Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross
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.
Introductory Prayer: Lord, I know you are my God, my Creator and my Redeemer. I place myself in your presence, grateful for your love and your continuous providence. I want to understand better the meaning of the cross, and the place of suffering in my life, so that I can embrace your will everyday with greater faith and love.
Petition: Christ Jesus, help me to imitate your supremely positive example of acceptance and love of your Father’s Will even to the point of dying on the cross.
1. The one who has come down from heaven, the Son of Man. This is the great mystery. Jesus is the one who lived in heaven, the true Son of God who became man. This is the reason we trust him, for he speaks of what he knows when he tells us of his Father, of the eternal life that awaits us and the path to reach it. He is God, he knows all truth, he is the truth and has no reason to deceive us. As a matter of fact, he became man to teach us the truth, because without him mankind was in the darkness of sin and the deceptions of God's Enemy. It is the devil who deceives (the father of lies), it is our human passions that cloud our understanding. With Christ, all becomes light. Whoever follows me does not walk in darkness.
2. Christ explains his cross. Christ does not explain in the abstract the reasons for suffering, but before all else he says: Follow me! Come! Through your suffering take part in this work of saving the world, a salvation achieved through my suffering, through my cross! As the individual Christian takes up his cross, and spiritually unites himself to the cross of Christ, the salvific meaning of suffering gradually,becomes clearer to him. He does not discover this meaning at his own human level, but at the level of the suffering of Christ. (Pope John Paul II, Salvifici Doloris, n. 22). The greatest tragedy is not suffering, but suffering that has no meaning. Christ knows the meaning of his cross, he knows why he must suffer, and he offers it to us to help us give a meaning to the many crosses in our lives, ... so must the Son of Man be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life. Our cross is a gift, an opportunity to help Christ bring many people to heaven, to make sure that his redemptive blood was not shed in vain. This leads us to embrace our cross, whatever it may be, with all the love of our heart, so that Christ’s love can more readily shine through in our lives.
3. The heart of God. Suffering leads some to question God’s goodness and love. Jesus helps us to understand the immensity of the Father’s love, for in everything he looks out for our good. God the Father even went to the extreme of sending his Son into the world, giving him to the world in order to save us. Even though there were abundant reasons to condemn the world, that is not what the Father sent his Son to do. Instead of looking down from on high, keeping the distance that was his as God, and dictating judgment and condemnation with the authority that was his, Jesus came to be one of us, not holding onto his dignity as God, and going so far as to take upon himself what is so typical of us and unthinkable in God: suffering. This should shock us, shock us enough that we rethink everything about life, happiness and success by dropping our human points of reference and taking Jesus’ example as the only truth to enlighten our minds. Then we begin to understand the cross and suffering, as the sign of love and the requirement of love.
Conversation: As I kneel before you and contemplate your suffering on the cross, I begin to understand a little more your and the Father’s love. I believe that you, and only you, can teach me the full truth about my life and my calling. My human nature rejects suffering and considers it an utter misfortune, to be avoided at all costs; your example compels me to look at the cross differently, as an opportunity and a necessity. Mary, strengthen me in my resolve to embrace whatever difficulties and crosses I meet in my efforts to be faithful to Jesus, help me accept trustingly the suffering God allows in my life, and to embrace it in union with Jesus, offering it in reparation for my sins and for the good of those who depend on me. Be my strength and consolation, and help me persevere in love all the days of my life.
1. In practice, how convinced am I that Christ is the key to all truth? In what things to do find myself seeking happiness and fulfillment outside of what I know is his will?
2. What is my attitude toward suffering, toward the price of doing good consistently?
3. Have I found peace and happiness in my awareness of God’s love? Does it help me in my times of difficulty?