In yesterday’s Gospel, Jesus taught us that if we wish to be his disciples, we must take up our cross and follow him. (Mark 8:34) If we receive this instruction in a worldly way, all we will see is the sacrifice and suffering which the cross entails.
Today, the Church celebrates the Exaltation of the Cross, or the Triumph of the Cross. The true ‘end’ of the cross is our salvation! Thus, in a very real way, there is not only sacrifice and suffering to be found in the cross, but also true joy.
Many of the antiphons for today’s Feast portray the spirit of hope and joy we celebrate as we remember the glory of the cross in God’s mysterious and loving plan of salvation:
“See the cross of the Lord; let all his enemies flee in terror; the lion of Judah, David’s seed, is victorious, alleluia.”
“We must glory in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ; in him is our salvation, life and resurrection. Through him we are saved and set free.”
“O glorious cross, your arms upheld the priceless ransom of captive mankind. Through you the world has been saved by the blood of the Lord.”
“The Lord hung upon the cross to wash away our sins in his own blood. How splendid is that blessed cross.”
How radiant is that precious cross which brought us our salvation. In the cross we are victorious, through the cross we shall reign, by the cross all evil is destroyed, alleluia.”
On this feast, we pray for the grace of faith to trust in the Lord’s ways. The mystery of the cross is perhaps the greatest evidence of the truth of what the Prophet Isaiah spoke so many years ago:
For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways – For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, my thoughts higher than your thoughts. (Isaiah 55:8-9)
We also pray today for the grace to have the wisdom to turn to the cross to find our healing, just as the people of Israel who had sinned against the Lord found healing in gazing upon the serpent Moses wrapped around a pole at the Lord’s command. (Numbers 21:4-9) This is Jesus prayer for us today:
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.” (John 3: 14) This is the evidence of God’s great love for us, and the true cause of our joy in Christ and in his Holy Cross. For as Jesus also says in today’s Gospel:
“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.” (John 3:16)\