THE EXALTATION OF THE CROSS
Today, dear brothers and sisters in Christ, we have the Cross brought before us as we commemorate the great feast of the Exaltation of the Cross of our Lord.
This feast commemorates the finding of the Cross of our Lord, when the Empress, St Helen, came to Jerusalem with this purpose… to recover the Precious Cross of Christ. During their excavations, they came upon three crosses – these were the three upon which hung our Lord and the two thieves. The sign with the inscription, ‘Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews’, also lay among the three crosses, so they knew they had made their discovery. In order to determine which one was the true cross, a sick woman was told to kiss each of the three crosses. The woman kissed the first cross with no result. She kissed the second cross and again nothing happened. However, when the ailing woman kissed the True Cross, she was immediately made well. It so happened that a funeral procession was passing that way, and so the body of the dead man was placed on each of the crosses, and when it was placed on the True Cross, the dead man came to life — thus the name the ‘Life-Giving‘ Cross, which gives life not only to that man, but to each person who believes in the sacrifice of Christ on the Cross and His all-glorious three day Resurrection.
When the true Cross was identified, it was lifted on high for all the people to see… all those present prostrated themselves before the beloved Cross of their Lord.
The Cross stands before us this morning to underscore this Christian principle of accepting and taking up our cross. Each and every one of us has major and minor crosses that we must bear in this life. Perhaps we suffer from illness, perhaps we are out of work or are struggling to make ends meet, perhaps we have difficult relationships with others in our lives, perhaps we continue to struggle with some persistent sin that ensnares us, perhaps we are struggling with the fears and isolation and challenges which this current virus has placed upon us. These challenges are difficult and they can wear us down as we suffer through them. But in all situations, there is always the freedom of how will respond… We can respond with resistance, resentment, and frustration – wishing that things were different and letting these things drag us downward; or we can respond with acceptance, humility, and patience – calling upon God to be with us in our suffering, to give us strength, and letting these very struggles be the things that point us upward toward God, our hope.
Surely, one of the most important messages of the Cross is that Christ is with us in our suffering. And not just that He is empathetic toward our suffering, but that He Himself has endured all human suffering and that He has gained the victory! We can and must turn to Christ in our pain, in our sufferings… and we must never fall prey to the lie of the evil one that we are alone - no matter what our particular circumstance might be. Are you lonely and isolated? – Christ was betrayed and abandoned in His darkest hour. Are you homeless or destitute? – Christ had nowhere to lay His head. Are you sick and in pain? – there has hardly been a more brutal and painful form of torture and death than crucifixion. Are you assaulted by constant temptation? – in His humanity, our Lord Jesus Christ endured it all.
Christ has taken upon His shoulders all the misery, all the suffering, all the sin of this world and has borne it, has trembled under its weight, and has suffered its consequences of death. And yet, death could not contain the One Who is the Source of Life! He burst forth from the grave and His Light scattered the darkness. All the spectrum of the experiences of humanity, Christ has touched and He has healed.
We are called to unite ourselves to Christ. We unite ourselves to His healing grace which allows us to endure all things with faith and hope and love. Uniting ourselves to Christ, we can face everything… be it triumph or tragedy, prosperity or poverty, health or sickness, life or death.
This is the good news of the Gospel! This is the message of the Cross – a message which the world cannot understand! What this world sees as a symbol of defeat and darkness has become for us our symbol of victory and light!
The outstretched arms of Christ upon the Cross embrace the whole world. ‘Greater love hath no man than this, that he should lay down his life for his friends.’ The love of God is unfathomable. We cannot comprehend it. We cannot earn it. We can only accept it and enter into it. And in so doing, we enter into Christ’s love and victory.
May we bow down before the beauty of the Cross – our hope and our salvation!