Readings: Numbers 21:4-9; Philippians 2:6-11; John 3:13-17
The Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross is a good intention offered us by the Church. It honors the wisdom of God for manifesting the extent of his love and compassion for us, his fallen creatures, beginning from our first parents, Adam and Eve, up to the present. God’s wisdom was good; but that doesn’t work too well from our point of view.
The cross is a horrible way to die. We are certainly impressed, but we aren’t exactly consoled–especially by such statements of Jesus in the Gospels: If you wish to be my disciples, sell everything you have…take up your cross and follow me.
The point, of course, is how much do we love God? Do I love God more than I love myself? And it is pretty off-putting to have to admit that I may not love God that much! I am left with the distraught father’s answer to Jesus, I believe, Lord; help my unbelief!
But that is a place for us to start. It is a better reply than the rich young man gave; he went away sad because he couldn’t respond. I often like to think that the young man came back later, after he thought it over, and did follow Jesus. He just needed some time. But to say, “Oh, yes, Lord,” and not mean it, is like the seed that falls on rocky soil and springs up only to whither. That is really shallow.
This Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross makes us think and that is not a bad thing. Uncomfortable, yes, but not bad. We are forced to make a real choice for or against God.
If I say “yes” to God, God usually doesn’t require everything from me at once. He leads us gradually. It’s still not easy: remember the three temptations in the desert at the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry. God didn’t ask Jesus to understand right away, but he expected him to always trust and to say “yes.” The trick is not to wait too long making the decision.
The Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross is a feast that we all need. It is a reminder to us always to trust God in what he asks of us. We can ask about it, we can even argue a bit–as long as we agree to say “yes” to God. The example set before us is Jesus. At Gethsemane he asked–he begged. And then he accepted and did it–our salvation. Can we do less?