Pastor’s Corner for the 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C, by Rev. Fr. Nobert Munekani SJ
The Exaltation of the Holy Cross
On Wednesday the 14th of September, the Church celebrated the feast of the Exaltation of the cross. Due to commitments most of us were not able to be at Mass on this day, hence today we will begin our Mass by blessing the crucifixes and crosses. Some of us would wonder why the words ‘triumph’ and ‘cross’ are used together and rightly so. This is because ‘Triumph’suggests celebration, achievement, recognition glory, honour, status. Yet The ‘Cross’ indicates suffering, humiliation, defeat, the most shameful death imaginable. So, how could anyone who ended up crucified ever be said to have triumphed or exalted? In the time of Jesus no one would have considered crucifixion a triumph. It may have been considered a triumph for those who were doing the crucifying; it certainly would never have been considered a triumph for the person being crucified. Yet, that is what we celebrated on Wednesday.
Why did the early Christians begin to speak of the death by crucifixion of Jesus as exaltation? They could only do so in the light of Jesus’ resurrection. In Philippians 2:6-11, Paul says that because Jesus ‘was humbler yet, even to accepting death, death on a cross’, God highly exalted him. In that sense, Jesus’ exaltation by God followed his death on the cross. When people were doing their worst to Jesus, God was standing over his Son vindicating him, confirming all that his Son lived by and stood for. It was because Jesus was totally faithful to the work God gave him to do that he was crucified. What was that work that God gave Jesus to do? Jesus’ work was to reveal God’s love for the world.
So, when we look on the cross with the eyes of faith, we don’t simply see the tragic ending of a good man’s life. We behold what Paul called the power and the wisdom of God. What is this power that shows itself in such degrading weakness? It is of course the power of love, the power of a love that is greater than any human love, the love spoken about inJohn 3:16‘God so loved the world that he gave his only Son’. Here was a divine love that became a human love in the life and death of Jesus, a love so powerful that it was in no way diminished by the experience of rejection, hatred, and all that was most evil and corrupt in the human spirit. The triumph of the cross is the triumph of love over hatred, of life over death. The triumph of that Good Friday is a triumph in which we all continue to share.
The cross has been celebrated in art as the tree of life. The triumph of the cross, which is the triumph of God and of Jesus over Satan and all the forces of evil and death, is a triumph in which we all share. From the cross Jesus draws all of us into the love and life of God. As he says in John’s gospel, “when I am lifted from the earth, I will draw all people to myself”. We simply must let ourselves be drawn to him as we are, with all our pains, sorrows and difficulties in life and look to Jesus for our salvation.
May God bless you and keep you safe.
Fr. Nobert Munekani SJ