Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross

Engaging Faith | Tue, Sep 9, 2008

By John Bucki, SJ
Source: Center of Concern

Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross

September 14, 2008


Numbers 21:4b-9

Philippians 2:6-11

John 3:13-17


September 11: Anniversary of the terrorist events of 2001

September 15: Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows

September 15: Start of National Hispanic Heritage Month

September 16: International Day for the Preservation of the Ozone Layer

September 21: Peace One Day


We must make haste. Too many people are suffering. While some make progress, others stand still or move backwards; and the gap between them is widening.

Paul VI, Populorum Progressio, 29

There is in our history a barbarous excess of suffering, a violence and destructiveness so intense in quality and extensive in scope that it can only be named genuine evil. ... Radical suffering afflicts millions of people the world over in intense and oppressive ways. ... A God who is not in some way affected by such pain is not really worthy of human love and praise. ... Wisdom participates in the suffering of the world and overcomes, inconceivably, from within through the power of love. ... the mystery of God is here in solidarity with those who suffer. ... Against the background of the history of human injustice and suffering, the suffering God is the most productive and critical symbol for it cannot be uttered without human beings hearing the challenge to solidarity and hope.

Elizabeth Johnson CSJ, She Who Is

The Cross stands before us in these days as an eloquent symbol of God's love for humanity. ... In his Passion,  Death and Resurrection, we are shown that the last word in human existence is not death but God's victory over death. Divine love, manifested in its fullness in the paschal mystery, overcomes death and sin, which is its cause (cf. Rom 5: 12).

John Paul II, General Audience, April 19, 2000

It is by uniting his own sufferings for the sake of truth and freedom to the sufferings of Christ on the Cross that a human person is able to accomplish the miracle of peace and is in a position to discern the often narrow path between the cowardice which gives in to evil and the violence which, under the illusion of fighting evil, only makes it worse. ... A human person is alienated if he refuses to transcend himself and to live the experience of self giving and of the formation of an authentic human community oriented towards his final destiny, which is God.

John Paul II, Centesium Annus, 25, 41

Thoughts for your consideration

Millions and millions of people suffer from social injustice.

As Pope Paul VI once said: "Too many people are suffering."  

As we reflect on the sufferings of Christ, we must reflect on the sufferings of so many people throughout human history and so many people in our world today.  At least a quarter of the world's population lives in extreme poverty.  Wars continue in so many parts of the world.  In other places, the preparation for wars and "defense" takes away resources that could address human needs.  Millions of people are refugees or unwelcomed immigrants.  Even in the United States, not all our children are getting a good education.  People suffer in situations of domestic violence and abuse.  Not everyone has access of quality health care.  Over 2 million people are in prison or jail in the United States.

Our Christian faith does not cover up or deny the reality of suffering in the world.  Our Christian faith calls us to condemn all suffering that comes from human injustice and to respond in some way to put an end to this injustice and suffering.

The suffering of Jesus is connected with the suffering of the world and its people of all times and places - especially the poor and powerless. In Jesus nailed to a cross, we see a person of great freedom and compassionate love and a special awesome power - the power of the suffering God crying out for justice. As we think of the cross, we are called not into an unreal, sentimental sorrow, but into a deeper awareness of life and its sorrow and into a deeper desire to work for an end to injustice and suffering. 

In reflecting of the suffering of the cross, we are lead to a deep solidarity with our God and a deep solidarity with each other.  In solidarity, Jesus " ... became the source of eternal salvation."

Questions for Reflection in your Faith Sharing Group

How does global human suffering affect you? Share concrete examples.


Do you ever wear a cross or display a cross on your wall or some other place?

What does it mean to you? 

How does it connect you with the suffering of the world today?

Actions - Links

It is less than two months to the upcoming US election.  The US Catholic Bishops have put together Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship: A Call to Political Responsibility from the Catholic Bishops of the United States.  Various materials related to this document can be found at   Resources for parish bulletins can be found at

Haiti is one of the poorest nations in the world.  Hunger has been a serious problem.  Recent hurricanes have caused many problems in Haiti.  In their September issue, National Geographic has an article about the problems with farming in Haiti.  Read it at:

Bread for the World is working to get the Congress to pass the Global Poverty Act, S. 2433, to help address poverty around the world. For information about taking action, go to

"Crazy Facts"

U.S. Census Bureau reports that the percentage of Americans in poverty increased from 12.3 percent in 2006 to 12.5 percent in 2007.

In a recent paper, researchers Martin Ravallion and Shaohua Chen found that 1.4 billion people (one in four) in the developing world were living below US$1.25 a day in 2005.

Prayers of Intercession

Response:  Lord, have mercy on us.

We remember the people of Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine, Israel and other places caught up in war.

We remember people living in extreme poverty in places like Haiti or nations in Sub-Sahara Africa.

We remember the more than more than 1.4 billion people in the world who live in poverty.

We remember those who are in prison today.

We remember those who have lost family members in acts of war and violence.

We remember refugees, migrant workers, the undocumented, and people trafficked for the profit of others.

We remember the "suffering" of our planet as it feels the effect of human abuse and overuse.

We remember people and families "trapped" in abusive relationships.

We remember all those who suffer injustice in any way.

Prayer - Meditation

Stations of the Cross of Jesus Christ

1. Jesus is condemned to death

Jesus is trapped by the same system that brings us the death penalty, the harshness of life in prison, political prisoners, torture, white color crime, racial profiling, the criminalization of the poor, and all the inequities of our world's "criminal justice systems."

2. Jesus is made to carry his cross

Jesus carries his burden as do all those who work the land, labor for low wages, struggle to find work, care for their children and family, worry over their debts, strive for their children, attend poor schools, are abused by their bosses, or in any way struggle to make it in this world.

3. Jesus falls the first time

The burden that crushes Jesus can be compared to the burdens of today - the burden of debt that crushes the poor economies of the world - the unequal distribution of resources which stifles development for many people and nations.

4. Jesus meets his mother

Jesus looks on his mother with love and sees all the pain and possibility of relationship, deep family love and fidelity, abuse and violence, mutual loving care, separation and divorce, loneliness and community.

5. Simon helps Jesus carry his cross

Jesus' story becomes Simon's story as well. Globalization can be both a burden and a relief, a freedom and a limit. Jesus and Simon are both victims and helpers. Good and evil play out as their lives are connected.

6. Jesus falls the second time

The burden that crushes Jesus is unfair - as are the economic and political inequalities of our day - wages, resources, schools, rights, beauty, power, savings, and taxes. Our systems are not always fair.

7. Veronica wipes the faces of Jesus

This "small" act of charity is a most wonderful action of great compassion. It seems to be all that Veronica can do at the moment, yet the injustice remains. She cannot stop the suffering of Jesus. The compassion of Veronica calls out for social change, for an end to injustice, for a new way of living together.

8. Jesus comforts the women of Jerusalem

Women seem to bear the burdens of the world in a special way.  Women feel deeply the pain and injustice of our systems. The experience of women throughout the ages calls us to end the injustice.  It calls us to a new heaven and a new earth, to a new way of being sisters and brothers.

9. Jesus falls the third time

The burden that crushes Jesus is like the burden of materialism. Every time the world worships things before people, power before justice, and consumption before the spirit, we lose what it means to be human and alive.

10. Jesus is stripped of his garments

This radical loss of everything continues to be felt in the lives of all the poor - those without enough food, clothing, shelter, education, respect, dignity, human rights, and healthy community.

11. Jesus is nailed to the cross

Jesus is a person of active nonviolence, yet here he comes to know violence against his person - the same violence that is seen in all our wars and preparation for war, in all the violence on our streets and in our homes, in all our weapons of mass destruction, in ethnic cleansing, in genocide, in all the countless examples of violence.

12. Jesus dies on the cross

Power and control seem to be dominate values in our world, yet Jesus seems to lose all of these things that the world considers important. Yet at the same time, in Jesus nailed to a cross, we see a person of great freedom and compassionate love and a special awesome power - the power of the suffering God crying out for justice.

13. Jesus is taken down from the cross

Jesus is radically stripped of everything. He is a human person whose rights and dignity and been taken away. In Jesus, we see all the women and men of our world who still seek their basic human rights - rights to the basics like food, water, clothing, shelter, education, political freedom, development and justice.

14. Jesus is placed in the tomb

Jesus is carefully placed into the earth - an earth that is the divine creation - a planet that we so often abuse as we waste resources, seek profit before all else, consume without awareness, and disrespect the awesome beauty that is God's gift.

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