Sorry this is so late.

The Feast of the Exultation of the Cross

Though he was in the form of God

Jesus did not deem equality with God something to be grasped at

Rather he emptied himself and took the form of a slave

Being born in the likeness of men.

He was known to be of human estate

And it was thus that he humbled himself

Obediently accepting death, even death on a cross.

We all have crosses.  They are burnished and beautiful works of art.   We proudly display them and wear them and admire them because they are the ultimate sign of God’s love, of his victory.  That is why we celebrate the Feast of the Exultation of the Cross.  Yet, we must admit that anyone who was dropped into any church from the century before Christ lived, they would certainly wonder why we were glorifying the cross, the great symbol of Roman brutality, torture and humiliation.  We cannot understand the triumph of the cross without recalling the suffering of the cross.  Its glory is borne from its tragedy.  Perhaps that is why we Catholics insist on a crucifix where Christ’s body is still present.  We need to remember the consistent message of the Gospel – only our crosses lead to our resurrection.

Look at the beautiful hymn to the Philippians.  Jesus, in the form of God, had everything – perfection and co-existence with his Father.  Yet, in his rescue mission for humanity he gave it all up, he emptied himself by surrendering his God to become vulnerable among us.  Indeed, he would be a slave, not only to the higher legal authorities who would take his life, but to anyone to whom he came across.  Even the lowliest person was given a claim on his time, power and friendship.  But even the complete servitude in the name of his Father was not enough. His obedience to the will of God carried him to death.  Having put on the mortal coil, he would pay its price.  And not just any death, but the most humiliating and terroristic death, the cursed death on a cross.

Because of this God highly exalted him

And bestowed on him the name above every other name

The glory of Christ is not in spite of the cross.  It is due to it.  The utter gift of himself, the completeness of the sacrifice, the absorption of all of our ugly violence are the reasons that God reversed the curse and raises Christ to glory.  Having been fully immersed in the worst of humanity, he raises us all to the beauty of divinity.  For us to do something with our suffering, we must follow his path.

This is a challenging idea in our time.  Our culture sees not much good in suffering.  It is only unfair, must be ended.  It would seem to have no redeeming features which is quite contrary to our theology.  Our advertising would confront and indeed crush any imperfection of our lives as a permanent barrier to happiness.

I think I too fall into that trap.  I look at my crosses – the losses I have had in my life, my fears and my shadow side and try to hide it, minimize it or therapize it.  I want to negotiate my crosses and keep them hidden.  But all I ever accomplish is creating a cozy room within me for my greatest pain and my most disheartening thoughts.

Jesus did not recommend that we carefully avoid or deny our crosses.  He told us to take up our cross and follow him.  To pick it up from wherever it is hiding and embrace it; feel its burden on our shoulder.  We are called to follow him on the way of the cross, to march up that hill with Jesus and surrender ourselves to God as he did.  We are called to take the pain, the loss and ugliness of our lives and nail it to the cross.  Once we have given it over to God and no longer insist on being the master of our own woundedness, God will transform our Good Fridays to Easters as well.

But we will never be able to embrace a cross unless we know that our crosses can be redeemed and they are truly the way from darkness to light.  But I can promise that it is true.  I have held the hands of too many dying people not to know that God is present in that moment.  I have seen too many young people emerging from addiction and depression to not see the glory of God transforming them.  I have seen to many people undergo unbelievable loss yet continue to survive and love not to see the light of God in them.

Our God of healing has found a way for us.  The way shown by the Son.  The way we most often neglect or outright refuse is the way of the cross.  Yet, if we but feel its burden, we will know its exultation.

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