Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross– September 14, 2020

Reflection on John 3:13-17

Today we have firestorms with raining ashes, COVID-19 with sickness and death, racism with its ugliness. It is so easy to be discouraged. So how about some good news? Here it is: today we celebrate the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross. Wait, what? We may have a hard time wrapping our minds around celebrating one of the greatest instruments of torture known to humankind. Let’s look at today’s Gospel:

Jesus said to Nicodemus: 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)

During the Exodus, the people lost faith and complained against Moses, so God sent poisonous snakes to afflict them. After many died, the people repented and prayed for relief. God instructed Moses to mount a bronze serpent on a pole, so that anyone bitten would heal after simply looking at it. (Numbers 21:4-9) Jesus’ reference to being lifted up was a reference to his own crucifixion. What is the result of the crucifixion for us? Healing and eternal life. “He himself bore our sins in his body upon the cross, so that, free from sin, we might live for righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.” (1 Peter 2:24) Our faith tells us that Jesus’ agony and death on the cross was a necessary step leading to Resurrection and Ascension, the completion of His mission on earth.

Can we allow the pain we’re experiencing in firestorms, COVID-19 and racism to lead us to resurrections and ascensions in our lives? When we are experiencing challenges in our lives, can we also look forward to the resurrections and ascensions that will follow?

Our exaltation of the Cross is the basic paradox of our faith in Jesus Christ. We believe that the suffering of Jesus brought us salvation, and that we are called to express this faith by joining our own suffering with His. We believe this saves our suffering from meaninglessness and furthers the salvation of the world from suffering.

In John’s gospel, the cross reveals the vast breadth and width of God’s love. It reverses all human values. Once a symbol of shame, it becomes the symbol of glory.

Times are tough right now, but don’t be discouraged! Don’t give up!

Peace, healing and encouragement to you, your family and your loved ones,

+Deacon Tom