This feast is always celebrated on September fourteenth. It is an extraordinary feast in the history and in the mind of the Church. It is believed that St. Helen, the mother of Constantine, while on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem in 326, found a piece of the “True Cross” on September 14th. The feast became important when it was believed that the “True Cross” was returned from Persia to Jerusalem in the seventh century after its having been stolen.
The second reading – Paul’s letter to the Philippians – pretty well sums up the whole reality of Jesus. Though Jesus was in the form of God, He did not consider being equal to God as something to be exploited or clung to. As the ancient Nicene Creed states, Jesus was God from God, light from light, true God from true God. From His divine reality Jesus was willing to empty Himself taking to Himself the form of a slave and being born in human likeness. Again, as our Creed proclaims, “He was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary.” As one like us in all things but sin, Jesus became obedient to His Father’s will even to the point of death, even death on a cross. As Jesus told the inquisitive Nicodemus, just as Moses lifted up the healing serpent in the desert so the Son of Man must be lifted up on the very cross we honor today, so that everyone who believes in Him may have eternal life. On that cross Jesus was wounded for our transgressions, crushed for our offences, upon Him was the punishment that made us whole and it was by His wounds we are healed.
But that is not the end of Jesus. For handing over His very being to His Father’s will, His Father exalted Him. In the reality of the resurrection, Jesus is given a name above every name that can be named, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend in heaven and earth and under the earth and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of the Father. It is in the resurrection that Jesus the slave is vindicated and exalted by His Father.
In the cross we see the triumph of love over hate and of justice over injustice. In the crucified Christ we see the love of God made visible. As today’s gospel reminds us, “God sent His Son into the world not to condemn the world but to embrace the world with all its joys and sorrows” and by His death on the cross Christ bring life to the world.
On this feast of the Triumph of the Cross we can apply Jesus mentality to ourselves. By God’s grace we try to empty ourselves of all that is not Christ like – our selfishness, self satisfaction, bigotry, prejudice, any sense of injustice, anything in the way we live our lives that does not image in some way the teachings and example of Jesus.
I heard an interesting thing the other day. A person was asked, “are you a Christian and the answer was ask my neighbour’ or ask my wife or husband, ask my children, ask the people with whom I work.
On this triumphant feast of the Cross we can pray for ourselves and for each other that we be emptied of any un-Christ like aspects of our lives and be blessed to be able to echo the words of St. Paul, “I live now, not I but Christ lives in me and the life I live I live trusting in the Son of God who loved me and gave His life for me.”