by Fr. Todd Reitmeyer
Today we celebrate the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross. Once again we see in the scriptures how God unfolds his plan of salvation over thousands of years. The Gospel clearly shows us that when Moses raised the Serpent (the seraph) on a pole to save the people from their sins how this foretold that Christ would be lifted high on the cross to save us from our sins.
For the people of Moses' time they saw the results of their sin nailed to a pole and raised above them. If they looked to it in faith they would be saved. For us we see the results of our sin and that of all humanity nailed to a pole and raised. For Christ took the price of all our sins upon himself and was raised. To us it is promised that if we look to him in faith we will be saved as well. This is the importance of the crucifix in the Christian Tradition. We do not have empty crosses because an empty cross didn't save us. Christ crucified is the sign of our salvation.
But what does it mean to look to Christ in faith. You have heard me tell you faith does not mean simply believing in Christ. The devil believes Christ died and rose from the dead. No true faith must be lived otherwise it is dead. This is why Christ told us to take up our cross and follow him. We see a clear example when we contrast the people in our first reading with Christ in our second.
They were unwilling to suffer. They once again were grumbling and complaining against God. Though they had betrayed God twice they still expected that they were owed a comfortable living and when they didn't get it they complained against God. Look to Christ. He empties himself and took the form of a slave. To him was due all the Glory and Honor and yet he refused it for our sake. He was willing even to suffer, not for himself but for us, to the point of death and at that time it was the most demeaning and humiliating death one could undergo. Christ accepted it all because it tells us in the Gospel that God willed that the entire world be saved.
This is our contrast. The Israelites were not willing to suffer for themselves even when they deserved more suffering. Christ was willing to suffer for others even when he deserved none. In doing this he teaches us that suffering does have meaning. It is not pointless. If we are willing to accept it and offer it for others it becomes an act of true love. If we are not then it certainly seems pointless but most likely it is what we deserve. We choose whether our suffering has meaning or not by choosing to empty ourselves and offer it for others like Christ. This is why Christ is our high priest. The book of Hebrews tells us a priest is one who offers sacrifice for others. And we are all priests, prophets and kings by virtue of our baptisms.
By virtue of your baptism you are part of the common priesthood. By virtue of my ordination I am part of the ministerial priesthood. We both offer on the altar of sacrifice on Sundays. For you that means all the sufferings, trials and tribulations you experience during the week should be brought here on Sundays and laid on the altar. When the gifts of bread and wine are presented and put on the altar, then you spiritually lay your sufferings on the altar and pour them into the Chalice. Then I call upon the holy spirit and they are transformed into the Eucharist. What was our sufferings becomes our means of salvation and that of all the world. This is how our suffering becomes meaningful. When we empty ourselves and offer it on behalf of others.
You have a free choice. You can choose to have your suffering have meaning by offering it for others. Or you can choose to have it be pointless by grumbling and complaining about it. My suggestion to you: Look to Christ crucified on the cross. Exhalt the cross in your life. Live out your baptismal priesthood. You choose between freedom for meaning or freedom from meaning. You suffer for someone or you suffer from afflictions. The happiness and peace you seek is found in the way of the Cross, the way of Christ. 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. I Choose Life. How about you?
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