The Exaltation of the Holy Cross (Youth Version)

This was for the afternoon youth ministry Mass.

Today’s readings

Today is the feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, sometimes called the Triumph of the Cross.  On the face of it, this is a rather strange feast.  How could something as awful as the cross ever be triumphant, exultant, or glorious?  It’s been said that the cross was a very strange way to save the world, and I think that’s a good point.  Sometimes I think we get so used to seeing the cross that we forget how terrible it is.  We see the cross in Church, in our houses, on neck chains, and many other places.  Maybe we’ve gotten kind of jaded because we’ve seen it so often.

But the truth is the cross was horrible, humiliating and terrifying.  So why on earth did God pick that way to save the world?

First of all, we know we needed salvation.  We are all of us sinners, me too.  People all through history have been sinful, and time and time again we have turned away from God.  The price of all that sinfulness is death and a final ending in hell, or the netherworld as the Bible calls it.  But God wasn’t satisfied with that.  He made us to be with him forever, and so there is no way that he could let sin and death be the end of us.  He refused to live forever without us, so he pursues us relentlessly, even to the point of his own Son’s death on the cross.

Because we had no way to make up for our sins, God did it for us.  He sent his only Son Jesus into our world to live our life and die our death.  He became one of us and acquainted himself with all our frustrations and worries.  He taught us the way to live and we have all that in the Gospels.  But he also took up our death, and died in the most horrifying, humiliating and painful way possible at that time.  He died a criminal’s death for us who had been criminals against God.

But that death wasn’t the end of the story.  God raised Jesus up and made possible our own resurrection from the dead one day.  Just as death wasn’t the end for Jesus, it doesn’t have to be the end for us, if only we believe in Jesus and follow his way.  The Gospel puts it simply for us today.  We all know this verse John 3:16 because we see it on posters at so many sporting events.  “For God so loved the world that he gave us his only Son, so that whoever believes in him might not perish, but have eternal life.”

People sometimes call that one verse the “Gospel in miniature.”  And it sums up what we believe about the Cross today.  Yes, it was horrifying, painful and humiliating, but because of the Cross we have the possibility of eternal life with Jesus Christ.  There would be no Easter without Good Friday.  Only God could take something as horrible as the cross and make it a victory.  And so today we thank God for the gift of salvation as we celebrate the Exaltation of the Holy Cross.

“We adore you, O Christ, and we praise you, because by your holy Cross you have redeemed the world.”

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