Gospel: Jn 3:13-17
No one has ever gone up to heaven except the one who came from heaven, the Son of Man.
As Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, so that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.
Yes, God so loved the world that he gave his only Son that whoever believes in him may not be lost, but may have eternal life. God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world; instead, through him the world is to be saved.
Basically, the verb “to exalt” means: to elevate, to raise. It comes from the Latin exaltare, to raise, which in term is formed of the preposition ex- and the adjective altus, which means: high. Now in ordinary usage, “to exalt” is reserved for a very special kind of elevation: an elevation in rank, in dignity. And so, “to exalt” often means: to praise highly, to extol. It has an exclusively positive connotation. And so, given this lexicological background, today’s feast is about celebrating, praising the Cross.
But there is a paradox hidden in the word “exaltation.” For indeed, when Christ was crucified, he was certainly “elevated” above the ground, “lifted up,” as Jesus says in today’s gospel reading. But this “elevation” was an extremely shameful one, for it exposed his almost naked and pierced body to the scoff and derision of his enemies.
However, still more paradoxically, this shameful lifting up in derision was used by God to save us all—and thus turned to Jesus’ ultimate and eternal “exaltation.” As Paul says in today’s second reading: “God exalted him.” And, if ever an “exaltation” was well deserved, this one was indeed. And so, we rejoice with Christ.
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