for the Feast of the Holy Cross
Nb 21:4b-9 - Ph 2:6-11 - Jn 3:13-17
by Canon Dr. Daniel Meynen
The Sign of the Son of Man
Nb 21:4, From Mount Hor they set out by the way to the Red Sea, to go around the land of Edom; and the people became impatient on the way. 5, And the people spoke against God and against Moses, «Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and we loathe this worthless food.» 6, Then the Lord sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people, so that many people of Israel died. 7, And the people came to Moses, and said, «We have sinned, for we have spoken against the Lord and against you; pray to the Lord, that he take away the serpents from us.» So Moses prayed for the people. 8, And the Lord said to Moses, «Make a fiery serpent, and set it on a pole; and every one who is bitten, when he sees it, shall live.» 9, So Moses made a bronze serpent, and set it on a pole; and if a serpent bit any man, he would look at the bronze serpent and live.
Today, Sunday, September 14, 2008, we celebrate the glorious Cross of Christ! We honor this instrument of torture on which Jesus, our Savior and our God, died almost two thousand years ago. We also venerate all the relics of the Holy Cross scattered throughout the world in order to inflame in our heart an ever greater devotion toward the Passion of the Savior of men.
Through the Cross and on the Cross, the body of Jesus was marked by greater trophies than were ever presented to any athlete! And in this instrument, the soul of Jesus found the truly unique Door through which one enters God's Heaven for eternity! In brief, the cross may rightly be called the "Sign of the Son of man" (Mt 24:30), as seen in the sky by Emperor Constantine in the year 312, a sign accompanied by the words: "By this sign you will conquer."
Through the Cross, Jesus conquered death, definitively, for all eternity. Through the Cross, we too can conquer death, the death that comes from sin, "the second death" of which Saint John speaks (cf. Rev 20:14). Through the Cross, all of us - Jesus first, and then us - are led by the Spirit of God (cf. Heb 9:14) to the Glory of the Resurrection! Eternal Life and Bliss in God come through the Cross: the Sign of the Son of Man is a glorious sign!
In this Sunday's Gospel, Jesus himself explains the meaning of the bronze serpent of which the first reading speaks: "As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life." (Jn 3:14-15) The bronze serpent proclaims the lifting up of the body of Jesus on the Cross of Calvary, but also the lifting up of the soul of Jesus into Heaven!
The bronze serpent already plunges us into eternity, where man is called by God to see him face to face, in a vision that enlivens, through the Spirit of God, both the soul and the body of each of the elect. Just as it is the vision of God that enlivens man in eternity, it was the vision of the bronze serpent that healed and enlivened the body of the Hebrews when they were bitten by a serpent: "So Moses made a bronze serpent, and set it on a pole; and if a serpent bit any man, he would look at the bronze serpent and live." (Nb 21:9)
Ph 2:6, Christ Jesus, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8, And being found in human form he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross. 9, Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name which is above every name, 10, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Jesus humbled himself by becoming obedient unto death, death on the cross. The suffering of the cross was one of the most painful to endure, but above all the most infamous, for the Romans reserved it to slaves and rebels. So let us set our hearts on changing our ways and acting as responsible citizens, and above all citizens who obey all laws, not only those of God and nature, but also those of the State. Let us be sure to observe traffic laws, for example. Let us honor our superiors, and above all our parents! If we obey with Jesus, we will be exalted with Jesus: "Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name which is above every name!" (Ph 2:9)
Jn 3:13, Jesus said: «No one has ascended into heaven but he who descended from heaven, the Son of man. 14, And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of man be lifted up, 15, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.» 16, For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17, For God sent the Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him.
After Jesus' discourse, Saint John, who was at the foot of the Cross on the day of the Lord's death, comments on the words of the Master. He reveals to us the soul of the Cross, its spirit, that which had led Jesus to die in this way: "God so loved the world..." The Cross manifests to all men God's love for the world, this world that God calls to his service and to his praise! In this lies all the glory of that instrument of torture: it serves to show all the men and women in the world that God's love goes as far as folly, the folly of the Cross!
During this Sunday Eucharist, we will receive communion. Let us unite ourselves to Christ on his way of the Cross in order to be worthy of the eternal life he promises to share with us! Let us firmly believe that God's love surpasses anything we could ever imagine! Let us ask Mary for these graces! She stood at the foot of the Cross, watching her Son die: may She thus be our model in the love of God and men!