I can only imagine that a few eyebrows may have been raised since Father and I did not change places after the proclamation of the Gospel. Since ordination almost 3 months ago, I have assisted at least one Mass each weekend as a deacon. I have listened intently to each homily presented by Father Dan and Father Bob, because I knew this day was looming and of course I wanted to do it right. One of the many things we are charged with doing as permanent Deacons is to proclaim the Gospel on a regular basis. We are called to proclaim the Gospel and then prepare a homily on it. The Deacon brings a whole different perspective in proclaiming the Gospel and preaching on it because he has spent a lifetime in the secular world and has experiences that the faithful might more easily relate to.

       This weekend we are celebrating the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross. In Jerusalem during the 5th century, the wood of the Holy Cross was shone to the people the day after the feast of the dedication of the basilica of the Resurrection. The dedication is said to be Sept. 13th in the year 335. The rite gave rise to today’s feast which was accepted by Rome in the 7th century. One line in today’s Gospel stands out when Jesus say’s “just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so must the Son of Man be lifted up. Of course the lifting up of the serpent was revealed in our first reading today when Moses’ was instructed to make a bronze serpent and mount it on a pole. When anyone who had been bitten by a serpent looked at it he was allowed to live.

       Once again Jesus is telling his audience not only what is going to happen but also how it had to happen. His crucifixion was coming but no one, not one of them understood what that meant including how the “Son of Man” was to be lifted up .The lifting up of the Son of Man in this verse refers to Jesus’ crucifixion. The cross will lift Jesus up toward the sky and ultimately to join his father in heaven. The sacrifice of himself for all of mankind will be complete when he has died on the cross for us. The cross is also the greatest sign of Jesus’ divinity. He died so that all of our sins may be forgiven.

       We all know how he died on the cross the degradation he must have endured with the crown made of thorns, when he was thirsty the sour wine that was provided, the taunting that must have gone on about saving other people but it appeared he could not save himself. The cross was ever present throughout this ordeal.

       In a discourse by Saint Andrew of Crete, a bishop, he explains that “the cross is something wonderfully great and honorable. It is great because through the cross the many noble acts of Christ found their consummation-very many indeed, for both his miracles and his sufferings were fully rewarded with victory. The cross is honorable because it is both a sign of God’s suffering and the trophy of his victory. It stands for his suffering because on it he freely suffered unto death. But it is also his trophy because it was the means by which the devil was wounded and death conquered. The barred gates of hell were smashed, and the cross became the one common salvation of the whole world.”

       When we think of the cross in modern day times, it can be seen as such a burden to carry a cross. No matter how hard a particular task may be or how bad weather conditions might be or problems in the family home might seem overwhelming, when you think about it “IT IS BETTER THAN DYING ON THE CROSS”. When you offer up these burdens to the Lord through the Holy Spirit, it really does help relieve the stress knowing that Jesus Christ suffered much more than we will ever have to suffer.

       I have heard this said” IT IS BETTER THAN DYING ON THE CROSS” while working at some of the functions around our parish, through the years, that require lots of volunteer help, where the work is hard and some people might feel their work is unappreciated or at the very least underappreciated. When someone might complain you would hear someone come up with that quote. Throughout our lives we do things that aren’t necessarily fun but need to be done.

       When times get tough just think of what Jesus had to endure and then I would bet that your troubles would become a little bit easier to bear. As our largest annual fundraiser is approaching next weekend let us all be sure to find something to do to help. There is always cleanup to do and we need all the volunteers we can get to help relieve the workload of the people who do this year in and year out. So please don’t forget to sign up or ask someone if there is any thing you can do.

       I was recently interviewed in the Criterion about Deacons in the work place. I told the story of how when I am 200 to 300 miles away from my warehouse making multiple deliveries on my extended route, how I might become, as I said “madder than all get out” when my trailer might be loaded wrong and I was left to deal with it on my own. I would get mad and move things around to take care of my customer. When I would finally get things in order, I would think about how it was no big deal considering what Jesus had to go through. Every since the first year of my formation training I have really turned things over to God and the Holy Spirit and things really seem to go a lot better. I don’t get near as upset as I used to and I realize that there are ways to make things better with proper interaction with management back at my home terminal. So I would like to stress that no matter how bad things may seem it could always be worse.

       Jesus emptying of himself to be born in the likeness of human beings reached its ultimate point in his death on the cross. Yet there at the depths of his degradation began his rise to exaltation. So we celebrate the Exaltation of the Holy Cross every year at this time.

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