Exultation of the Cross

This week we will celebrate an important feast that often goes unnoticed because it falls on a week day most of the time. Established to honor the central symbol of the Christian faith, the feast invites the faithful to focus their attention on the tree on which the Son of God died and won our salvation. It is called the Exaltation of the Cross, and is celebrated on September 14. I would like to take this occasion to reflect with you on the role of the Cross in our lives.

Writing to his Christians in Corinth, Paul lamented how most people do not understand the power and wisdom of the Cross. He wrote: (1 Cor 1:17-25)

For Christ did not send me to baptize but to proclaim the gospel, and not with eloquent wisdom, so that the cross of Christ might not be emptied of its power. For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written, "I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart." 

Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, God decided, through the foolishness of our proclamation, to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks desire wisdom, but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For God's foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God's weakness is stronger than human strength.

It is not just the Romans, Greeks or Jews who do not understand the Cross. Even faithful Christians fail to fathom the power and wisdom of God as they are manifested in that ignominious symbol. In the face of suffering most of us raise the same questions: “Why? Why me?” Over the last several months, I have had to console and comfort families that have lost their loved one either prematurely or in tragic circumstances. It has been one of the hardest things I have had to do.

Most instances of human suffering defy any acceptable explanation and even those explanations cannot mend broken hearts or restore shattered lives. The only viable source of comfort that I could offer to hurting individuals is this. The Father who did not spare His own Son but allowed Him to die a cruel death on the Cross does not abandon us. Jesus did not give an explanation of suffering; He suffered. By taking upon Himself every human suffering and even death, He has walked the road to Calvary before us. We are not alone. We do not carry our burdens alone. We may not understand why life is so unfair. However, we know our Brother was treated more unfairly than anyone on earth. He walks by our side and holds our hand.

The cross is what Jesus gives to His closest friends and followers. His mother is called the “Mother of Sorrows” because she suffered with her Son. The twelve apostles were martyred for following Jesus, except John who died a natural death. Every saint on the Church’s calendar had to bear his or her portion of the Cross. It is through the Cross that we obtained our salvation. It is by carrying the Cross after Jesus that we can become holy.

The Cross eloquently expresses the fundamental paradox of Christianity, the logic of the Gospel: “Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it does not produce fruit. If we lose our earthly life, we will save it for eternity. We cannot wear the crown without carrying the Cross. There will be no glory of Easter without the gloom of Good Friday.”

Let me leave you with an exhortation from a spiritual classic, The Imitation of Christ:

In the cross we have salvation; in the cross we have life; in the cross we have protection from our enemies.

In the cross there is the infusion of heavenly sweetness; in the cross there is the strengthening of minds; in the cross there is spiritual joy.

In the cross is the height of virtue; in the cross is the fullness of holiness.

In the cross alone do we find the soul’s eternal salvation and hope of everlasting life! Take up your cross, therefore, and follow Jesus and you will pass into unending life.

Carrying His own cross Jesus preceded you, and on the cross He died for you so that you too might bear your cross and long to die on it. If you die with Him you shall also live with Him, and if you are His companion in suffering you shall likewise be His companion in glory.

Let us bear our small and big crosses with a smile and bring them to the altar. Let us unite our suffering to His so that our participation in the Holy Eucharist may benefit us, our families and our world!

Mission Statement: As children of God, living in a Catholic community of faith, we are united by the Gospel message of Jesus Christ. Aware that all we have is gift and grace from our Heavenly Father, we strive to give of our time, talent and treasure to build His kingdom on earth. We live this mission, challenged by the Word, nurtured by the Sacraments, and enlivened by the Spirit, to serve our brothers and sisters in peace, justice and dignity. All are welcome on this journey.

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St. Paul of the Cross

320 South Washington Street
Park Ridge, IL 60068

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