Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross
Readings: 1st: 1 Cor 5:1-8; Ps: 5; 2nd: Phil 2:6-1; Gos: Jn 3:13-17
This brief reflection was written by Fr. Njoku Canice Chukwuemeka, C.S.Sp. He is a Catholic Priest and a member of the Congregation of the Holy Spirit (Spiritans). He is a missionary in Puerto Rico, the island of enchantment. He is the Chancellor of the Dioceses of Fajardo-Humacao, Puerto Rico; the Parish Priest of Parroquia la Resurrección del Senor, Canovanas and the Major Superior of the Congregation of the Holy Spirit (Spiritans), Circumscription of Puerto Rico and Dominican Republic. For more details and comments contact him at: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com.
Today, Monday, 14 September, of the twenty-fourth week of ordinary time, the Church celebrates the feast of the exaltation of the cross. It is an immovable feast. It is also known as the feast of triumph of the holy cross.
The readings for this feast were carefully selected. The first reading presents the communal disobedience and rebellion of the people of God. Their rebellion was rewarded with immediate punishment. “The Lord sent among the people serpents, which bit the people so that many of them died.”
When Moses pleaded, God healed them with the symbol of the same creature with which he afflicted them, a bronze serpent: “Anyone that was bitten by a serpent, looked at a bronze serpent and lived.”
This symbol of healing prefigures Christ as John presents it in today’s gospel: “As Moses lifted the serpent in the desert, so must the Son of Man be lifted, so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.”
It was due to his love that God sent Israel a bronze serpent as the symbol of healing in the desert. This same love reached its climax when he offered his only son on the cross for the salvation of the world enslaved by sin.
Hence, through today’s feast, the Church reminds us that the cross is now a symbol of victory over the powers of evil (Col 2:15). What used to be a symbol of shame and disgrace has now been transformed.
Paul captures this vividly: “By becoming a curse for us, Christ has redeemed us from the curse. For the scripture says, anyone hanged on a cross is under God’s curse. Christ did this so that the blessing which God promised Abraham might be given to the gentiles.” (Gal 3:13-14).
So, the cross is a symbol of salvation and victory. It is no longer a symbol of a curse, shame, or disgrace. It is now a symbol of humility because on it, Christ “humbled himself” (Phil 2:6-11).
It is a symbol of patience, hope, and contrast to our world where everything must come easy and fast, and where “suffering” is always considered as a curse.
Today, let ask God for the grace to continue to identify with this holy symbol as we acclaim: “We adore you, O Christ, because, by your holy cross, you have redeemed the world.”
Peace be with you all.