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Why we exalt the cross

The Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross of Christ (September 14) gives us the occasion to consider once again the importance of the cross in our life. Let’s savor some words of the readings used on that feast’s Mass. (cfr Jn 3,13-17)

“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…For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him.”

These words certainly tell us how the Cross of Christ embodies God’s love and mercy for us in spite of our undeniable wretchedness. It’s where we can deal properly with our wounded, sinful condition here on earth.

Yes, Christ preached. He performed miracles. But in the end, he had to offer his life on the cross because no matter what he did, our sins are such that they simply cannot be undone and forgiven through the preaching of the truths of our faith and the tremendous effects of the miracles. Christ has to offer his life on the cross!

We might ask, if Christ is God, why did he have to go through all that suffering and death? Why not just say, “Everything is now all right, guys.” As God, nothing is impossible with him. With the movement of his will, with a flick of his hand, everything would be as it should be.

Be that as it may, the fact is that Christ chose the way the Father wanted it. “Not my will, but yours be done,” Christ said. (Lk 22,42) And I imagine the reason behind this is because God respects our human nature as it is, as it has been created by him, capable of loving and hating, and also capable of being faithful and unfaithful and faithful again after some conversion.

The return to fidelity, given our nature, will unavoidably involve suffering and death which Christ took to himself. It shows us the way of how to go about these consequences of our sins.

That is why, it’s always recommendable to meditate often on the passion, death and resurrection of Christ, so we would learn to have some healthy abhorrence against sin and temptations, as well as to develop the capacity to suffer calmly with Christ to make up for our unavoidable sins.

This is the purpose of the cross in our life. It is to instil in us the proper attitude and virtues with respect to our sin, before it is committed and also after it is committed. It’s in the Cross of Christ where we can find divine mercy and the fullness of our redemption.

It might be useful to repeat in our mind, heart and lips that reassuring psalm of God’s mercy and the fullness of our redemption (Ps 130,7), so that we would always be motivated by God’s love in all our earthly affairs, especially when we encounter difficulties, setbacks, failures, and even temptations and sin.

That would surely enliven our faith and keep us united with God in all the events of our day. We should have no doubt whatsoever that on the part of God, everything is already given to us so we can be what we ought to be—children of God, sharers of God’s life. Any doubt in this regard can only come from the devil.*

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