“Moses accordingly made a bronze serpent and mounted it on a pole, and whenever anyone who had been bitten by a serpent looked at the bronze serpent, he lived.” (Numbers 21:9)
Reflections on the readings for the Exaltation of the Holy Cross (September 14, 2022): NM 21:4-9; PS 78:1-2.34-35,36-37,38; PHIL 2:6-11; JN 3:13-17
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The word ‘exaltation’ comes from the Latin meaning to raise aloft. So this Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross asks us to look at Christ raised above us in His final hours...
Each year on Good Friday, we focus on the Jesus Christ as He willingly gave His life for the salvation of the whole world. We make a point of adoring the cross during the special liturgy on that day. Our attention throughout Lent and the Easter Triduum is on the whole passion, death and Resurrection of our Lord. However, today we pause to consider Jesus nailed, affixed to the beams of the cross that would become His sacrificial altar for the eternal life of His beloved people. In the Gospel reading, we hear that “‘No one has gone up to heaven except the one who has come down from heaven, the Son of Man. And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in Him may have eternal life.’ … For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through Him” (John 3:13-15,17). St. John refers here to the time when Moses appealed to Almighty God to spare His people from the serpents attacking them. When those who were bitten looked up at the bronze serpent on the pole, they were healed -- saved from death.
The word ‘exaltation’ comes from the Latin meaning to raise aloft. So this Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross asks us to look at Christ raised above us in His final hours; to appreciate His great sufferings and, above all, His boundless love. The Romans used the cross to punish and execute political prisoners, slaves, and others without civil rights. It was meant to be horrifying and shameful as a warning to others. While the early followers of Christ celebrated His death and Resurrection, as a form of capital punishment the cross was still an object of fear. Indeed, Ss. Peter and Andrew, his brother, are believed to have been crucified. It was not until almost three hundred years later that St. Helena, a Christian and the mother of Emperor Constantine, went to Jerusalem in search of the cross. When it was discovered, a church was built there by Constantine who also ended the persecution of Christians and eliminated the use of crucifixions in the Roman Empire. Today the cross is the symbol of Christianity. It reminds us of the life and death and rising up of the Son of God -- and His gift of salvation to all.