Lifted Up; Arms Open Wide

Kevin and Chrissie were two individuals I became acquainted with during my seminary days. Chrissie was Kevin’s mother. At one time, Chrissie had been a nurse and Kevin an aspiring football player. But then Chrissie became an alcoholic, and Kevin soon followed suit. They became homeless, and when not in jail, they would roam the streets, shouting obscenities, getting into fights, and passing out on the sidewalk.

While praying one night, I shook my fist at God, demanding to know why he allowed something so terrible to have happened. But as I shouted, God answered by powerfully impressing upon my mind a vivid image of the cross. I felt chastised but peaceful, because this experience reminded me of an essential truth: To know God, we need to know the cross; without the cross, we can’t really understand God.

Jesus says as much in today’s gospel. People had asked, “Who are you?” To which Jesus replied, “You will know that I AM- you will know that I am God- when I have been lifted up” – lifted up on the cross.

To see Jesus on the cross is the key to understanding who Jesus really is. On the cross, we see humility, obedience, suffering, mercy, forgiveness, glory, kingship, sacrifice, priesthood, death, and victory over death. But most importantly, what we see on the cross is love. Because when Jesus was lifted up, he stretched out his arms, as if to welcome us into the eternal embrace of his love. Truly, to know the cross is to know Jesus. And to know Jesus is to experience his love.

Readings for today’s Mass:

Photo Credit: iom_mark via Creative Commons