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Obedient to Death: Exaltation of the Holy Cross

There is a line in the Mass readings for September 14 that grabs my heart every time I read it or hear it proclaimed:

…he humbled himself,
becoming obedient to death,
even death on a cross. (Phil 2:8)

September 14 is the day that the Catholic Church celebrates the feast day of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross. The line occurs during the Second Reading for the day, and is taken from St. Paul’s Letter to the Philippians.

He humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross. Who is “he?” He is our Lord, Jesus Christ, the Sovereign King of all creation. He is God. But “he” also is the Son of the Father, the Word Incarnate who assumed human nature without losing his divine nature. As a child, I was taught that God becoming a man would be akin to my becoming an ant. Considering my childhood fetish for squishing ants, that analogy was life-changing for me. I don’t think I’ve intentionally squished a single ant since that day.

There’s a similar analogy in the readings for this feast. In the First Reading, the Israelites ungratefully complained to Moses about the way God was caring for them in the desert. To teach them a lesson, God sent a plague of saraph serpents which bit and killed many of the people. Of course, they pleaded for mercy. As a cure, God instructed Moses to make a serpent out of bronze and mount it on a pole. Those bitten needed only to look at it to be saved. The very thing that became the Israelites’ cure was the nuisance they just as well would have destroyed.

Like squishing an ant.

The serpent mounted on the pole was a foreshadowing of our Lord being mounted on the cross. The Scribes and Pharisees saw Jesus as a nuisance—a nasty little thing that bit at them and threatened their status quo—and so they decided to squish him, so to speak, by crucifying him. They, too, were ungrateful for all God had given them.

Read more at National Catholic Register

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