:13) reiterates Saint Ignatius’ sentiments: “Rejoice when you share in the sufferings of Christ, that you may also rejoice exultantly when his glory is revealed.” How great indeed are the works of the Lord as our Psalmist proclaims this morning (Psalm 111). For in dying He destroyed our death, and in rising He restored our life.
“We beseech you, Lord Jesus Christ, to bring those you have been redeemed by the wood of your life-giving Cross to the glory of the Resurrection. Who live and reign for ever and ever. Amen”