Feast of the exaltation of the Cross

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Feast of the exaltation of the Cross
Feast of the exaltation of the Cross, which commemorates the discovery of Jesus' cross by St. Helen.


First Reading

Numbers 21,4-9

They left Mount Hor by the road to the Sea of Suph, to skirt round Edom. On the way the people lost patience. They spoke against God and against Moses, 'Why did you bring us out of Egypt to die in the desert? For there is neither food nor water here; we are sick of this meagre diet.' At this, God sent fiery serpents among the people; their bite brought death to many in Israel. The people came and said to Moses, 'We have sinned by speaking against Yahweh and against you. Intercede for us with Yahweh to save us from these serpents.' Moses interceded for the people, and Yahweh replied, 'Make a fiery serpent and raise it as a standard. Anyone who is bitten and looks at it will survive.' Moses then made a serpent out of bronze and raised it as a standard, and anyone who was bitten by a serpent and looked at the bronze serpent survived.

Psalmody

Psalm 77, 1-39

Antiphon

We will speak, O Lord, of all your deeds.

Give heed, my people to my teaching;
turn your ear to the words of my mouth.

I will open my mouth in a parable
and reveal hidden lessons of the past.

The things we have heard and understood,
the things our fathers have told us

these we will not hide from their children
but will tell them to the next generation :

the glories of the Lord and his might
and the marvellous deeds he has done,

the witness he gave to Jacob,
the law he established in Israel.

He gave a command to our fathers
to make it known to their children

that the next generation might know it,
the children yet to be born.

They too should arise and tell their sons
that they too should set their hope in God

and never forget God’s deeds
but keep every one of his commands :

so that they might not be like their fathers,
a defiant and rebellious race,

a race whose heart was fickle,
whose spirit was unfaithful to God.

The sons of Ephraim, armed with the bow,
turned back in the day of battle.

They failed to keep God’s covenant
and would not walk according to his law.

They forgot the things he had done,
the marvellous deeds he had shown them.

He did wonders in the sight of their fathers,
in Egypt, in the plains of Zoan.

He divided the sea and led them though
and made the waters stand up like a wall.

By day he led them with a cloud :
by night, with a light of fire.

He split the rocks in the desert.
He gave them plentiful drink as from the deep.

He made streams flow out from the rock
and made waters run down like rivers.

Yet still they sinned against him;
they defied the Most High in the desert.

In their heart they put God to the test
by demanding the food they craved.

They even spoke against God.
They said : ‘Is it possible for God
to prepare a table in the desert?

It was he who struck the rock,
water flowed and swept down in torrents.

But can he also give us bread?
Can he provide meat for his people?’

When he heard this the Lord was angry.
A fire was kindled against Jacob,

his anger rose against Israel
for having no faith in God;
for refusing to trust in his help.

Yet he commanded the clouds above
and opened the gates of heaven.

He rained down manna for their food,
and give them bread from heaven.

Mere men ate the bread of angels.
He sent them abundance of food:

he made the east wind blow from heaven
and roused the south wind by his might.

He rained food on them like dust,
winged fowl like the sands of the sea.

He let it fall in the midst of their camp
and all around their tents.

So they ate and had their fill;
for he gave them all they craved.

But before they had sated their craving,
while the food was in their mouths,

God’s anger rose against them.
He slew the strongest among them,
struck down the flower of Israel.

Despite this they went on sinning;
they had no faith in his wonders :

so he ended their days like a breath
and their years in sudden ruin.

When he slew them then they would seek him,
return and seek him in earnest.

They would remember that God was their rock,
God the Most High their redeemer.

But the words they spoke were mere flattery;
they lied to him with their lips.

For their hearts were not truly with him;
they were not faithful to his covenant.

Yet he who is full of compassion
forgave their sin and spared them.

So often he held back his anger
when he might have stirred up his rage.

He remembered they were only men,
a breath that passes never to return.

Second Reading

Philippians 2,6-11

Who, being in the form of God, did not count equality with God something to be grasped. But he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, becoming as human beings are; and being in every way like a human being, he was humbler yet, even to accepting death, death on a cross. And for this God raised him high, and gave him the name which is above all other names; so that all beings in the heavens, on earth and in the underworld, should bend the knee at the name of Jesus and that every tongue should acknowledge Jesus Christ as Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Reading of the Gospel

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

Yesterday I was buried with Christ,
today I rise with you who are risen.
With you I was crucified;
remember me, Lord, in your kingdom.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

John 3,13-17

No one has gone up to heaven except the one who came down from heaven, the Son of man; as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so must the Son of man be lifted up so that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him. For this is how God loved the world: he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. For God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but so that through him the world might be saved.

 

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

Yesterday I was buried with Christ,
today I rise with you who are risen.
With you I was crucified;
remember me, Lord, in your kingdom.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

Homily

This feast day remembers September 14, 335 when a great crowd of the faithful gathered in Jerusalem for the dedication of the basilica of the Holy Sepulchre, which had been renovated by Constantine. The celebration also commemorated the discovery of the wood of Jesus' Cross. Still today there is need to exalt the cross, to lift it up so that everyone may see it. But how is it possible to exalt a tool of torture to the point of devoting a feast day to it?. Unfortunately we got used to the image of the cross and we lost all sense of the cruelty it represents. We no longer think about how it was one of the harshest instruments of torture. But if we lose this sense, we no longer understand the greatness of the Crucified's love. Today the Church, with the feast of the exaltation of the Holy Cross, wants to show everyone the unspeakable love of Jesus for each one of us. This is why it is right to give thanks to the Lord for the Cross; The preface of the Mass has us sing, "In the tree of the Cross, you, oh God, have established the salvation of humanity, so that where death sprung up their life would raise." It is right to exalt the Cross; on that wood once for all love for oneself has been defeated, and love for others has triumphed definitively. The Cross is the synthesis or better the culmination of Jesus' love for us. As the apostle Paul writes in the hymn of the Letter to the Philippians, Jesus began his way to the cross from when he "did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited." Because of love, "he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave;" because of love "he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross." And the Father himself was so moved by the Son's completely selfless love that He "exalted him and gave the name that is above every name." On the cross, life and death confront each other in one last definitive battle; a battle which is fought in Jesus' very body. Jesus dies. But with him also self-love dies.