Saturday, September 13, 2014


JESUS said to Nicodemus: “No one has gone up to heaven except the one who has come down from heaven, the Son of Man. And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.”
For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him.
Our liturgical feast on September 14 honors the rediscovery of the relics of the true Cross by St. Helena, the mother of the Roman emperor Constantine, who, though not a baptized Christian until his deathbed, was sympathetic to Christians on account of his mother. This event took place in 326 AD.
St. John Chrysostom recounts how Helena longed to find the true Cross, then buried under the rubbles of war and the passage of time. She traveled to Jerusalem and organized an excavation at Calvary. The diggers uncovered three wooden crosses. They found it hard to tell which was the true Cross of Jesus. So they brought a sick woman, and a dead man being carried to burial. The three crosses were placed one after the other on the sick woman and the dead man. Two of the crosses had no effect. But upon contact with the third cross, the sick woman was healed of her infirmity, and the dead man came back to life. These miracles indicated which was the relic of Jesus’ Cross. News of the finding of the relics spread, and believers gathered to venerate the relic. Makarios, the Patriarch of Jerusalem, lifted high the Cross, exalting it, and the people bowed and knelt as they said, “Lord, have mercy.” The saintly Empress Helena commissioned a church over the site of the discovery. The Church of the Holy Sepulchre was consecrated on September 13, 335. The day after was proclaimed as the official Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross.
The readings for the feast invite us to reflect on the meaning of the Cross of Jesus. First, the Cross is the Summit of God’s Benevolent and Saving Power (1st Reading: Nm 21:4-9). The Church reads the story of the bronze serpent hanging on a pole as a foreshadowing of the Cross of Jesus. Amidst the disobedience of the people of Israel, God exercised his merciful power. Amidst the rejection of Israel and the continuous sins of humanity, the sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross is also the story of God’s power to heal and forgive. Second, the Cross is the Parable of God’s Unique Logic (2nd Reading: Phil 2:6-11). St. Paul declares this as “kenosis.” The Cross is a lesson of the emptying of self. Wearing the Cross should be a badge of readiness for us to follow a “cruciform existence” of simplicity, humility, service, obedience, and self-effacement. Third, the Cross is the Outpouring of God’s Love (Gospel: Jn 3:13- 17). In the Cross of Jesus, God puts across this message: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.”
The 1997 Catechism of the Catholic Church (nn. 599-618) gives a summary of theological reflections on the Cross of Jesus worth pondering in prayer.
In the tradition of the Jewish rite of atonement, Jesus on the Cross is regarded as the sacrifice, the sin offering, the “escape goat.” The Apostle Paul writes: God “made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor 5:21).
God the Father exacts payment for our sins, as in the case of a debt. Jesus on the Cross presents himself as the Suffering Servant of Yahweh prophesied by Isaiah. This Servant comes “to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many” (cf. Mk 10:45).
Adam sinned when he ate the forbidden fruit and disobeyed God. Jesus on the Cross reverses the sin of Adam by his “obedience unto death” (cf. Phil 2:5ff). On the Cross Jesus cries out: “It is finished” (Jn 19:30). In his ministry, Jesus says: “My food is to do the will of him who sent me, and to accomplish his work” (Jn 4:34).
Jesus on the Cross reveals God’s unconditional love. Jesus on the Cross mirrors the ugliness of evil and sin… but, in the face of all this, Jesus on the Cross shows God is not limited and conditioned by human evil and sins. The Apostle Paul emphatically writes: God “shows his love for us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us” (Rom 5:8).
– Fr. Domie G. Guzman, SSP
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