Today is the feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross. With this feast we commemorate the love of God for his human creation. The cross upon which Christ died symbolizes for all true believers the whole of salvation history. In a statement rich with profound meaning, Jesus tells Nicodemus that: “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son.” He is saying that his coming into the world and everything about his life here on earth reveals the love of God for us. It is a love that is not merited on our part. Yet God gives us his love freely and without reservation. It is a salvific love because by loving us in this way God makes possible our salvation.
The words of St. Paul in the second scripture reading are equally powerful. He tells his readers from Phillippi that Christ Jesus is really and truly God. Yet Jesus cooperated with the plan of God by coming among us as man. St. Paul says very well: “He humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross.” The death of Christ on the cross was an essential part of the plan for our salvation.
These readings then, focus our attention on the cross as an instrument of our salvation. They remind us of the sufferings of Jesus here on earth. And they also remind us that suffering is part of our human condition.
There is an incredible amount of suffering in the world today. In many nations such as Iraq, Afghanistan, and many countries in Africa, most of the people are suffering from a large assortment of ills. People in many parts of the world have been forced from their homes and made to suffer as refugees. Natural disasters account for tremendous human suffering. Even here in the United States, we are very aware of the suffering inflicted upon thousands of people by hurricane Katrina. It seems to me that as we see such suffering in the world, we need to pay special attention to the words of today’s scripture readings and the message they contain.
The words of St. Paul to the Phillippians and of Jesus to Nicodemus are also meant for us today. They tell us that God loves us all. That includes those who are suffering. In spite of what other people do to add to their suffering, God loves them. And because God loves them, there is hope. Suffering people who believe in God and appreciate his love have the great hope of salvation. Human suffering is just that, it is human or finite. Human suffering will come to an end as our lives here on earth come to an end. But God’s bright promise of eternal life is for all who believe in him. That includes those who are suffering. Today as we work to relieve the suffering of those around us, let us also thank God for his love for all of us.
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