Tuesday – Exaltation of the Cross
Gospel – John 3:13-17
The Sign of the Cross
What was the first prayer you learned growing up? Our Father? Hail Mary? Grace? Now I lay me down to sleep?
The Sign of the Cross!!!! Too often we think of it as only an intro to prayer, not a prayer itself! But it is! A simple sign of our faith, our belief: in God, in the Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit!! It is a verbal reminder of our belief in God.
But the Sign of the Cross can also be something more. We come today to the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross, a perfect time to reflect on its meaning in our lives. Consider the visual aspect of the Sign of the Cross– we touch our head, our gut, and our shoulders!
Head – our thoughts, we are called to turn our thoughts to God, to pray to Him, to talk to Our Father OFTEN just as Jesus encouraged us to do.
Gut – our humanity, what we share with Jesus, our physical nature. But sometimes we focus too much on our physical needs – food, looking good, exercise, our self – all good but too often we overdo it – we end up thinking more of ourselves, OUR needs and not those of others. So God calls us to reflect on our spiritual self and not so much our physical, to remember that, in the end, what matters is our soul!
Shoulders – we were all filled with the Holy Spirit at Baptism and especially at Confirmation where we are given the strength to not only practice our faith but to witness to our faith in our actions with others. We are called to REACH OUT OUR HANDS to those in need, TO SHOULDER THEIR NEEDS, to give of ourselves to others. Sometimes it’s donating to a worthy cause, sometimes it’s contributing to a clothing drive or a food drive. Sometimes it’s simply giving our time – to listen when someone needs to talk, to comfort when someone is hurting.
But especially for today, when we recall Jesus’ crucifixion and death, when He gave His life in atonement for our sins, the Sign of the Cross is a visual reminder of the Cross itself! It is a reminder of the suffering and death of our brother Jesus! Even after enduring a crown of thorns, a painful lashing with a whip, and a long path to Golgotha carrying a cross of at least 50 pounds, He was nailed to that cross and died a horrible, shameful, painful death. It was a public execution; he endured not only unbearable pain and agony, but also the taunts and jeers of the people gathered around the cross. It was a slow agonizing death, where muscles where stretched and the condemned was left gasping for a breath of air. The Cross – a symbol of execution and condemnation, a sign of our salvation!
But if that is all we believe about the cross, we are missing something! It is not just about pain and suffering and death. It is not just about shame and cruelty. It is first and foremost the sign of God’s love! That is how much God loves us! That is how much Jesus loves us. That He would willingly give Himself up to all that pain and suffering and death because He loves us! It really isn’t a sign of shame; it’s a symbol of LOVE!
And that is what we remember today – not merely Jesus’ sacrifice, not just the pain and death He endured, but the LOVE He has for each and every one of us, a love that we share in and return every time we PRAY, every time we GIVE UP the unnecessary things in life and focus on what’s really important, every time we help out someone in need.
And every time we do all of that IN THE NAME OF THE FATHER AND OF THE SON AND OF THE HOLY SPIRIT.