Monday, 11 September 2017


What a crazy thing to do; what a horrific thing to do –to glorify in the brutal instrument used to execute a criminal!   And yet that is what we Christians do.  We have crucifixes in our homes and wear them round our necks.   But Paul tells us that the folly of the cross defies the wisdom of human reason.   Not that the pain of Christ’s crucifixion was good in itself.  It was brutal and unjust.  And he was no masochist, who delighted in suffering.    The Romans crucified many people –a thousand at one time on the Appian Way, when they crushed Spartacus’ slave revolt.   Though they were martyrs for the cause of freedom, their execution did not have the same meaning and effect as Christ’s.

Christ used his death on the cross as the means to saving the world from the power of sin and death.   Far from being defeated as a tragic, misguided failure Christ was triumphantly enthroned as king of heaven and earth, on the very instrument, which was meant to humiliate and destroy him –the cross.   Pilate condemned him as king; the Roman soldiers crowned him with thorns and mocked him.  The crowds taunted this crucified king.   Even in mockery they were all so right in calling Jesus ‘king,’ but none of them understood the nature of his sovereignty.

That’s the triumph of the goodness of love over the evil of hatred.  Not force of arms, but the power of love and mercy -those were His weapons.       By dying He has destroyed the power of death, and opened the way for us to share His divine life.    As Jesus hung upon the cross it was as though, as man, He stretched out one hand to His heavenly Father, and as God, He stretched the other hand to us sinners.  In His crucified person Jesus drew God and us sinners together in love.   Paul speaks of Christ reconciling us to God through the blood of the cross.    

In his Gospel John has Jesus expressing the Exaltation of the Cross by using the phrase ‘Lifted up.’   This harks backs to Isaiah’s Suffering Servant of the Lord who would be raised up as the triumphant saviour of the world.  The phrase ‘Lifted up’ also harks back to the brazen serpent, which Moses raised up in the desert, as a sign of God’s healing mercy for those who looked upon it and repented for their sins.    Now Christ, lifted up on the cross, is the source of God’s mercy for all who believe in Him.   When He is raised on high, triumphantly on the cross, He will draw us up with Him to share in His victory over evil.  Then, indeed, we will know that He is the God of infinite love, mercy and power –our saviour.   No one but God could show such sublime, crazy love as to become one of us, allow us to crucify Him –simply because He loves us and judged that was the best way to enable us sinners to share His divine life and happiness.       To the unbeliever the crucifixion is sheer madness; to the believe the cross is the sign of the wonder of God’s love, which defies human logic. 

On Good Friday we sing the hymn, ‘Vexilla Regis’ -‘Abroad the regal banner flies.’ That proclaims our loyalty to the crucified, yet triumphant Christ.  Under the Sign of the Cross we join Him in His battle against evil and march triumphantly with Him to His Heavenly Kingdom.   The cross gives us our identity as followers of Christ.   Not that we glory in suffering, nor do we honour the cross as a means of brutal execution. To do so would be sick!       But we venerate the cross as the means whereby the Son of God saved the world.  That’s why we raise the cross on high and humbly thank God.
On the feast of the Exaltation of the Cross let us exclaim with St. Paul,

Isidore O.P.