Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Look at the Crucifix

The Crucifixion by El Greco
Readings for Tuesday, September 14/
Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross:
Numbers 21:4-9
Psalm 78:1-2, 34-38
Philippians 2:6-11
John 3:13-17

When one begins to study the scriptures, they will inevitably run across something called typology. This is the term used when there is something in the Old Testament that foreshadows something to occur in the New Testament, that this is a ‘type’ of what is to come. For instance, when the Israelites passed through the Red Sea and were saved from the Egyptians, this was a type that foreshadowed baptism, when a person passes through water and is saved from death. As we celebrate this joyous feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, the day when we celebrate the wood of the cross, the instrument of salvation, the scriptures show us another instance of typology – that of the Cross of Christ.

The first reading from the Book of Numbers spoke about the serpents attacking the people and their gazing upon the serpent mounted on a pole as the means to remaining alive. Jesus references this very passage, which we hear today in John’s gospel, saying that He would be lifted up as the serpent on the pole and he too would be the means to remaining alive. But the beautiful thing is that the passages mutually benefit each other; in light of the other, each becomes even more profound as we ponder them.

The story of Moses and the people speaks of the serpents attacking the people and causing them to die. But in the New Testament, this is taken to a new depth. The mention of the serpents ought to remind us of the ancient serpent, Satan, who tempted Adam and Eve and caused their fall from grace. Satan’s bite, we know, causes not only physical death, but more importantly, spiritual death, because it draws us away from God and toward sin. And what medication do we have to heal this wound? Nothing other than to gaze upon the Holy Cross and to have faith in the One lifted up on it, He Who is our salvation, our hope, and our joy.

A number of years ago I was given a little poem that I have treasured since then and I want to share it with you now (not sure of the author or origin). It goes like this:

If you want to know God...look at the Crucifix.
If you want to love God...look at the Crucifix.
If you want to serve God...look at the Crucifix.
If you wonder what you are worth...look at the Crucifix.
If you wonder how much God loves you...look at the Crucifix.
If you want to know the need for self-denial and sacrifice...look at the Crucifix.
If you wonder how much you should forgive others...look at the Crucifix.
If you wonder how much you should do for others...look at the Crucifix.
If you wonder how much your faith demands of you in humility, charity, poverty, and the other virtues...look at the Crucifix.
If you want to know what unselfishness and generosity are...look at the Crucifix.
If you wonder how far your own unselfishness should to go bring others to Christ...look at the Crucifix.
If you wish to live well...look at the Crucifix.
If you wish to die well...look at the Crucifix.

What a treasure we have in the Holy Cross of Jesus Christ, the simple wood of a tree that was made to be the means to our salvation. Thanks be to God for so great a gift.