I stood in the grocery line and wondered why the cashier was ignoring the customer…
In an outrageous plot twist, the first followers of Christ saw their King lifted up, not on a royal throne, but on a wooden cross. While today the cross is a sacred item to be carried in procession or worn as jewelry, to the eyes of these first Christians, it represented nothing sacred. It stood outside too many city walls, decorated only with decaying corpses, as a threat to anyone who defied Rome’s authority.
Today, September 14th, we celebrate the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross. On this day, we are invited to acclaim the cross of Christ, that ghastly instrument upon which He died. As I reflect on the cross, I am horrified by the intense physical and emotional pain Jesus endured, while at the same time I am in utter awe that He chose to bear that pain all the way to death, that I might know the fullness of life. His love and commitment to us is overwhelming.
Exaltation: the action of elevating someone in rank, power, or character.
Reflecting on the exaltation of the cross has called me to become more aware of where I may in fact be “exalting myself” and not Christ. In today’s Gospel, we read “God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world” (John 3:17), but to save us. If we’re being honest, we would likely admit that the saving we are most in need of is saving from ourselves: from our selfish tendencies, pride, fears, disordered affections, sinfulness in its varied forms, and the countless ways we reject Jesus’s love each day.
“For me to live is Christ and to die is gain.” – Philippians 1:21
I have always been moved by these words of St. Paul. He willingly forsook all earthly treasures, “counting them as rubbish” (Phil 3:8), and sought complete detachment from his human inclinations and desires. He sought to effectively die to himself, allowing Christ to be magnified in him and exalted by him. Teach us St. Paul! Teach us to embrace the “die to self” opportunities presented on any given day. These are ordinary opportunities that come my way many times each day, like holding back a defensive or self-justifying response, remaining patient in the face of another’s impatience with me, setting aside my plan or desire in service of a family member.
Let us place ourselves, with St. Paul, at the foot of Jesus’ cross anew today. May we come with open hands and open hearts, ready to receive, and be strengthened by, the love and mercy He perpetually showers upon us. Let us pray:
Lord Jesus, I open myself to You. I open to receive the love and mercy that You shower upon me through the gift of Your Holy Cross. Your incredible Self-emptying act fills me. I am filled with gratitude and a reinvigorated commitment to accept the daily inconveniences and frustrations that come my way. Teach me surrender. Teach me interior mortification. I choose You, Jesus. I choose the way of the Cross that, through death to myself, leads to Life in You. Amen.
“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.” – John 3:16