Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross
As I was reflecting on Friday’s Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, I was struck by the Gospel selection. "God so loved the world He gave His only Son." In some ways the greatest, most recognized symbol of Christianity, the cross, is matched with probably the most recognized scripture passage in the Bible, John 3:16. The cross and God’s love! Doesn’t that seem like a contrast? I often struggle with the idea of the cross. It conjures up thoughts of suffering, pain, struggle, and even death. Not a lot of love in that. Didn’t St. Paul tell us the cross was "folly" for unbelievers and a "stumbling block?" I am a Christian and the latter sure can be for me. In our lives we can struggle with our circumstances, suffer with the illness of one close to us, or have the pain of loosing a loved one. Where is God’s love in all that?
As Christians we are called to see the connection, not contrast, in the cross and His gift of love. To lift high the cross and to see gift in our struggles, and believe that growth and healing come from the crosses in our lives. To see hope and resurrection. That’s not easy. It sounds good when preached from the pulpit, but it is sometimes hard to understand in the realities of our lives.
A close relative recently died after weeks of struggle and pain. For sure this was a cross for those who were losing a loved one. As the family circled the bed during her last hour of life, they sang a long treasured and favorite song "Somewhere Over the Rainbow." On the ride home from the hospital after she died, some family members sat quietly in the car just beginning to grieve their loss. It was raining lightly. Out of the car window on the horizon they saw a bright, bold rainbow clear as day. In the inexplicable pain and loss that comes with the death of someone close, came Gods love in the presence of a rainbow, allowing them to feel, if for a moment, that God was with them. And, being touched by His love, gave them the hope that in time they could heal.
Yes, the cross and God’s love do go together.
Steve Walsh is a retreatant at Mater Dolorosa Retreat Center in Sierra Madre, and a good friend of the Passionist Community.