The Catholic Church celebrates the Feast of The Exaltation of the Holy Cross on 15 September. Reflecting upon the significance of the cross for our salvation, I wanted to share with you all five insights that causes me to rejoice in the cross of Christ.
1. It is the Tree of Life
Jesus “himself bore our sins in his body on the tree” (1 Pet. 2:24). The early Church saw the cross as the new tree of life through which the Author of Life, Jesus Christ, died to give us life. As the former tree of life bore fruit that hung from its branches, so the new tree of life has Jesus Christ hanging from it. The fruit of the new tree of life is the Eucharist. Through our partaking of the Eucharist, of the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, we now have life, eternal life (John 6:53-54). Salvation flows from the cross!
2. Curse reversed
“Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us – for it is written, ‘Cursed be everyone who hangs on a tree’” (Gal. 3:13; Deut. 21:23). The reason why the Jewish leaders did not just want Jesus scourged, or stoned, but hung on a cross was because they wanted to utterly discredit him and his ministry as being accursed. To hang on the cross would prove to all that Jesus was not the Messiah. Little did they know that Christ was taking upon himself the curse of the fall inherited by sinful humanity and reversing it through his resurrection. The curse is reversed by the cross of Christ!
3. The bronze serpent
While wandering in the wilderness for forty years, the people of Israel rebelled against God. In one such occasion, God punished them by sending serpents to bite and kill the people. They then begged Moses to pray to God to stop this plague of serpents and the Lord said to Moses, “Make a fiery serpent, and set it on a pole; and everyone who is bitten, when he sees it, shall live” (Num. 21:8). So Moses made a bronze serpent and set it on a pole for the people to see it and live. Christ is the new bronze serpent, who takes away the curse of sin and was lifted upon the new pole of the cross so that we who look to Christ crucified might live eternally with him.
4. Magnetic pull
“And I, when I am lifted up from the earth will draw all men to myself” (John 12:32). The cross of Christ is the kingly throne to which he ascended on earth wearing his crown made of thorns. From this throne he rules, reigns, and commands our obedience of faith. All people, both Jew and Gentile, are now reconciled in the bloodied body of Christ. When people see the extravagant outpouring of love, which is the total gift of self, from Christ on the cross, all nations are drawn like a magnetic pull to pay homage to him.
5. Path of Discipleship
The cross is not so much transactional as it is transformational. It is not enough to realize that Christ suffered and died for us, but to let that love transform us to where we unite all our sufferings and even our eventual deaths in union with Christ for the salvation of the world. We are called by Christ to die to ourselves daily, to take up our cross daily, and to offer our “bodies as a living sacrifice” (Rom. 12:1) so that we too, like St. Paul, may “complete what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church” (Col. 1:24).
We exalt in the cross to be transformed by the cross!