Reflections (by J Kim)
The Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross
draws on Psalm 78, a passage that recounts
the rebellious nature of the people of Israel.
The Psalmist describes their forgetfulness,
disobedience, ungratefulness, and insincere
praise of God. As we read such descriptions,
we must soberly recognize our own shortcomings
and look up to the Holy Cross to deliver us from sin.
Beginning with Verse 34, "While he slew them
they sought him and inquired after God again,"
we are linked to the first reading. Numbers 21
describes God's use of venomous snakes to punish
the people for their unbelief and complaining. In their
suffering, the people turn to Moses and the Lord for help;
Moses is instructed to make a bronze snake and put it up
on a pole for all to see. The people looked up, believed,
and were healed. In the Gospel of John, the image
is brought to its full meaning: as the Israelites were
healed by obeying God's command to look up at the
elevated bronze serpent, believers today can be saved
by looking up to Jesus and his death on the cross.
Unfortunately, the next verses of the Psalm detail
the fickle nature of the Israelites. Over and over,
they would claim to follow God for a while and then
turn away from him. "But they flattered him with their
mouths and lied to him with their tongues, though their
hearts were not steadfast toward him, nor were they
faithful to his covenant." (v. 36-37). They followed God
with their words and not with their hearts.
An omniscient and all-powerful God would have every
right to be angered. Does our Lord choose to punish
His children? The most tender, comforting, and
awe-inspiring answer is found in v. 38: "But he, being
merciful, forgave their sin and destroyed them not; '
Often he turned back his anger and let none of his wrath
be roused." God shows mercy on the Israelites; as many
times as they rebel, He offers love and guidance,
sometimes, firmly. He is the same with us today,
exhibiting perfect patience. We must not "forget the
works of the Lord," but remember to seek Him and
exalt the cross at all times, not just in seasons of dire need.
Discussion Questions for Reflection
1. Just like the Israelites, when have you been guilty of forgetfulness,
thanklessness, or rebellion? What has been God's response?
2. How do you "Exalt the Cross" in your daily life? Or... perhaps,
do you need to raise Him up higher for yourself and others to see?