“Into each life a little rain must fall” and “April showers bring May flowers” and “This too shall pass” all old sayings meant to convey honest (and sometimes not so honest) attempts to help others get past difficult times.
As we approach the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, we are confronted with arguably the greatest tragedy, the greatest miscarriage of justice, the most horrendous event in human history – the murder of the Son of God.
And yet, we celebrate the Exaltation of the Cross, the very means used to torture and kill Jesus Christ.
How is this possible?
Our Gospel Lesson gives us hints at the glory hidden in the tragedy. Listen: “Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, for this purpose I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name. Then a voice came from heaven, ‘I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.’ The crowd standing by heard it and said that it had thundered. Others said, “An angel has spoken to him.” Jesus answered, ‘This voice has come for your sake, not for mine. Now is the judgment of this world, now shall the ruler of this world be cast out; and I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself.’ He said this to show by what death he was to die.” (see John 12:25-36)
The Lord knows He is about to face the greatest cosmic battle for the salvation of the creation He loves. He knows He is facing torture and death. No matter how you dress this up, this is going to be horrible.
But (and when it comes to this event, that’s a BIG deal), He also sees beyond the event to the times after when the mother of the Emperor will find the cross that is used to kill Christ. And the celebration, yes, celebration, that will occur when this most holy relic will be brought to the center of Jerusalem and held high so the whole city could see it.
How does the timeless Christian faith so capture what was meant to be ultimate tragedy and pain and turn it into sober joy?
Look at what our Lord declares and what the Father declares in today’s Gospel Lesson.
First, Jesus doesn’t hide from the truth or the reality of His situation. “Now is my soul troubled.” This isn’t some positive thinking mind game meant to minimize real pain or sad circumstances. This is an honest embrace of reality and a full appreciation (perhaps the only Man ever to fully appreciate any situation) of the difficulties ahead.
Second, Jesus doesn’t hide from His mission. “For this purpose I have come to this hour.” Our Lord knows why He is here. He knows what He is called to do. He sees clearly the battle that lies before Him, and He embraces the challenge without reservation. He knows this moment of battle will ultimately lead to the glory of God.
Finally, Jesus doesn’t hide from His Father. “Father, glorify Your name.” The Father also doesn’t abandon His Son. He speaks from eternity and declares the timeless truth that forever places all tragedy in perspective. “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.” This glory that the Son and the Father speak of is the humble declaration of the love of God for you and me. This love, this humble self-giving, shows the whole world, the whole creation, heaven, hell, earth, and the entire cosmos, the very character and nature of the Creator. God so loved the world that He gave…
Jesus Christ faces down the pain and fear of the cross because He knows if He is “lifted up” He will draw all men to Himself. The challenge isn’t about the pain or the battle or the fear or the temporary loss; it’s all about you and me.
Today, your life will face difficulties. Some of these difficulties will be self inflicted. Some of these difficulties will be through no fault of your own. The path through all of this is going to be possible because of the goal you have set your eyes on and the person you believe you are meant to be.
Today, as we Christians counter-intuitively celebrate the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, let us embrace the wisdom of our Lord Who has gone before us into the depths of human tragedy and suffering, and enter into His strength, His wisdom, and His mercy for our repentance, our hope, and our joy.
“Save, O Lord, Your people, and bless Your inheritance. Grant victory to the faithful against the adversaries of the Faith. And protect Your people by Your Holy Cross.”