Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross
(Numbers 21:4b-9; Philippians 2:6-11; John 3:13-17)
One of the earliest poems in the English language is a reflection on the Holy Cross. In “The Dream of the Rood” the rood is a pole or a cross. The poem describes the trajectory of its existence. It was once a tree before being cut down and formed into an instrument of death. Brought to Calvary, the rood realized that it was being embraced by Jesus and so would suffer with him. In the end the rood was adorned with precious stones where the Savior’s body had been attached. The story is a kind of personal remembrance of today’s second reading.
The passage from the Letter to the Philippians is believed to have originated as a hymn sung by early Christians. It was adopted by Paul for his lesson on humility and obedience. The Son, Christ Jesus, was always God, but at the Father’s command humbled himself to be born as human. On earth he continued in obedience in order to fulfill his Father’s will to redeem humanity from sin. He was crucified, but death was not the last word about his mission. God raised him up so that he might be adored and worshiped.
Both “The Dream of the Rood” and the Letter to the Philippians encourage us to suffer with Christ. Catholics today are facing ridicule for continuing as members of a Church whose leaders have sometimes sinned. We can accept the humiliation as a way of participating in the Savior’s crucifixion. Our comfort is to know that following Christ, we will come to his glory.