Numbers 21:4-9, Ps. 78:1-2,34-38, John 3:13-17
“And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of man be lifted up.” (John 3:14)
Today we celebrate the cross not as a crude element of murder but as a symbol of the victory of Christ over death; the object on which Christ prophesied he would draw all men to himself. The first sin that Adam and Eve committed which brought God’s wrath upon mankind happened beside a tree; the tree of the forbidden fruit. The serpent tempted Eve and she ate and gave some to Adam. Their eating of the tree made their eyes open and they realized they were naked.
Just as a tree was the source of man’s downfall, it became necessary that when God was restoring man to himself in Christ; correcting the error of the first man, a tree (the cross) would play such a vital role as it did in the passion and death of Christ. When Christ carried the cross, he was carrying the tree (the forbidden fruit) back to its original state as a source of life.
Again, as Jesus himself said in our Gospel passage today, what Moses did in the wilderness when the people of Israel rebelled against God was a foreshadowing of the cross of Calvary. Just as the people looked up at the serpent for healing, so also people would now look up at the Cross of Jesus for healing. This feast we celebrate today has its origins in the discovery of the cross on which Jesus was crucified.
The story has it that when Christianity became accepted as the official religion of Rome, Helen who was the mother of the reigning emperor decided to go to Israel to see things for herself. She eventually found three crosses around the site where the crucifixion took place and in order to know the exact one on which Jesus was crucified, they brought in a very sick man and placed him on the crosses only for him to get cured instantly on one particular cross.
From that moment, the cross attained a new meaning. It was no longer to be treated as an object of shame and disgrace but a symbol of victory, a symbol of Christ’s glory, and in fact, the very symbol and logo of Christianity itself. We are no longer ashamed of the cross, we now venerate the cross – we hang it on our necks and carry it around because its meaning has changed for us.
Take away the cross from a church building and you are left with a mere auditorium, a hall, or a theatre. In the same way, without the cross, no one can say he or she is a Christian. In the words of Jesus: “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.” (Luke 9:23).
The story of the cross and its transformation from an object of shame to glory is a story of the hope we all share as Christians; hope that whatever causes us shame right now for the sake of our faith will someday bring us glory. If people are laughing at us now, one day we would be venerated for our heroism.
If we are being persecuted, insulted, and denied our rights because we are Christians, one day, our very sufferings shall become our badges of honor in heaven. As we celebrate the exaltation of the cross today, so also shall we be exalted for our faithfulness in carrying our cross.
Let us pray: Almighty ever-living God, I take up my cross again, see me through as I carry it. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Be Happy. Live Positive. Have Faith. It is well with you. God bless you. (The Exaltation of the Holy Cross – Feast. Bible Study: Numbers 21:4-9, Ps. 78:1-2,34-38, John 3:13-17).
© Rev. Fr. Evaristus Abu