Reflection for Sunday, September 14, 2022: The Exaltation of the Holy Cross.
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Gillick, Larry, S.J.
|This celebration is a transformation from the symbol of degrading and shame as well as condemnation. The cross was used by the Romans who used such instruments to control possible uprisings within the dominated nations during the Pax Romana. During the spread of Christianity, the wood of the cross was venerated as a reverse symbol of true peace and freedom from all forms of domination, whether spiritual or political.|I offer here some word-reflections. Take some time to ponder the different meanings of the word "cross". It can mean moving from here to there, "to cross a street or river". It can also depict a negative facial presentation, "He gave me a cross look". The word can imply anger as well, "They seemed quite cross with that decision". The word also can apply to the cancellation or erasure of an item or task, "I can cross that off my list". With these images in mind we can pray more gently with the reality of this saving figure and how it now stands in exaltation.|The Readings for this Feast of Exaltation are so simple and clear. The First Reading from the Book of Numbers displays the very human encounter with itself. The Jewish community has been saved from slavery in Egypt and while grateful for that, they want to be also saved from death by starvation and thirst in the desert. How human it is to grumble, complain and demand, even from God. Now God does appear "cross" with them and sends a firey band of snakes to bite and kill. This does get their attention and pleas of repentance. It becomes a sceen of revelation.|God changes the serpent of disaster to a gesture of healing and saving. Moses raises a wooden standard with a bronze image and those who would look on it for saving would be healed. The image of the snake Moses uses to "cross" from death to life. The image of God's looking "crossly" and with anger, now changes to a benevolent care-taker. God and Moses use an image for the divine eternal glance from anger to union.|There is a difference between the Cross and a Crucifix. The first is starkly a symbol, the second a reminder of the embrace by Jesus of the wood and nails which lead to His death. Today's feast is the celebration of that instrument of torture's being transformed.|From that shaming wood to a royal throne. It stands as an unambiguous and definitive, more than symbol, of God's embrace of our humanity. "God so loved the world that He sent His only Son….". God did not abandon this world nor condemn, but, "so that the world might be saved through Him".|Jesus is taken down from the Cross; the throne is empty, yet exalted. The loss has crossed into a victory. The gesture of condemnation and vengeance is transformed into the sign of blessing. God has crossed out our human separation from the Divine and from our human dignity. However, the Holy Cross remains as an invitation.|We as followers of Jesus receive a graceful invitation to embrace the stark realities of our individual daily lives. Jesus has risen after having been taken down. The Holy Cross, whatever shape and texture it maybe, waits for our picking it up, our carrying it and our own exaltation.|Jesus' life, lived in the same faithful manner as that to which we are invited, led Him to the receiving of His cross. We walk now at a certain distance of time, but with the same hope and trust. As with our Jewish grumblers, we can have better plans for our lives which would avoid crosses. Grumbling is a wonderful prayer and God does not gaze upon us with a cross countenance nor does God cross us off some heavenly do-list. |Our crosses do not seem very holy in the way we carry them. They hurt, we stumble, we grumble, because we do not believe they are leading us anywhere, especially not to exaltation. It does take doubt to free us to live with faith. We pray with the comforting words of our Communion Antiphon:|"When I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself, says the Lord." John 12, 32
University Ministry, Creighton University.
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