This weekend, the Church celebrates the feast of: The Exaltation of the Holy Cross.” It is unusual for anything to interrupt the normal rhythm of “Ordinary Sundays” during the Church year, unless it is a feast of major importance to the history of salvation. Our feast this Sunday surely fits this criteria.
St Louis Marie de Montfort was fond of saying “No cross without Christ/No Christ without the cross.” To make that plain, you cannot go into a Catholic Church anywhere in the world without seeing a depiction of Jesus on the cross, sometimes as crucified, sometimes as resurrected and glorified, but always together. This is not meant to be a depressing image, but a sobering one, in which we are called to remember how far Jesus was prepared to go to bring us back to God, atoning for our sins by his death on the cross.
The gospel this Sunday reminds us, in those very familiar words of Jesus to Nicodemus, that “God so loved the world, that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.” The very citation of that verse, John 3:16, has become a familiar sight at sports events around the world. I’m not sure how many people, seeing that citation, would automatically understand what it refers to, but at the very least, it will probably stimulate enough curiosity in them to ask around, until it is explained to them. (I recently crossed over from Canada to America in my car, and the border guard was sufficiently intrigued by my number plate – Jn 3:5 – to ask what it meant. I told him it stood for “John 3:5-“No one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Holy Spirit”- a bit of surreptitious evangelizing, I guess!!”
It is sad to see young people wearing a cross as just another part of their jewellery, and not giving a thought to what they are carrying . (One girl I heard of went into a jewellery shop and asked for a silver cross “with a little man on it”!!). But at least, the symbol of the cross is being kept before our eyes, and we should never lose an opportunity to explain its significance to others, so that they come to hear the good news of how much God has loved us, and how far he has gone to save us.
“At the cross, mankind’s greatest “NO” to God, became God’s greatest “YES” to mankind “.