“And being found in human form he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name which is above every name” (Philippians 2:8-9).
The 14th of September is the feast day of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, formerly known as the Triumph of the Cross.
Try to imagine the paradox: the cross, an instrument of extreme cruelty and disgrace, has become God's instrument of triumph and glory. With the battle over sin and death accomplished, Jesus now sits exalted in glory at the right hand of the Father.
Because of Jesus' submission to the will of the Father, even to the point of death, he has won the victory of all victories. His death put an end to death. His suffering has dispelled our darkness. By Jesus' victory, God's plan is accomplished. Jesus' last words from the cross—“It is finished” (John 19:30)—rang out as a proclamation that the old creation, grown weak and tired in sin, was ended. A new creation in his risen life was about to begin, and we are all heirs of that new creation—the people he won through his death on the cross.
We who have been "bitten" by the serpent and have the poison of sin in our veins are called to look with faith upon the crucified one and be healed (Numbers 21:4-9). We are invited to look at Jesus' wounds, to gaze at the blood flowing from his side, from his hands, his feet, and his head. Through these wounds, healing of infinite magnitude is granted to the human race.
If we want to know the healing power of the cross, we must first come to the end of our own resources and striving for perfection. The cross tells us we cannot rid ourselves of sin; we cannot make ourselves acceptable to God. It is only in dying to ourselves, in handing our lives to God in total trust and submission, that we will experience the healing of the cross. The promise is that if we die with him, we will live with him (2 Timothy 2:11-12).
Today we honor the cross. We honor the Father for sending his Son to us. We honor Jesus, whose blood has won eternal victory for us. We honor the Spirit, who enables us to receive the grace poured out for us on the cross. This feast day is indeed among the brightest days of all human history.
Points for Meditation:
Think of a victory celebration in which you may have participated. Perhaps your favorite football team won the Super Bowl or your local candidate won an election. Think of the happiness you felt at that moment. How much more does God want us to cheer and praise our King for enduring the cross and freeing us from sin and death! In prayer today, be sure to praise God for what he has done for you in Christ.
Every day we face pressures and temptations that can raise doubts in our minds as to whether we really do share in Jesus' triumph over sin. Gaze upon a crucifix and affirm in your mind and heart the victory and power of the cross in your life. Pray the following Scripture verse: “For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Corinthians 1:18).
St. Paul tells us that Jesus “emptied himself” to become man and “humbled himself” to die on the cross (Philippians 2:6-7). If we are to share in the life of Christ, we must do the same so that we can also share in Christ's glory. Pray about what you need to “empty” in yourself—whether it be worldly desires, anger and resentment, or a hardened heart. Tell Jesus you want to share in his death so that you can know his resurrection.
Today, ask the Holy Spirit to open your eyes to see how you bring forth life from death and hope from suffering. He will help you to acknowledge your need for the healing power of the cross, and to trust in God's ability to bring you to victory over sin and death.