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The Exaltation of the Holy Cross 14.09.2014


Exposure to radioactive material can cause death. A venomous snake bite can kill. Death can come from electrocution. When we consider just these three – radioactive material, snake venom and electricity – we see that all of them can harm us or kill us. Yet all three of them can form part of healing therapy. We are very familiar with radiation therapy with treatment of cancers, with antivenin as a remedy to combat the poison from a snake bite, with the use of defibrillators to kick-start the heart when it has arrested.

The grumbling of the chosen people on their desert wandering from slavery in Egypt to the land God promised would be their home saw them fall prey to an infestation of snakes whose bite brought death. The God given remedy was to look upon a bronze representation of a snake held high to make it easy for them to see. Those who looked found healing. The image of the bringer of calamity to them was the way they escaped from the calamity.

Talking with Nicodemus, a Pharisee (a group of well-educated men who were not temple priests) and a leader of the people, Jesus speaks of the Son of Man (his way of referring to himself) being lifted up. We do not know what Nicodemus made of the words but with hindsight we immediately think of the image of Jesus on the cross. This image abounds in our churches and on the beads we use to pray the rosary. The cross is a death symbol. Yet those who look on the one on the cross and commit themselves to him and what he revealed about the love of God and the path to full life find not death but life.

In our churches the death of Christ is kept before our eyes but never as the last say. We call to mind in the Eucharistic prayer that his body was drained of life for us, his blood allowed to soak into the ground of Calvary but we do not end there. In our remembering, we are always a people living in a new way. We are not despondent, depressed, without hope. We are not an image on a wall, a piece of religious art. We are the result of what happened after the execution. We are the fruit of Jesus living again after the execution. He was living a new way, transformed way. Unlike Lazarus whom he brought back to life, the daughter of Jairus, the son of the widow from Nain, he would not die again. They would. For Jesus death had its binding power nullified. Never again would people see death as the end. With his emerging new from the tomb, a new reality appeared in the world. Death was the moment life changed to something wonderfully new. The sadness that comes with death would not have the last word.

Those who lifted up their eyes to the corpse of Jesus were alive with the fullness of grace that he, Jesus, gave them to complete his work on earth. The greatest healing of all came from an appalling death.

Fr Adrian Farrelly

Date Posted Title Listen Download
Oct 20, 2014 The Exaltation of the Holy Cross 14.09.2014 Listen Download