Skip to main content

Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, 2014

This week we take a break from Ordinary Time to celebrate the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross.  This particular Feast is fixed to the date of September 14th (marking the date of the dedication of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in 335 CE).  As this feast falls on a Sunday this year, we use the readings chosen for this feast.  We last celebrated this feast on a Sunday in 2008, but it won’t fall on a Sunday again until 2025.  The Feast itself is a celebration of the cross itself as an instrument of salvation.

The Word for the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross
Numbers 21:4b-9
Psalm 78:1bc-2, 34-35, 36-37, 38
Philippians 2:6-11
John 3:13-17

In order to understand this feast day, one must first understand the nature of the Cross.  Crucifixion is a pre-Roman form of execution which was adopted by the Romans during the time of Jesus.  Crucifixion was not only used as a form of brutal punishment for accused criminals, but it was meant both as a humiliation to those being crucified, and a warning to others.  Roman citizens were never crucified;  If any Roman citizen was found worthy of the death penalty, more “humane” or “dignified” methods were used.  Only the “lowest of the low” were crucified.  Crucifixions were generally held outside the city walls, not only because the process was prolonged and distasteful, but also as warning to travelers that Roman law was in force.  The bodies of those crucified were not allowed to be removed, but instead left to scavengers and natural decay, stripping the accused of any final dignity or respect for their customs.

The indignity of Jesus, the Son of Man and our Lord, being crucified was purposeful on the part of the Sanhedrin and the Roman authority.  It was meant to be both a humiliation to him and his followers, and a deterrent to any other self-professed “messiah” that might come along.  Yet it is this very indignity that became a symbol of triumph.  Jesus concurred the cross, and in doing so made it a symbol of joy and great hope.  It is this exaltation that comes through in our readings this Sunday.

We open with a reading from the book of Numbers.  The Israelites traveling with Moses have become impatient, complaining against God and Moses.  The Lord, incensed by their impatience, sends down seraph serpents (venomous snakes) to bit the people.  When they cry out to Moses, the Lord instructs him to make a bronze seraph and mount it on a pole, so that those  who are bitten can then look up at the pole and be saved from death.  This is an interesting story that can lead to some interesting discussion, especially when reference to that same serpent staff is found both in the book of 2 Kings, and today’s Gospel.  To help us draw a better understanding of this story, our Psalm reminds us “not to forget the works of the Lord.”

Our second reading is a magnificent passage from Paul’s letter to the Philippians.  Here St. Paul is at his best both poetically and theologically, and establishes the basis for how we as Christians should approach life and the Lord...  That by humbling ourselves we not only imitate Christ, but can receive eternal salvation.  The line “becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross.” should come through more deeply based on our discussion on crucifixion above.

This takes us to our Gospel from John.  Here Jesus is talking with Nicodemus, a Pharisee and member of the Sanhedrin who grew to have high regard for Jesus.  Jesus explains to Nicodemus that just as Moses lifted up the serpent to remind the people of the Lords works, so the Son of Man will be raised up as a reminder of God’s glory.  It is also within this passage we give context to that often shown “John 3:16” poster during football games… “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish, but have eternal life.”  While we Catholics may not be as literate when it comes to sighting chapter and verse for scripture, we clearly understand the meaning and context, which is why we no longer consider the cross to be an object of shame, but rather a symbol of God’s glory.


Popular posts from this blog

Post-Lent review... How did you do?

Lent is now behind us, yet in our excitement for Easter (and for Lent being over), how often to you take a moment to look back at your Lenten journey to do a post-game review?

As a volunteer leader and business school graduate, the concept of doing a formal "review" after an event or activity is a long held important practice... one that, unfortunately, tends to get overlooked even at the highest levels.  Still, it remains a staple of standard practice, and for good reason... It affords those involved, and the entire organization, a chance to review everything after the fact... what went well, what didn't, and lay the groundwork for next time.  The same is true for looking back at our Lenten journey.  So... how did you do?

I have to be honest, I sometimes fail to practice what I preach.  For as important as a post-lenten review might be, I hadn't thought of the idea until now.  I didn't even really think about it until this morning when I read the following artic…

Nuns and Nones... continued...

On 6-24-2016 I wrote a brief commentary on what we call the "nones"... that is, those people who check the box that says "none" when asked about their religious affiliation.  That commentary was based on an address by my former high school's principal at their 2016 graduation address.  But this topic of the "nones" returned to my attention with this article posted on our daily Angelus News email from the e-magazine Crux:

Notre Dame debuts digital platform to reach young Catholics, ‘nones’
Please take a moment to read it... 

Of particular interest is the increasing number of "nones," those people who claim no religious affiliation. I first heard this term a few years back from one of the speakers at our LA Religious Education Congress. The term itself grew out of a 2012 Pew Research study that showed this rising trend. Working as I do with the RCIA and Adult Faith Formation, this was a known issue, but the Pew study validated what ma…

5th Sunday of Easter

What happens when you have too much of a good thing?  When a business wins that lucrative new contract or expands into a new location?  Or taking that same idea a bit closer to home, what happens when two families merge through marriage, or when a family welcomes a new child?  We consider this kind of growth to be a good thing, but as with all things, these successes also come with their own baggage.  Our readings for this 5th Sunday of Easter have our Apostles facing similar challenges in the face of their growing successes.

The Word for the 5th Sunday of Easter Acts 6:1-7
Psalm 33:1-2, 4-5, 18-19
1 Peter 2:4-9
John 14:1-12

Our reading from Acts of the Apostles learning the hard way about the challenges that grow out of their continued success when their number of followers continues to grow.  Up to this point the Apostles have been doing their best to address the needs of the community, both spiritual and physical, but the community has grown so large now that they are becom…