September 13, 2017

Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross | 2017

The Exaltation of the Holy Cross

Feast Day - September 14th

The feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, recalls the retrieval of the Holy Cross, which had been found and preserved by Saint Helena. It commemorates three distinct historical events: the finding of the True Cross, its return in the 7th century, and its ineffable power as the instrument of Christ’s redemptive sacrifice and our salvation. Regarding the later, our Savior's crucifixion imbues human suffering with dignity and divine purpose. Here is a reflection by Father René Butler, M.S., from his homily on the feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross:

Fr. René J. Butler, M.S.
Provincial Superior, La Salette Missionaries of North America
Hartford, Connecticut


What do Judas, and the leaders of the Sanhedrin, and Pontius Pilate, all have in common with God the Father?

You might find the question confusing, even bizarre, if not downright blasphemous, but the idea came to me when reading a commentary of St. Augustine on the First Letter of John, which I also referred to in last week’s homily.

Note the following passages, all from the New Testament:

“Then one of the Twelve, who was called Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said, “What are you willing to give me if I hand him over to you?” They paid him thirty pieces of silver, and from that time on he looked for an opportunity to hand him over.” (Matthew 26:15-16)

“As soon as morning came, the chief priests with the elders and the scribes, that is, the whole Sanhedrin, held a council. They bound Jesus, led him away, and handed him over to Pilate.” (Mark 15:1)

“So he [Pilate] released the man who had been imprisoned for rebellion and murder, for whom they asked, and he handed Jesus over to them to deal with as they wished.” (Luke 23:25)

God “did not spare his own Son but handed him over for us all.” (Romans 8:32)

The common thread is the verb “hand over.” In more classical translations we read that Judas “betrayed” Jesus, the Sanhedrin “delivered” Jesus to Pilate, Pilate “delivered” Jesus to be crucified, and God “delivered him up.” The use of the identical verb easily goes unnoticed.

What we have then is this:

Judas so loved money (see also John 12:4-6) that he gave Jesus in exchange for thirty pieces of silver. The leaders of the Sanhedrin so loved their authority and so feared losing it that they gave Jesus as the price to keep it.  Pilate so loved his power that he gave Jesus to his executioners rather than risk a riot.

But God so loved the world...

In John 3:16, the verb “gave” is not quite the same as “handed over,” but it is the same reality. That’s why Jesus uses the phrase, “When the Son of Man is lifted up.”

Today’s feast is called the Exaltation, that is, the “Lifting High” of the Holy Cross. Moses “lifted up” the bronze serpent, and those who looked at it lived. Jesus was “lifted up” on the cross, humbling himself, becoming obedient to death, uniting his will to that of the Father and loving the world just as much as the Father did, “so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.”

And there’s more.

In the Third Eucharistic Prayer, at the Consecration of the bread, the priest says:
For on the night he was betrayed
he himself took bread,
and, giving you thanks, he said the blessing,
broke the bread and gave it to his disciples, saying:
Take this, all of you, and eat of it,
for this is my Body,
which will be given up for you.
Following the same idea as with the New Testament passages quoted above, this could be translated just as accurately, “For on the night he was handed over he... broke the bread and gave it to his disciples, saying: ... This is my Body, which will be handed over for you.”

When you see the Host “lifted up” at the Consecration, always remember: God so loved the world then, God so loves the world today.

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