Exaltation of the Holy Cross
September 14, 2014
Today we take a step away from what would normally be the Twenty-fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time for this feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross.
This feast dates back to the fourth century when St. Helena found the Cross on which Jesus crucified, verified by the miraculous healing of a dying woman who touched the cross and was healed.
Without a doubt, the Cross is a central image of our faith. You can’t really be Christian without knowing of the Cross. As Catholics, the rubrics clearly state that a Crucifix is to be located near the Altar.
We have our Crucifix behind the Tabernacle. There is the large Crucifix in the vestibule. Our gestures include the Cross. In our procession and recession, one of the altar servers carries the Processional Cross. Well, we call it a Processional Cross but we should note is a Crucifix.
What makes a Cross a Crucifix? The Body of Christ. Knowing the Cross is central to our faith and today we celebrate this Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross but we do not worship the Cross itself. We worship Jesus as Son of God. We venerate the Cross as the instrument of our salvation.
As we celebrate this feast, our readings first take us back to the time of the Exodus. The people were complaining against God and Moses. Saraph Serpents bite the people and many died. Those who remained came to Moses to admit their sins. God forgave them their sins and told Moses to make a saraph and mount it on a pole. All look at it will live.
The pole did not have “magic powers” to heal the people. Knowing God’s promise of being healed they looked at the saraph pole with faith and in faith they were healed. This saraph pole became a sign of healing and even today this image is found on the website of the American Medical Association.
Turning to Jesus’ words in the gospel, he says that the Son of Man must be lifted up and all who believe in him will have eternal life.
Jesus is lifted up on the Cross. The Cross becomes the instrument of our salvation. When the Israelites looked at the saraph pole in the desert they were healed physically. When we look at the Cross, we see the spiritual healing we need from our sins, healing that only Jesus can make possible.
When you look at a Cross, what do you see?
Some people wear a Cross around their neck but never come to church. I wonder if they just see it as jewelry.
We see Crucifixes in church but how much do we think about what it means for us? We make the Sign of the Cross as we begin Mass. We are blessed with the Sign of the Cross at the end of Mass.
Let us never forget what the Cross truly means for us.