Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The Feast of the Holy Cross: A Devotional Commentary

1 Corinthians 1:18-25 For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are dying, but to us who are saved it is the power of God. For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, I will bring the discernment of the discerning to nothing.” Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the lawyer of this world? Hasn’t God made foolish the wisdom of this world? For seeing that in the wisdom of God, the world through its wisdom didn’t know God, it was God’s good pleasure through the foolishness of the preaching to save those who believe. For Jews ask for signs, Greeks seek after wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified; a stumbling block to Jews, and foolishness to Greeks, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

John 12:20-33 Now there were certain Greeks among those that went up to worship at the feast. These, therefore, came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida of Galilee, and asked him, saying, “Sir, we want to see Jesus.” Philip came and told Andrew, and in turn, Andrew came with Philip, and they told Jesus. Jesus answered them, “The time has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Most certainly I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains by itself alone. But if it dies, it bears much fruit. He who loves his life will lose it. He who hates his life in this world will keep it to eternal life. If anyone serves me, let him follow me. Where I am, there will my servant also be. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him. “Now my soul is troubled. What shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this time?’ But for this cause I came to this time. Father, glorify your name!” Then there came a voice out of the sky, saying, “I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again.” The multitude therefore, who stood by and heard it, said that it had thundered. Others said, “An angel has spoken to him.” Jesus answered, “This voice hasn’t come for my sake, but for your sakes. Now is the judgment of this world. Now the prince of this world will be cast out. And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” But he said this, signifying by what kind of death he should die.

Today, we commemorate the discovery of the original cross of Jesus by Helena in 320. The cross is an offence to all religious ideas. Even among Christians, the cross offends. Some Christians are offended by crucifixes because we worship the risen Christ. But even an empty cross is a symbol of the crucifixion. The cross would still be empty even if Jesus never rose from the dead. Some believe that focusing on the crucified Christ is a denial of the resurrection. But the Apostle Paul said that he preached nothing but Christ-crucified and he certainly did not deny the resurrection.

Through baptism we become partakers of the crucifixion with Christ and have the hope that because we are partakers in His crucifixion we will be partakers in His resurrection when He returns. But it is a huge mistake to act as if we are already resurrected. There can be no resurrection without death and in this present life we are partakers in the crucifixion by our own experience. We are given faith to believe that we will be partakers in the resurrection but most of the time the crucifixion is the only thing that we experience. Those who pretend to live the resurrected life right now are living in a fantasy world where "now I am happy all the day." They refuse to bear their own crosses and will certainly not help bear the crosses of others. How can they bear their crosses when they don't believe they exist?

We all do this. We embrace the resurrection without death ideology of Americanism and teach that anyone can do whatever they want if he just believes in himself. If you want to be rich and famous all you have to do is try harder. Anyone who can't get a job or make enough money to support his family just isn't trying hard enough. Pull yourself up by your bootstraps and say, "Yes I can!"

The cross says "No you can't!" If you could, God wouldn't be hanging dead on a cross for you. The cross is a denial of any crazy ideas you might have about trying harder. The cross says, "This is how bad you really are. You are so, so terribly bad that God had to die because of you and your good deeds."

That is why the cross is so offensive. The cross is the judgment of the world. The cross tells every single person, "This is how bad you really are!" We hated God so much that we killed Him. But God loves us so much that He died for us, even for the sin of killing Him. Could you imagine doing that for anyone? How about everyone? Imagine that everyone in the world hated you, not because you had done something wrong to them, but because they had done many wrong and horrible things. Why on earth would you want to die for these ungrateful people who want nothing more than to kill you? The cross is absolute foolishness.

In the sacrament of the altar Christ feeds us the very blood from His side. Christ gives Himself for you because Christ loves you.

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