Feast of the Exultation of the Cross
Lift High the Cross
St Paul’s Chapel in lower Manhattan miraculously survived the 9/11 disaster that demolished its neighbor, the World Trade Center. Within hours of the tragedy, a sign went up on the chapel’s front gate. It said: “Come in. Food, Rest, Love”. For eight months the rescue workers at Ground Zero, after working for long hours in what was known as the Pit, sought refuge at St Paul’s. There they were restored by medical aid, massages, attentive listeners and reassuring hugs. After mid-day prayer one day, a volunteer commented, “People are beginning to ask me when this is going to return to being a church again. I tell them it’s never been more of a church”.
Today we celebrate the Exultation of the Cross. We rejoice that Jesus, who was lifted up on a tree of torture and death, transformed that cross into a triumphant sign of victory and eternal life. We are consoled once again by the astonishing reality of Jesus’ coming into the world entirely for our sakes. And we are grateful that “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but have eternal life”.
Like the Israelites on their journey to the Promised Land, we are in the midst of our own journey of faith. Just as they complained and doubted whether God was truly guiding them or not, we often fall into distrust and ingratitude. At times we are overcome by resentment at the trials of sickness, loss, hardship or betrayal that come our way. We forget that these crosses, when carried with love, are what St John Vianney called “ladders to heaven”.
How can we exalt the cross of Christ in our day? In ways that lift others out of hopelessness or exhaustion, depression or loss of faith? The Christians of St Paul’s Chapel in lower Manhattan gave us a clue. We are most a church when we provide for the suffering, the same kind of self-sacrificing love that drove Jesus to the cross.
Damian Towey, C.P.