SEPTEMBER 14, 2011 – TRIUMPH OF THE CROSS: NUM 21:4-9 ; PHIL 2:6-11 ; JOHN 3:13-17

The mystery of the Cross of Jesus confronts us today with a particular force calculated to raise in our minds and heart some of the most fundamental issues of our human condition. For the cross on which Jesus hung was an instrument of torture and death, that became a symbol of victorious love, fruitfully bearing eternal life.  This feast of the Triumph of the Cross commemorates the striking paradox that death, accepted with trusting faith in obedience to the Will of God, is not the end of personal existence, but a beginning of a fuller and unending life. Beethoven had some insight into this strange reversal of the human condition, taking as the theme of his last symphony “Freude durch Leiden” (Joy through Suffering”)

 What we celebrate in this liturgy that unites us here this morning is incomparably surpassing event, the victorious death of Jesus, symbolized by the cross, that gives a fresh meaning to life itself. For the joy that follows from the cross is eternal. Because our Lord, obedient to the Father’s plan, accepted to die on the cross, death and life both take on a new meaning. The result is that by taking the cross of Jesus as our standard, we begin to live by a hope that opens out into unending fullness of life in God. Thus in the Triumph of the Cross, as the Apocalypse puts it, God himself gives us assurance saying : “See, I make all things new.” 

 That the cross itself became a symbol for Christian faith, a sign of hope and of victory over death in the early Church was a striking reversal that continues to give expression to the paradox that God chooses the weak and lowly to carry out his merciful plan of redemption.  Through this plan he becomes the biodotor (giver of life) as the fourth century Greek commentator of St John’s Gospel, Nonnus Panopolitanus, called Him. (PG 43:837B) LIFE, as we know it on earth, is a seemingly simple and obvious reality that we spontaneously know by experience in our self and recognize in the world surrounding us. However, once we begin to explore its nature and meaning we soon discover that life is a transcendent state of existence. Its presence is associated with highly complex forms. Its nature grows more mysterious the more it is explored and examined in its manifold features. Even the simplest living organisms, such as the prokaryote bacteria, have been shown, in recent times, to be composed of dazzlingly   intricate structures that function harmoniously and spontaneously at the atomic and molecular level. Even such simple form are found to be composed of a variety of atoms that interact to form molecules of disparate types such as proteins, lipids, carbohydrates that give rise to a number of distinctive organelles and types of tissue such as cytoplasm, membranes, and chromosomes.  The cell membrane itself is a remarkable structure that is a marvel of functional engineering.  How it evolved and how the first cell came into existence remains a hidden mystery, unexplained by science.

The more we reflect on the nature even of the simplest forms of life, the greater our awareness of the hidden intelligence, and beauty that is embedded in all living things. Just as heightening of complexity marks the appearance of more developed living creatures, so also do they reflect a more noble beauty and display more abundant intelligence. Sensitivity to these qualities of the human person, when cultivated through contemplative prayer that comes to know God in His created universe results in a new sense of the dignity that belongs to each and every person. In our times of an increasing secularism and weakening sense of the basis of the most fundamental of human worth, a major challenge to the Catholic priest is to serve as a witness to the presence of the Spirit of God within, and to communicate something of the worth and significance of this transcendent capacity of the redeemed human heart. May this Eucharistic celebration in honor of the Triumph of Cross, commemorating the death and resurrection of Jesus as it does, be a source of grace that enables each of us to prove faithful ministers of the new life that alone fulfills the aspirations of the human heart.&.

Abbot John Eudes Bamberger

Back to INDEX