“What a great thing it is to possess the Cross!
He who possesses it possesses a treasure.”*
In the second reading for today’s Mass, we hear, in Saint Paul’s letter to the Philippians, that Christ humbled himself becoming obedient to death, death on a cross. And, because of this, God greatly exalted him (cf Philippians 2:6-11).
Jesus’ death on the cross reveals his utter humility, His obedience to the Father and His great love for both the Father and for us. Having told His disciples He would be lifted up, “just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert” (cf John 3:14-15), he was indeed lifted up on the Cross, for our sake, in the words of Isaiah, a worm and no man scorned by everyone, mocked and despised (cf Isaiah 22:7). Though he was crushed by sorrows he did not return evil for what was done to him, but rather asked His Father to forgive us, and thus returned a blessing instead.
We see that God did not send his Son into the world to condemn it, but to save it (cf John 3:16-17). By His great act of love, Christ conquered sin and death and won for us everlasting life. This, then, is the triumph of the cross, the instrument of our salvation. It is from the mercy seat of the cross that Christ reigns. From there God speaks His eloquent Word of love and truth.
The sign of the Cross is a kind of synthesis of our faith, for it tells how much God loves us; it tells us that there is a love in this world that is stronger than death, stronger than our weaknesses and sins. The power of love is stronger than the evil which threatens us.**
We are called and sent to do the same: not to condemn but to love in a way that gives life, to be generous, compassionate and merciful in extending forgiveness, to lift others up and shoulder their burdens, to clothe the naked, give food to the hungry and drink to the thirsty, to visit the sick, the infirm and imprisoned, to give sight to the blind, comfort the afflicted, and admonish sinners, to lay down our lives for our friends, to speak the truth in love and be, like Christ, a light to the nations.
Would that we had already begun to reign with Him! May we share with others that great mercy and love and generosity which our Savior has already shared with us. May this upcoming year of mercy spur us on!
*St. Andrew of Crete, Homily X on the Exaltation of the Cross, PG 97, 1020.
**Pope Benedict XVI, September 14, 2008 Homily for the Eucharistic Celebration on the Occasion of the 150th Anniversary of the Apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary at Lourdes
Art: Cristo crucificado (Christ crucified), Bartolomé Esteban Murillo, circa 1677, PD-US, Wikimedia Commons.