The Cross

Before dismissing the children for their own liturgy of the word, a priest once decided on giving them a brief lesson by telling them a story. On this particular Sunday, he was using squirrels for an object lesson on industry and preparation. He started out by saying, "I'm going to describe something, and I want you to raise your hand when you know what it is." The children nodded eagerly.

"This thing lives in trees (pause) and eats nuts (pause)..." No hands went up. "And it is gray (pause) and has a long bushy tail (pause)..." The children were looking at each other, but still no hands raised. "And it jumps from branch to branch (pause) and chatters and flips its tail when it's excited (pause)..."

Finally one little boy tentatively raised his hand. The pastor breathed a sigh of relief and called on him. "Well," said the boy, "I *know* the answer must be Jesus ... but it sure sounds like a squirrel to me!"

It does not sound like a squirrel, but we all know what the sign of the cross means. Though it was once thought as a sign of failure, it is a sign of a bloody death. It is a sign of a life taken abruptly and untimely ended. It is the sign of the cross.

As we celebrate the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross, we are asked to take up and embrace our crosses in life, which Jesus did as his way of loving and to challenge ourselves to love more and deeply, which Jesus meant as the key to a life that is everlasting.

The cross transcends all moments of our lives. For some of us, our past may be punctuated by the failure of our parents or the brokenness of our upbringing. Whenever we welcome our crosses in life, we accept our past. For most of us, our present may be challenged by the disappointment of who we are and the discontent of who we would like to be. Whenever we accept our crosses in life, we understand our present. And, whenever we understand our crosses in life, we embrace our future. Because for all of us, our future may be endangered by our confusion and doubts on what we have to do.

The cross reveals that love entails suffering. Only love that lasts through hard times is true. Only love that has gone through sacrifice and surrender is authentic. Only love that has been through pain and adversity is real.

The cross is a sign of the love of Jesus. It simply means that life takes nothing that love cannot give back. Whenever we feel down and depressed, whenever we feel sad and lonely, whenever we feel rejected and frustrated, just look up to the cross. Up there is a sign of the love of God lifting us from our miseries. Up there is an invitation to meet Him with our unworthy selves. Up there is the love of a Father who gave His one and only Son.

Just thinking about that makes me so unfit and unworthy to be a Christian and a Catholic. If I have a lot of children, I could probably give one to God. But, if I have an only child, an only Son, it would be very difficult for me to say, “Lord, you can take mine.”

However, that is what the good Lord did. His beloved Son he surrendered. His loved one he handed over. He gave away the one He loved.

Some of us may be able to relate with loving because some of us have already loved, been loved and been broken by love. If broken hearts were commercials, we’d all be on television.

But the kind of love that God wants from us is not only found in a picture of a human heart, but in a picture of a cross. The cross is a perfect symbol of love because what happened on the cross was etched and engraved in time forever. If the cross is not forever, what is forever for?

The cross transcends all aspects of our lives. We begin and end our celebrations with the sign of the Cross. All our sacraments begin and end with the sign of the Cross. And rightly so, because the God we believed in died through the Cross. The God who came to save us carried the Cross. The God who continually loves us redeemed the sin from the cross and made the cross a sign of Him.

Why are we celebrating this feast? This is a reminder that if we have suffered long enough, if our problems pile up more than the solutions we have given, if carrying our crosses is still a question, as that little boy said, “the answer must be Jesus.”

Because Jesus, at a significant and major point in his life, was one with the Cross.

14 September 2008

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