Saved by the Cross of Christ
Early in the fourth century, St. Helena, the mother of the Roman Emperor Constantine, went to Jerusalem in search of the holy places of Christ’s life. She razed the second-century temple of the goddess Venus, which tradition held was built over the Savior’s tomb, and her son built the Basilica of the Holy Sepulcher on that spot. During the excavation, workers found three crosses. It was told that the one on which Jesus died was identified when its touch healed a dying woman.
The cross immediately became an object of veneration. At a Good Friday celebration in Jerusalem toward the end of the fourth century, according to an eyewitness, the wood was taken out of its silver container and placed on a table together with the inscription Pilate ordered placed above Jesus’ head: Then “all the people pass through one by one; all of them bow down, touching the cross and the inscription, first with their foreheads, then with their eyes; and, after kissing the cross, they move on.”
What the people did then centuries ago is something reminiscent in today’s First Reading. God commanded Moses to make a bronze image of the serpent and to mount it on a wooden pole and to lift up the image. All who looked at the raised up (exalted) image on the wood are given healing and are raised up from their sickness. This imagery was also given as an example by Jesus to Nicodemus in the Gospel, “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.”
Fellow followers of the Lord, the cross is very familiar to us. Whenever suffering enters into our life we always associate it with the cross—something that is difficult to bear, trying out our patience and wearing our spirits down. Expressions like, “naa koy krus nga gipas-an karon” or “ang akong pag-antus ug problema karon sama’g krus kabug-at.” Suffering is associated to the cross as we see in our human experience. Yet, on this day we are celebrating the feast of the Exaltation of the Cross. We are all invited, through this feast, to find meaning and salvation in the ‘crosses’ or sufferings that we face every day.
Many of our brothers and sisters today are suffering in many ways because of the pandemic. Some are seriously sick and are fighting for their lives in their homes and in the hospitals. Some medical health workers have come to a point of exhaustion and burn-out because of the gravity of the situation that they are facing daily. Many people have suffered from anxiety and depression due to all these events and other circumstances surrounding them. Many are desperately looking for ways in order to feed their families and survive each day, and many more. These are the real-time crosses that we are facing today. Brothers and sisters, today’s feast is an invitation and encouragement for all of us to look up to the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, find hope, consolation, and communion in His saving act. We hold on to the words of Christ to Nicodemus when He said, “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.” Amen.
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