Friday, September 12, 2014

GOSPEL REFLECTION: The Exaltation of the Holy Cross

GOSPEL REFLECTION: The Exaltation of the Holy Cross
14th September 2014
by Rev. Fr. Allen Baclor Abadines

GOSPEL: John 3:13-17

Jesus said to Nicodemus: "No one has ascended into heaven except the one who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.

"For God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world , but in order that the world might be saved through him."



REFLECTION:


It was through the wood i.e. the tree of the knowledge of good and evil- that humans lost the friendship with God (Gen. 3). Ironically, It was also through the wood i.e. the Cross -that humans regained that friendship with God.

This Sunday we celebrate the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross. On the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross we honor the Holy Cross by which Jesus , our Saviour offered his life for the redemption of the world. And not only that, this is also the day when the Church invites us to reflect on the meaning and significance of the Holy Cross in our lives.

Nowadays, we venerate the Holy Cross. In Catholic Churches all over, the Holy Cross is the most conspicuous and important symbol. Every Catholic loves the Cross, we kiss it at times , we pray before it, we wear it. But it wasn't like that during the time of our Lord. People back then are afraid of the Cross. They despised the Cross. It was a symbol of punishment, of extreme suffering , pain and death. It was one of the most shameful types of punishment during Jesus' time. The person condemned to be crucified received the most humiliating death. It was the ultimate stripping of man's dignity and honor.It is for this purpose that the convicted person was hung naked publicly i.e. to bring further humiliation and severe punishment to the person being accused. Undoubtedly , it was one of the most barbaric forms of punishment and therefore supposed to be reserved only for the most serious offenders. But though innocent , this is exactly what our Lord Jesus experienced on the Cross when He died for you and me. When Jesus died on the Cross He gave new meaning and perception of the Cross. During Jesus' time the Cross had no beauty, today it is looked upon as a thing of beauty. The Cross now represents the one sacrifice Jesus made out of His love and obedience to the Father. Philippians 2:8 "And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death - death on a cross!'

In today's Gospel, we see Jesus trying to explain to Nicodemus God's plan of salvation through the cross. Thus Jesus wanted Nicodemus to understand the story of Moses lifting up the serpent in a new perspective- as a foreshadowing of the cross of redemption. The bronze serpent in the desert was the symbolic figure of the Crucified one. Numbers 21:9 "So Moses made a serpent of bronze, and put it upon a pole; and whenever a serpent bit someone, that person would look at the serpent of bronze and live." Thus when the Son of Man is lifted up on the Cross of Calvary; all who believed will have eternal life.

How then is the Cross relevant to us today?

First, the Holy Cross becomes a sign of Hope. During trials and temptations our strength and protection is the sign of the Cross. When we make the sign of the Cross, it is not only meant to be an introduction and an ending of the prayer . Making the sign of the Cross is a prayer itself. When we make the sign of the Cross, we are actually saying a beautiful prayer , we ask Jesus to save us. It is a recognition of His saving work. It should therefore be said with utmost reverence. It is actually a profession of our faith. The 

Cross is the summary of what we believe in.
Second ,when we look at the Cross, we are looking at our final destiny - our heavenly home , a place prepared for us. John 14:2 "In my Father's house there are so many mansions. If not, would I have said, I go to prepare a place for you."The Cross reminds us of God's act of love in Christ's sacrifice. John 3:16 "For God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life."

Third, Adoration of the Cross is adoration of Jesus Christ. When we give honor and importance to the Cross, we acknowledge the sacrifice of Christ to redeem us. It is a reminder of all of us of God's act of love in Christ sacrifice at Calvary, where He gave his life for our salvation, the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.

Story: A daughter was brought to the hospital by his father because she was sick. The doctor ordered that the little girl be given a shot. The little girl asked his father if it will hurt. The Father knew that it will hurt. But he said to the little girl, "do not be afraid ...everything's gonna be alright. And to prove that to you , I'll ask the doctor to give me a shot first." The father was given a shot reassuring the little girl that everything's perfectly alright. A similar thing is what Jesus did for us. He accepted death on the Cross to assure us that everything's alright. When we experienced persecution, trials, suffering and pain , when we are abandoned by friends, when people mock at us, remember that Jesus experienced these things first.

When we fixed our gaze at the Cross, it is telling us a clear message. As you see , the Cross is perfectly designed. Two pieces of woods attached together - one vertically and the other horizontally - forming a perfect cross. The vertical one is the foundation pointing upward,an oblation of God. The horizontal which is solidly attached to the vertical stretched out to all of humanity. The Cross is a reminder of the two greatest commandments. The love of God , with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. And the love of neighbor as thyself.



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