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Catholic Church / Pacoima, CA

Being Lifted Up

The Exaltation of the Holy Cross

In today’s Gospel, Jesus reminds Nicodemus how Moses had “lifted up the serpent in the desert.” Then Jesus says, “So must the Son of Man be lifted up, that all who believe may have eternal life in him.” The evangelist clearly saw this “lifting up” of Jesus to mean his crucifixion. That “lifting up” of the serpent by Moses is described in today’s first reading. The people were attacked by “saraph serpents,” and many died. God had Moses make an image of the serpent and put it on a pole and lift it up. The people who had been bitten looked at it and recovered. Jesus “emptied himself, taking the form of a slave.” Lifted up on the cross, he was despised and seemed the most abject of people. But it was in embracing this disgrace and painful death that he became the bearer of eternal life for all of us. His “lifting up” in shame was also his “lifting up” in glory and triumph.


Reflecting on God’s Word

Erich Segal died at the beginning of 2010. I remember reading his best seller Love Story and being moved by its then famous line “Love means never having to say you’re sorry.” Over the years I have really come to disagree with this. I believe love means having to say you’re sorry and asking for forgiveness many times in life. Today’s Gospel reminds us that love also means being willing to forgive many times in life. We fail each other. We sin against each other. Sometimes we do this deliberately, sometimes thoughtlessly, but nonetheless it is painful for the one sinned against. Is forgiveness ever easy—especially with a repeat offender? “Seven times?” Peter asks. “Seventy-seven times,” Jesus replies. Today’s readings give us the major reason to forgive others: God has forgiven us. There’s more. Not to forgive is to let anger and wrath poison our hearts. Not to forgive can imprison a person, resulting in bitterness, revenge, and a slow death of the spirit. Not to forgive can be more costly for the one offended. Paul tells us we belong to the Lord, called to serve him and to do his will, which is the will of the Father. And God’s will is that we forgive one another. When the risen Lord first appeared to the disciples in the upper room, he wished them peace, and then gave them the power of the Spirit to forgive. This action is not limited to us going to receive sacrament of reconciliation.

Living God’s Word

We pray that we might have the gift of forgiveness, both of receiving and giving it to others in turn. We ask the Holy Spirit to empower us to be able to forgive what the world judges to be “unforgiveable.” While for us it can seem impossible, with God all things are possible.

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Readings for the Week

Monday: 1 Cor 11:17-26, 33; Ps 40 (39):7-10, 17; Jn 19:25-27
Tuesday: 1 Cor 12:12-14, 27-31a; Ps 100 (99):1-5; Lk 7:11-17
Wednesday: 1 Cor 12:31 — 13:13; Ps 33 (32):2-5, 12, 22; Lk 7:31-35
Thursday: 1 Cor 15:1-11; Ps 118 (117):1b-2, 16ab-17, 28; Lk 7:36-50
Friday: 1 Cor 15:12-20; Ps 17 (16):1bcd, 6-8b, 15; Lk 8:1-3
Saturday: 1 Cor 15:35-37, 42-49; Ps 56 (55):10c-14; Lk 8:4-15
Sunday: Is 55:6-9; Ps 145 (144):2-3, 8-9, 17-18; Phil 1:20c-24, 27a; Mt 20:1-16a

Saints & Special Observances

Sunday: The Exaltation of the Holy Cross
Monday: Our Lady of Sorrows; Twenty-fourth Week in Ordinary Time
Tuesday: Ss. Cornelius and Cyprian
Wednesday: St. Robert Bellarmine
Friday: St. Januarius
Saturday: Ss. Andrew Kim Tae-gŏn, Paul Chŏng Ha-sang, and Companions

Treasures from Our Tradition

On this date in 335 two churches and a shrine erected by Constantine over the empty grave of Jesus and over the place of the crucifixion was dedicated. After these were destroyed by the Persians in 614, the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, which still stands, was erected by the Crusaders in 1149. Today also commemorates the event that led to the building of the churches dedicated in 335: the discovery of the “true cross” by St. Helena, Constantine’s mother, in 326. According to one legend, St. Helena traveled to Jerusalem, on pilgrimage, in search of the true cross. Workers she hired dug through a pagan temple that had been erected on the site of the Crucifixion by Hadrian and found three crosses. A dying woman was brought in, and touched by each cross in succession, the last of which healed her. Helena ordered that this cross be divided in three parts, one to be kept in Jerusalem and the other two to be sent to Constantinople and Rome. The pieces in Jerusalem and Constantinople were ultimately lost. Slivers were taken from the portion that went to Rome until eventually it was scattered around the world. Of course, the significance of the true cross lies not in the wood itself but in the burden that it bore. As a faithful Christian, what crosses do you accept in your life today?

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