Meditation and Questions for Reflection or Group Discussion
(Numbers 21:4-9; Psalm 78:1-2,34-38; Philippians 2:6-11; John 3:13-17)
What it Means to Exalt the Cross
At the name of Jesus every knee should bend. (Philippians 2:10)
In A.D. 326, St. Helena, the mother of the Roman emperor Constantine, discovered the true cross of Jesus near the site that generations had venerated as the Mount of Crucifixion. Upon discovering the cross, everyone fell to their knees and cried out, “Lord, have mercy!” A church was built on the site—the Church of the Holy Sepulcher—and the cross was placed in a prominent position within the building. The church was consecrated on September 13, 335, and the feast of the Exaltation of the Cross was celebrated annually on the following day, September 14.
About three hundred years later, the cross was taken as plunder by the Persian emperor Khosrau II but was reclaimed fourteen years later by the Roman emperor Heraclius, who brought it to Constantinople where it was once again triumphantly exalted.
This short history lesson has some resemblance to the way we live out our faith. For instance, when we see the glory of the cross and the sacrifice Jesus made for us, we rejoice. With grateful hearts we say, “Lord, I love you; have mercy on me.” But then we lose sight of this gift of salvation. Without even realizing it, we let the cross get buried underneath our many priorities and responsibilities.
Then, when we are touched, maybe by a tragic event, by a book we read, or by a moving homily at Mass, we “excavate” the cross and exalt it once more. We give it a place of prominence in the sanctuary of our hearts. But then we lose our focus and let our guard down. A stronger foe conquers us and steals the joy of the cross from us. Finally, with newfound determination we take the cross back and we say once more, “Jesus, I exalt your cross. I make it my foundation. Lord, have mercy on me!”
May we all do our best to exalt the cross and make it the first foundation of our lives!
“Lord, as I lift up the cross, I ask you to have mercy on me.”
(Many thanks to The Word Among Us (www.wau.org) for allowing us to use meditations from their monthly devotional magazine. Used with permission. The Word Among Us Mass Edition contains all the Mass readings and prayers, and a meditation for each of the daily and Sunday Masses.)
Questions for Reflection/Discussion
- In the first reading, God pours out his wrath on his people for their ungratefulness. The people, instead of getting angry with God, repent to Moses for their sins with these words, “We have sinned in complaining against the LORD and you. Pray the LORD to take the serpents from us.” The Lord responds by having Moses mounts a bronze serpent on a pole (a foreshadowing of the cross), which becomes a source of healing for the people. How does this response of the people, compare to your response when you experience the consequences of your sin? How should it compare?
- The Responsorial Psalm, like the First Reading, also shows the compassion and mercy of God. It is so easy to fall into the trap of thinking that the God described in the Old Testament is harsh and vengeful, while the God of the New Testament is loving and merciful. We know that they are the same God. Listen to these words from the Responsorial Psalm, “But they flattered him with their mouths and lied to him with their tongues, Though their hearts were not steadfast toward him, nor were they faithful to his covenant. But he, being merciful, forgave their sin and destroyed them not; Often he turned back his anger and let none of his wrath be roused.” In what way have you experienced these attributes of God in your life?
- The Second Reading says that Jesus “emptied himself,” “humbled himself,” and was “obedient to death, even death on a cross.” We as Catholic Christians are called to follow in the footsteps of the Lord. How difficult is it for you to empty and humble yourself and be obedient to the Lord? What steps can you take to improve?
- We are all familiar with John 3:16 from the Gospel Reading: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.” What does this passage mean to you? What impact does it have on how you live your life? Should it? Why or why not?
- The meditation ends with these words: “May we all do our best to exalt the cross and make it the first foundation of our lives!” What do these words mean to you? What steps can you take to exalt the cross and make it the first foundation of your life?
- Take some time now to pray and ask the Lord for the grace to exalt and lift up the cross — and receive God’s mercy. Use the prayer at the end of the meditation as the starting point.