Today we celebrate the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross. We hear in today’s second reading that Jesus “humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross.” The Romans used crucifixion not only as an instrument of torture but also of humiliation and of shame. It is one of the great paradoxes of Christianity that an instrument used for capital punishment has become an instrument of exaltation and life and even an expression of love. The Exaltation of the Cross proclaims and celebrates this love of God.
Today’s Gospel is really a Gospel within a Gospel that proclaims the great love of God: “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.” The Evangelist John uses the phrase “lifted up” in a twofold manner. Jesus is “lifted up” on the cross. Jesus is “lifted up” into exaltation and glory: “Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, so that everyone who believe in him may have eternal life.”
The way of the cross reveals to us the way of God. Jesus’ way is one of humility, service, and sacrifice:
“Christ Jesus, though he was in the form of God…emptied himself, taking the form of a slave…he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross.”
As we celebrate the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross and as we gaze on the cross you and I are invited and even challenged to follow Jesus’ way of humility and service:
“If I, therefore, the master and teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash one another’s feet. I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do.” (John 13:14-15).
We can celebrate today’s feast by taking up our own cross of service and sacrifice each day as we follow in the footsteps of Jesus.
Image: “Statue Virgin Mary Medjugorje – Hotel Pansion Porta – Bosnia Herzegovina – Creative Commons by gnuckx” by gnuckx is marked with CC0 1.0.