Bread In The Wilderness

Father Carl Diederichs

All Saints Catholic Church

This coming Sunday, September 14, the Church celebrates the Feast of The Exaltation of the Holy Cross. On this day our readings are: Numbers 21:4b-9, Philippians 2: 6-11, and John 3:13-17.

The Holy Cross, the instrument used to murder Jesus, has become for us a sign of hope and salvation. This instrument of death has become a sign of life. The first reading from Numbers gives us that interesting story of how our ancestors were bitten by poisonous snakes because they complained so bitterly about life in the desert as they were fleeing slavery. But healing came as Moses lifted up a bronze serpent on a pole and all who looked at it were saved.

Jesus makes reference to this event while speaking to Nicodemus in the cover of night. He compares Himself to that serpent lifted up so that all would have eternal life. But how he got “lifted up” is still a tragic murder filled with pain and suffering. As Paul says, “he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave…he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross.” And from this brutal murder Jesus becomes the salvation of world.

We Christians bear the Cross of Jesus Christ. At our baptism we were signed with the Cross and anointed with the oil of chrism to become Jesus in the flesh. And our life, like His, is filled with daily crosses, opportunities, I call them, to be in fact “another Christ” doing the very things he did; reaching out to the suffering, not standing for injustice no matter where we find it, making sure that the hungry get fed and the naked get clothes, demanding that children get a good education and good health care, joining with others to eradicate racism and sexism, being champions for those who suffer domestic abuse and sexual exploitation. And making sure that people have decent housing.

To be a Christian today is certainly no easier than in past centuries. The ills of society that Jesus railed against are still with us. The constant question is, however, whether we follow Jesus even to the end or simply use Him as a crutch when times get bad for us. Is the sign of the cross a mere piece of jewelry we wear or a way of life? We must decide. And I have decided to follow Jesus, no turning back, no turning back.