A September Meditation on the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross
Fr John Satoru Kato
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
“For this is how God loved the world; He gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.”
These words might be the most famous and beloved words of the Gospel. Those words were first told by the Lord Jesus to Nicodemus. He was a Pharisee, but he, after having seen Jesus and listened to him carefully, had come to believe in Jesus as the Messiah. Then, Nicodemus made up his mind to come to see Jesus on his own at night.
Jesus, who told Nicodemus as above, had already told him as follows:
“No one has gone up to heaven except the one who came down from heaven, the Son of man; as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so must the Son of man be lifted up so that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.”
In the old days, at the time of the great Exodus, the people of Israel were led by Moses to make their journey to the Promised Land of God from Egypt, the land of slavery.
However, even on the middle way of this pilgrimage of the people of Israel towards not only their physical freedom but their spiritual freedom as well, they had sinned even repeatedly, by not keeping the commandments of God. These commandments had been given by God himself to his people in his mercy to make sure that they would live as God’s people and enjoy their true freedom from God.
Nevertheless, the people of Israel had sinned to God and to each other repeatedly. After that, one day, God ordered his people to make a bronze figure of snake and to hang it on the tall pole. Then, God told them to look up to the snake, which was hung on the pole, as the symbol of God’s forgiveness of their sins against him and against each other. Then, the people would be forgiven and be healed from their sins.
Reminding his people of this story from the Old Testament, Jesus, however, told them and us, too, to look at Jesus himself, the Son of the living God and the Son of man. And look up to him, this time, Jesus, instead of a bronze figure of the snake, who would be hung on the tall pole of the Cross, not just as a symbol of God’s forgiveness like a bronze snake, but the forgiveness of God itself.
Then, the people would realize that, in Jesus who would be hung on the Cross, God would accomplish his saving work for us, the sinners, through his forgiveness of our sins, so that we would be given eternal life instead of sinful and miserable lives.
Now, what is eternal life? How to receive it? Concerning this, Jesus told Nicodemus:
“In all the truth I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.”
To be given eternal life is to see or to enter the Kingdom of God, by being born from above. What does it mean? And, how? Nicodemus asked Jesus. He, then said to him:
“In all truth I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born through water and the Spirit.”
You will be born into new and eternal life, that is, to enter the kingdom of God, but only through the Sacrament, as water symbolizes the Sacrament of Baptism, which works from within, and by the power of the Holy Spirit, which will be given from above.
Now, you should make sure that it is Jesus himself, only who can give the Sacrament and the Holy Spirit at the same time. That is because Jesus is both the Sacrament itself and the Holy Spirit himself.
Jesus works from above and at the same time from within by the power of the Holy Spirit through the Sacrament, which can change you even into the likeness of Jesus himself. Trust, therefore, in Jesus and never leave him as he is the eternal life himself.
In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.