Tuesday of the Fifth Week of Lent
One of my all-time favorite hymns is "Lift High the Cross." I think it defines our role as Christians. In our secular world, to hold sacred – to hold up, anything like suffering or death seems ridiculous. We are all about avoiding pain; when we hear of suffering in our world, our inclination is to find a cure, to make it stop, and if we can’t then to turn away (albeit sometimes with guilt). And certainly whether it is a nation torn by war, the victim of gun violence, or a man dying on a Cross, we rightly reject and with disdain look away from the violence. But for us, as Christians, it all changes with the end of that opening line in the hymn: "… the love of God proclaim" – then it makes sense. It’s not just about dying on the Cross; it’s about the love of God. Today’s readings are about this gift of the Cross. We see Moses, ever the intercessor for the people, pray to the Lord for the people to be saved. Jesus, our ultimate intercessor, will carry Moses prayer further becoming a living sacrifice for us. In the first reading from Numbers, God tells Moses to place a bronze serpent on a pole and when the people gaze upon the serpent, they will be healed. In today’s Gospel, Jesus tells us when he is lifted up, we will know who he is. And when we gaze upon the Cross, recognizing the Son of God, we will be healed.
This is the special teaching, the gift, of the Passionists. Gazing upon the horror of the Cross means nothing if we don’t remember always that this is the great message of love. The great gift of the Passion and Death only exists when we recognize that Jesus died because of His love for us. So for us it is with great anticipation that we approach Holy Week, that we look forward to again hearing the story of the Passion, to recounting the Last Supper, to celebrating Good Friday when we relive Jesus gift of the Cross to us and finally to experience the joy the Resurrection when we rise with Jesus to new life.
This coming week, from Palm Sunday to the Triduum, we have the opportunity to let the world know why we celebrate the Cross. Don’t miss this chance to let those around you know what we are celebrating. As Christians, this is our week, this is our story, and this is our time to share the message – to let the world know we fast, we pray, we emphasize the spiritual because we believe in Jesus’ love for us.
We are Christians, let us lift high the Cross and proclaim the love of Christ!
Mary Lou Butler is a long-time friend and partner in ministry to the Passionists in California.