14 September, 2017: Humbling Oneself to the Cross

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Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross

Reading 1: Num. 21. 4b – 9; Reading 2: Phil. 2. 6 – 11; Gospel: Jn. 3. 13 – 17.

‘No one has gone up to heaven except the one who came down from heaven.’ Coming down always involves a struggle, pain and a process of humbling. Yet the scripture says that the humble would be always exalted. St. Paul’s Christological hymn ‘though he was in the form of God.. he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death even on a cross.. so God highly exalted him’ (Phil. 2: 6ff) and St. Peter’s proclamation ‘God made him both Lord and Messiah, this Jesus whom you crucified’ (Acts 2: 36) are to be seen in this context. In the Indian mythologies, the Mahabharata presents a conversation between Arjuna and Parthasarathi. Arjuna was reluctant to wage a just war and Parthasarathi was advising him to fulfill his dharma, duty as a kshatriya, a warrior. At the end of the conversation though everything was not clear for Arjuna he declared: ‘Shishya te Aham shadhi mam tvam prapanam; Lord! here am I! Let your will be done.’ Ever wondered why Our Lady is presented as kneeling down in front of the angel in very many annunciation pictures? I think it’s because annunciation of an event of obedience – of humbling oneself – “behold thy handmaid, be it done according to thy will.’ When we read it along with Jesus ‘kneeling down’ in obedience and praying ‘thy will be done,’ at the garden at Gethsamane the demand of obedience is clear. Cross it thus a symbol of humility and obedience. We do have great examples for this. When Don Bosco was demanded to ask pardon from Bishop Gastaldi, though Don Bosco was not fully at fault, he ‘knelt’ down in spirit and asked pardon. When Teilhard de Chardin SJ, a famous scientist was accused of heretical ideas and was asked by the general of the congregation to stop publishing books and remain calm he could have easily gone out of the society since he was one of the greatest scientists of his times. But rather he humbly accepted the decision which was evident in the letter that he wrote to the General in 1951: ‘I am resolved to remain a child of obedience.’ The feast of the exaltation of the cross is a reminder for us that God upholds the humble: ‘blessed are the humble.’ Cross is a symbol of humility and obedience. This is what God desires. Let the words that King Saul heard resonate in our minds: ‘What I desire is not sacrifice but obedience.’

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