Today’s feast of the exultation of the Holy Cross might seem a little odd, especially to the outside world: today we honour and celebrate Jesus being killed on the Cross.
So it’s important to recall a few things about why this is important to do.
First, we need to do it just to remember that it happened. I can remember, when I was child, I had a non-Christian friend come around to the house and I can remember him seeing my crucifix on the wall, and he looked at it like something new. He said, “Is that how they killed him?”
He didn’t know who Jesus was and he didn’t know how Jesus died.
If we don’t recall the crucifix then Christ will also be stranger to us we will forget how he died.
When a friend does something or us we should remember it. Many of us I’m sure can remember debts of various kinds we owe to others.
And Jesus, our best friend, died for us, and we need to remember that
-and that is the first and foremost reason to celebrate the exultation of the Holy Cross.
But we also celebrate this feast to help us more deeply understand WHO Jesus is.
The disciples who followed Jesus around 200 years ago in Palestine THOUGHT they knew Jesus, but they didn’t really, they only PARTIALLY knew Him.
Though many of them grasped that He was the Messiah, they didn’t understand what that meant. They frequently thought of Him as a WORLDLY leader, with worldly power. And so even at the end of the gospels we find them asking, “Lord, will you NOW restore the kingdom to Israel?” (Acts 1:6).
Jesus, however, in order to be REALLY known, wanted to be known from the Cross. There were many times when He told people NOT to make Him known as the Messiah –why? Because He could only be FULLY known as what He was on the Cross:
On the Cross we see power seeking to be service to others;
On the Cross we see love pouring itself out in sacrifice;
On the Cross we see suffering proving the depth of that love.
And because we know of the Resurrection, we know that all of this was what He had the power to stop, the power to resist, we know that He is and was truly God and that the Cross was not weakness overcome but power choosing to be weakness for the sake of others, for the sake of us.
Read from the second reading (Philippians 2:6-11):
“The state of Jesus Christ was divine, YET he did not cling to his equality with God
but emptied himself to assume the condition of a slave, and became as men are;
and being as all men are, he was humbler yet,
even to accepting death, death on a cross.”
It is only if we regularly look to the crucifix, if we regularly exalt the Cross in our minds as we do on this feast day, that we will remember WHO He truly is.