September 14, 2014–– 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Numbers 21:4b–9 / Philippians 2:6–11 / John 3:13–17
The Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross
Each one of the Scripture texts for today is worthy of book-length reflection, but perhaps it’s best to make three basic points.
The Numbers story illustrates the nature of sin: Sin is a poisonous snake always ready to bite, and its venom means death (apart from intervention beyond anything we are able to do for ourselves).  If you are “playing with sin” today––any kind of sin––you are risking eternal death.
The Epistle and the Gospel tell us what God has done. He has provided a remedy for the poison of sin. The Divine Son takes the sin of the world upon himself, and because he is God, he “absorbs” sin and defeats it. Just as Moses mounted an image of a snake on a pole and invited those bitten to look upon it and be healed,  when Jesus was lifted up on the cross the salvation of everyone who believes in him was accomplished.
If this incredible thing is true, why are the effects of sin still so devastating in our world and even in our personal lives? God does not force spiritual healing on anyone. Moses mounted the image of the snake, but each Israelite had the personal responsibility to look at it in order to be healed. Jesus makes the same point in his words to Nicodemus: ….the Son of Man must be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life. Clearly one meaning of lifted up is the literal physical crucifixion of Jesus, so when Jesus mounted the cross he was taking the sin of the world upon himself. Every week––and for some of us, every day––we acclaim, Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world.
Still, there is more in what Jesus said. What marks a person who has faith in the saving death of Jesus Christ? What does “believe” mean (for it can so easily be a cliché)? There is a figurative way to understand lifted up––it is extended to us!  When we model faith in his death on the cross for sin, so that our very lives proclaim Jesus Christ is Lord, then in each and every Christian believer, Jesus Christ is being lifted up.
On this day when the Church calls us to exalt the Holy Cross, let’s be people who do just that by honoring Jesus Christ in all that we are and all that we do. The foundation for real living is knowing that Jesus Christ was lifted up on the cross to save us from the poison of sin. Then––starting from the inner passion of our hearts and extending into the way we live each day––we can truly be his witnesses. When our own lives cause Jesus to be lifted up, we join all those for whom every knee bend[s] and every tongue confess[es] that Jesus Christ is Lord. This is the Exaltation of the Holy Cross.