Sep. 14, 2016

Look to the Cross and live

"...so must the Son of Man be lifted up" (Jn.3:13)

"The Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, celebrated every year on September 14, recalls three historical events: the finding of the True Cross by Saint Helena, the mother of the emperor Constantine; the dedication of churches built by Constantine on the site of the Holy Sepulchre and Mount Calvary; and the restoration of the True Cross to Jerusalem by the emperor Heraclius II. But in a deeper sense, the feast also celebrates the Holy Cross as the instrument of our salvation".

Jesus says to Nichodemus today, "And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, so that anyone who believes in him may have eternal life" (Jn.3:13-14). The experience of the Israelites in the desert was a tough one. They battled with dry forces in the desert but most painfully with the forces of sin. When they worshipped idol in place of God, "Then the Lord sent venomous snakes among them; they bit the people and many Israelites died" (Num.21:6). The Israelites were bitten by the effects of their sins in the form of serpents. They died as a result. But they cried out to God, and God saved them. God ordered Moses to put up a bronze serpent and let those bitten by snake look at it. That way, they were healed. And Christ says, "...so must the Son of Man be lifted up".

Christ was lifted up on the Cross. The cross was originally a sign of condemnation, a sign of shame and disgrace but Christ transformed the Cross into an instrument of salvation. In the cross, Christ made visible the reality of human suffering and also transformed suffering as a means to glory. The Israelites were bitten by serpents and they looked up to the bronze serpent and lived. We are bitten by the serpent of sin, but the cross of Christ is our remedy.

The exaltation of the Cross presents to us the picture of the reality of suffering in human life. It teaches us that the cross is part of our Christian journey, for without the Cross, the Christian faith is baseless. Importantly, the exaltation of the Cross helps Christians to appreciate the salvation brought to us by Christ. For scriptures say to us today, "For God sent his Son into the world not to condemn the world, but so that through him the world might be saved" (Jn.3:17). Christ's death on the cross therefore restored hope to humanity crushed by sin. 

We are invited to constantly look to the Cross of Christ. Often times, we carry with us burdens of family and individual pressures. They weigh on us in different ways. Christ carried his burden too. He carried the Cross. He felt the weight of the Cross. He carried the Cross for us. He died on the Cross for our sins. He is lifted up on the Cross so that we might be lifted up as the redeemed.

You must realize that as you carry your own cross - sickness, pains, bitterness, anxiety, disappointment, etc. Look to the Cross in faith. Tell Jesus what you carry. He knows what it means to suffer and he unites your suffering to his. Remember his invitation, "Come to me all you who labor and are over-burdened, and I will give you rest" (Matt.11:28). The Israelites looked to the bronze serpent in faith and lived. Look to the Cross of Christ in faith, you'll surely live.