Consecrated to the Heart of the Redeemer under the patronage of the Theotokos and Fr. Gerard Manley Hopkins, S.J.

14 September 2014

A Mirror of our Sinfulness, A Window to our Salvation

            Once again, a special feast trumps a Sunday in Ordinary Time—this one honoring the Holy Cross. This is not a celebration of planks of wood. It has been said, with no small amount of snark, that if someone assembled all the existing relics of the “True Cross," they could form a giant redwood. True or not, that statement betrays the great devotion Catholics have shown throughout the centuries to the Cross.

On every liturgical day the Church is celebrating our Incarnate Savior. In his letter to the Philippians Saint Paul reminds us that, by becoming man, God the Son set aside the glory of divinity (though not divinity itself). That “emptying of self” is what enabled Jesus to live a full human life, with the full array of joys and sorrows—in particular rejection and scorn, and above all the pains of His passion and death.

And yet God also experienced much of this from us prior to the Incarnation. Take, for example, the Israelites’ rejection of God at various points along their trek in the wilderness. Time and again Israel set aside the true God by worshipping foreign gods and treating people unjustly. Israel understood her chronic tragedies as God’s response to their sins, while in reality those tragedies were the consequences of participating sinfully in a sinful world.

While it is not accurate to portray God as fickle and sensitive as we human beings often are, this much is true: God is not pleased with sin, and He wants it out. In the account from Numbers, God instructs Moses to mount a bronze serpent on a pole so that the afflicted can look upon that serpent and be healed. What is really happening in this transaction? God is holding a mirror up to the people’s faces, so that they can see what their sin has done to them, how it has disfigured God’s image in them to the point of nearly becoming unrecognizable. Only then can they acknowledge their sins and turn to Him who would restore them by His mercy to a greater beauty than before.

There is the wonder of the Cross: it is the instrument of our salvation because on it our Savior was lifted up in mingled shame and glory, thereby allowing us to perceive the double truth of our alienation from God in sin and God’s drawing us to Himself in love. With joy and gratitude we draw near to the Cross, and to its Occupant, for by that Holy Cross He has redeemed the world.

1 comment:

  1. It is funny that you mention God possibly being portrayed as fickle because I recently started reading the book titled "The Story" which attempts to make the bible more "story like" and "easier to read." I admit I am easily complicated by historical facts, names, and trying to keep track of who is who in the Old Testament. Anyway recently I was reading these stories of Moses, which you mention above (the bronze serpent), and how "fickle" God was throughout these stories. Honestly it really scared me, and that is the point God was trying to make. Look, if you don't straighten up and do as I say, my wrath will be beyond anything you can imagine. Then in the next moment, he forgives everyone for the horrible things they have done. This happens time and time again...and has been for centuries. It makes you think how unbelievably blessed we are that we have a forgiving God.