Sunday, September 14, 2014

Our Trophy

   The Exaltation of the Holy Cross   
At this time last Sunday morning,
I was on the last leg of a three-day race:
Even though we had registered in the noncompetitive class,
it’s the first race I’ve entered in my life;
it was the first time I’ve crossed a finish line.
What a joy it was to have my mother, a few brother priests,
and some of our parishioners waiting there to greet me!
(I’m sure you won’t be too surprised to know
that I could hear Fr. Tom cheering loudly from the shore
long before I could see him!)

We hadn’t been back on dry land of few minutes
when Fr. Justin asked the question: 
“Do you get a medal for this?  Or another award?”
It was perfectly obvious to him
that after completing such an demanding feat
a person ought to receive some token of recognition.
He seemed satisfied when I told him that,
after every boat was off the water 
and all our times were calculated,
each person who completed the race 
would be given a pin.
For us first-timers, the pin says, “90 Miles.”
For my paddling companion, finishing his seventh race,
it reads, “630 Miles.”
And for the two folks—one man and one woman—
who’ve completed the race 
31 of the 32 times it’s been held,
their pins record, “2,790 Miles.”
It’s a small memento, not a gold medal—
a trinket, really, rather than a grand trophy—
but I gained a sense of accomplishment 
that was pretty big
along with my little red pin.

Today, the Church celebrates her great and sacred trophy:
the Most Holy Cross of our Lord, Jesus Christ.
We Christians wear it like a medal about our necks.
We raise it high in triumph—
in procession, atop our churches, on the walls of our homes.

But the Cross is a trophy unlike any other.

To begin with, Jesus did all the work
that we might receive the rewards.
By his Passion, Death, and Resurrection,
the Lord humbled and emptied himself
that we might be exalted and know the glory of God.
The achievement to which the Cross points is entirely his,
while the prize Christ won is totally on our behalf.

The Cross is also a rather ironic trophy.
To those who first saw it, 
there was nothing at all victorious about the Cross;
it was a shameful instrument of humiliation and defeat.
But much like the venomous serpent
which had been a sign of deception and disobedience and death,
so the Cross is likewise transformed into a beacon of healing and hope
for those who look to it with faith.
God has the uncanny ability to turn our most crushing losses
into our most significant wins.

And although every other trophy is a matter of past achievement,
the Cross is one that holds a promise for the future:
its for a race we haven't even finished yet.
The Son of Man has been lifted up
that a world once condemned might not perish,
but experience the fullness salvation—now and forever.
Beams of dead wood have become the tree of life,
bearing a fruitful harvest for eternity.

I may be pretty proud of my 90-Miler pin…
…but I’ve been saved by the Cross—
a trophy that points to the only finish line which matters:
the gate of heaven.

V.    We adore you, O Christ, and we praise you:
R/.  because by your Holy Cross you have redeemed the world.

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