Exaltation of the Cross – September 14, 2008 – I Would Do Anything For You!
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Bottom line: I asked God the Father, “how much he loves me?” and he said: “I gave my only begotten Son.” Then I came to Jesus and posed the same question to him. He did not say anything. Getting a bit frustrated and annoyed, I pressed him again! He looked at me lovingly and said “This much!” (Point to the CROSS!) – Oh, by the way, I think God just tell you and me “I would do anything for you!” And He DID!
Father Martino Nguyễn Bá Thông
St. Anne Catholic Church – Columbus, GA
Exaltation of the Cross – Year A (2008) – [email protected]
I Would Do Anything For You!
I will begin with a history lesson! A short but very important one! In the first few centuries after the crucifixion of Christ, Christians preferred a fish as the symbol of their faith. In Greek, the word for fish is ichthus. Ichthus can be also an acronym formed by taking the first letter of each of the Greek words for Jesus Christ, Son of God, Savior. Hence, a drawing of a fish, an ichthus, reminded the early Christians of their belief in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, and our Savior.
Why a fish and why not a crucifix? Quite simply, those folks had seen people crucified. Crucifixion was an instrument of torture. A cruel death reserved for runaway slaves or traitors to the Roman Empire or the very worst criminals. Crucifixions were cruel, sad, ugly events. An agonizing death, with the humiliation of hanging naked for all to see. No one would decorate home or church with such a symbol of suffering. Never. They’d use a fish to remind them of Christ.
As the story goes, the Romans threw the wood of the cross of Christ and the crosses of the two crucified beside him into a well. They covered these crosses with rocks and stones and debris, all to make certain no follower of Christ would find the cross on which Jesus was crucified. There the wood remained until the fourth century, until Constantine became Emperor. Now, Constantine was no Christian, but, for some reason, he uttered a prayer to the Christian God on the eve of battle. In a vision Constantine saw a luminous cross in the sky, bearing the inscription: In hoc signo vinces, “by this sign you will conquer.” The vision proved to be correct, Constantine won the battle. The Emperor issued the Edict of Milan (in 313) guaranteeing Christians religious tolerance throughout the Roman Empire.
Constantine became a Christian, and so did his mother Helena who was 63 years old. Helena decided to build a church in the Holy Land on the site where Christ was crucified. She determined the location of Golgotha, tore down a temple to the goddess Venus that had been erected there, and began excavations for a church. Digging the foundation for the church, three crosses were discovered in an old cistern. They could not tell which the cross of Jesus was and which were the crosses of the two thieves crucified with him. Finally they brought a sick woman. The three crosses were placed one after the other on the sick woman. Two of the crosses had no effect, but on contact with the third cross, the sick woman was healed of her infirmity. These miracles clearly indicated which of the three was the Holy Cross. Saint Helena had the “true cross” preserved in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, built over the site of Golgotha.
(Not preach) The “true cross” remained in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher until the year 614, when the Holy Land was invaded and Jerusalem sacked by the King of Persia. The Persians seized the “true cross” and carried it off to Persia as a war trophy.
About fifteen years later [in 629] the Emperor Heraclius of Constantinople defeated the Persian Army. He regained possession of the cross. Emperor Heraclius personally brought the “true cross” back to Jerusalem. Coming into the city, the Emperor stopped at the gate, took off his shoes and all marks of his royalty. Barefoot, wearing a sackcloth, the Emperor Heraclius carried the “true cross” in a penitential procession up the streets of Jerusalem to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher.
Today with our feast of “The Exaltation of the Holy Cross,” we continue the exaltation of the cross begun by Emperor Heraclius.
These days, the symbol of our faith is no longer “a fish” but a Cross! To us, the Cross signals God’s love for us. God so loved the world, He gave His only Son. The Cross is no longer the symbol of the horrific death of a criminal, the Cross of Christ is our sign of salvation. A symbol of evil transformed into the cause of our joy. The Eternal Love!
But to bear that joy, we must first carry our cross! There is a story of an unhappy marriage. The couple has not been talking to each other for quite long. Then comes the Easter season, where Catholics are asked to go to reconcile with God. When the wife returned from the sacrament of penance, she hugged her husband and kissed him three times. This action surprised the husband, so he asked: “why do you kissed me today, since we have not been talking to each other?” The wife answer: “I went to confession and for my penance, the priest told me to go home, hugged my cross, and kiss the cross three times!
Then, we come to a popular expression that begins with: “I’d do anything for……..” Usually, it is not meant too seriously, like a person might say, “I’d do anything for a rib eye steak right now.” Well, I really don’t think the person would do anything even though steak merits great sacrifice.
Most of the time, the popular expression, “I’d do anything for you,” is used as part of a marriage proposal. The sentiments are lovely, but the reality contains an awful lot of “excepts”. You know, like, “I’d do anything for you except let you control the remote, or except let your sister move in with us, or except miss today’s Brave or Falcons game so we can go curtain shopping.” Or a wife might say, “I’d do anything for you except let you keep that lousy old college shirt, and your high school junk.”
The expression, I’d do anything for you was far closer to reality when you held your babies. People will do anything for their children because they love them so much. That might mean working two jobs, sitting through a dance recital, and saving all you can for their college. There are few limits to what you would do for your children. Even when you choose some “me time” it is basically to help you be a better Mom or Dad.
Sometimes it is not just us – the older asking the younger – our children if they love us – and will do anything for us – There are times they ask us tooJ So, as a child of God, I did came and asked him. I asked God the Father, “how much he loves me?” and he said: “I gave my only begotten Son.” Then I came to Jesus and posed the same question to him. He did not say anything. Getting a bit frustrated and annoyed, I pressed him again! He looked at me lovingly and said “This much!” (Point to the CROSS!) – Oh, by the way, I think God just tell you and me “I would do anything for you!” And He DID!
Fr. Martino Nguyen Ba-Thong