Today the Church celebrates the feast of the Exaltation of the Cross. This feast is also called the Holy Cross Day or the Universal Exaltation of the Holy Cross and Life Giving cross. The Church celebrates this feast on every 14th of September. This is to pay homage and honour to the cross on which our Lord Jesus Christ died for our sins.
The cross represents the victory of Our Lord Jesus Christ over death. It is a celebration of how Jesus Christ gave us life through his death and crucifixion. Therefore, the cross represents victory.
The feast also commemorates the discovery of the true cross, the cross of Christ’s crucifixion , a relic found by St.Helena mother of Constantine the Great during her pilgrimage to Jerusalem.
The cross is the symbol of our faith and the identity of our Christian life. Without the cross, salvation is impossible. Jesus takes up the cross and glorifies it. You cannot talk of Jesus without talking about the cross. The cross is what sets us apart from other religions.
When you look at the cross, you will see suffering, agony, pain, and torture, but behind the cross, we find salvation, power, and glory. Nobody wants the cross but the cross is part of our identity.
Christianity is not all about glory, power, upliftment, favour, resurrection, etc. Before the resurrection, there was pain, agony, suffering, and persecution. But today, many want to jump the cross to accept the glory.
We want to jump the sacrifice to favour. Never detest the cross, it is not the end yet, but part of the journey to the end. The cross is our life, we can never do without it. When the Jews looked at Jesus hanging on the cross, they called him a fool.
They see it as a foolish thing and a form of abomination to die on the cross. Later the cross transformed into glory, and we are saved through it. The journey was from the cross to resurrection.
When We look at Him.
In the gospel today, Jesus tells Nicodemus, that as Moses lift up the serpent in the desert, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, so that whoever believes in him may have eternal life”
In Numbers 21:4-9, the first reading, while on their way from Mount Hor to the Red sea, the Israelites became impatient on the way and began to speak against God and Moses for allowing them to suffer in hunger, eating only the Manna.
Instead of listening to their complaints, God punished them by sending poisonous and fiery serpents which killed them in thousands.
When the Israelites begged for mercy, God in his mercy told Moses to make a bronze serpent that whoever looks at it will be made well again and given a new life.
Just as the people sinned by complaining against the goodness of God is the same way we have sinned by taking for granted the goodness of God.
Just like the Israelites were bitten by poisonous snakes which made them die, is the way we have been constantly tempted by the devil and bitten by the poison of sin which makes us die spiritually.
Remember that when the prodigal son came back to the Father, the father refers him as one who was once dead but now alive (Luke 15:32). Therefore, Sin makes us spiritually dead.
To save the people, God told Moses to make a bronze serpent and whoever looks at it will be saved. In the same vein, God gave us His son to die for us on the cross, that whoever believes in Him will have eternal life.
Hanging on the tree of salvation during the time of the Israelites was the serpent but now hanging on the cross of salvation is Jesus. The bronze serpent has no power of its own to save that was why Hezekiah destroyed it when the people began to worship it ( 2 Kings 18:4) but the name of Jesus carries power (Philippians 2:10-11).
Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life. Let us always look up to Him. He says take up your cross and follow me. (Luke 9;3). Therefore, the cross is not a bad thing.
Jesus comes to save and not to condemn. So, He didn’t come to condemn, there is no way He will tell us to do something to mislead us.
The Cross is part of the Journey
Just, as the people became impatient on the way to the promised land because they are tired, hungry, and thirsty, is how we become impatient when things do not work the way we want. But just as God has been providing for the Israelites, saving them, and helping them to win many battles along the way, is the way God has been providing for us and saving us, giving us life despite our situation.
Sometimes, we forget the good things God does for us. We lose sight of this and focus on the circumstances we face in life.
Just as the Israelites made light of God’s provision, and even called the manna from God miserable, is the way we have blamed God and made light of the good things He has been doing for us.
In the midst of hunger, He still provides for us, yet we complain and hardly see some of these things He has been doing. How many times have we thanked God for life? not even for daily provision?
But we find it easy to complain and blame when things go wrong. Sometimes most of the things we complain about and worry about did not come to destroy us but to help us to reach our destination.
The Israelites forget that they have a destination and that what they were experiencing is just part of the journey.
In the same manner, sometimes we forget that we have a goal to achieve. We then continually complain about the things we meet along the way. We also forget that life is itself a journey.
Our journey ends in eternity, but sometimes we fill ourselves with worry about the present life. This then makes us lose sight of our eternal destination.
Most of the crosses we meet along the way are necessary that we meet them. They are there to prepare us for the ultimate goal. So, in every circumstance, give glory to God (1 Thessalonians 5:18).
Time to Look up to Jesus.
God provided the Israelites with the bronze serpent as a remedy for their sins. In this same way, He sends his Son as expiation for our sins. We have fallen, we have sinned, became weak and derided.
Whenever we remember our past, it looks as if the best thing is to kill ourselves. We are victims of dangerous temptations, deadly sins, and deeds of the past.
God in His mercy always gives us another chance to repent. He gives us another hope in His Son Jesus, not to condemn us, but to save us. What we need to do is to entrust our lives to Him, ask Him forgiveness, and begin afresh. Then cherish the crosses that come to our path. We need to focus.
The past is gone, we need to rewrite the history of our past with the future. We can only do that if we can look up to Jesus. Then we quit our sinful past, and seek Him from the bottom of our hearts.
May God bless you, dearest, forgive our pasts and give us the grace to overcome our temptations and challenges. Amen.