Exaltation of the Holy Cross (Sept 14)
September 14, 2023
Fr. John Colacino C.PP.S.




O God, who willed that your Only Begotten Son
should undergo the Cross to save the human race,
grant, we pray,
that we, who have known his mystery on earth,
may merit the grace of his redemption in heaven.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
God, for ever and ever. Amen.

FIRST READING  Numbers 21:4b-9

With their patience worn out by the journey,
the people complained against God and Moses,
"Why have you brought us up from Egypt to die in this desert,
where there is no food or water?
We are disgusted with this wretched food!"

In punishment the LORD sent among the people saraph serpents,
which bit the people so that many of them died.
Then the people came to Moses and said,
"We have sinned in complaining against the LORD and you.
Pray the LORD to take the serpents from us."
So Moses prayed for the people, and the LORD said to Moses,
"Make a saraph and mount it on a pole,
and if any who have been bitten look at it, they will live."
Moses accordingly made a bronze serpent and mounted it on a pole,
and whenever anyone who had been bitten by a serpent
looked at the bronze serpent, he lived.

RESPONSORIAL PSALM          Ps 78:1bc-2, 34-35, 36-37, 38

R. Do not forget the works of the Lord!

Hearken, my people, to my teaching;
incline your ears to the words of my mouth.
I will open my mouth in a parable,
I will utter mysteries from of old.

While he slew them they sought him
and inquired after God again,
Remembering that God was their rock
and the Most High God, their redeemer.

But they flattered him with their mouths
and lied to him with their tongues,
Though their hearts were not steadfast toward him,
nor were they faithful to his covenant.

But he, being merciful, forgave their sin
and destroyed them not;
Often he turned back his anger
and let none of his wrath be roused.

SECOND READING  Philippians 2:6-11

Brothers and sisters:
Christ Jesus, though he was in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God something to be grasped.
Rather, he emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave,
coming in human likeness;
and found human in appearance,
he humbled himself,
becoming obedient to death,
even death on a cross.
Because of this, God greatly exalted him
and bestowed on him the name
that is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus
every knee should bend,
of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue confess that
Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.


GOSPEL  John 3:13-17

Jesus said to Nicodemus:
"No one has gone up to heaven
except the one who has come down from heaven, the Son of Man.
And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert,
so must the Son of Man be lifted up,
so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life."

For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son,
so that everyone who believes in him might not perish
but might have eternal life.
For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world,
but that the world might be saved through him.


 That brazen serpent was hung up as a remedy for the biting serpents, not as a type of Him that suffered for us but, as a contrast. It saved those that looked upon it, not because they believed it to live but because it was killed and killed with it, were the powers that were subject to it, being destroyed as it deserved. And what is the fitting epitaph for it from us? O death, where is your sting? O grave, where is your victory?You are overthrown by the Cross. you are slain by Him, Who is the Giver of Life. You are without breath, dead, without motion, even though you keep the form of a serpent lifted up high on a pole. (St. Gregory of Nazianzen)

Do not rejoice in the Cross only in times of peace,
preserve the same faith in times of persecution.
Do not be a friend to Jesus in times of peace alone,
only to become His enemy in times of war.
You are now receiving forgiveness for your sins
and the spiritual gifts lavishly bestowed by your King so,
when war breaks out, fight valiantly for your King. (St. Cyril of Jerusalem)

We give glory to You, Lord,
who raised up Your Cross to span the jaws of death
like a bridge by which souls might pass
from the region of the dead to the land of the living. ..
You are incontestably alive.
Your murderers sowed Your living body in the earth
as farmers sow grain but it sprang up
and yielded an abundant harvest of men
raised from the dead. (St. Ephrem the Syrian)

We are celebrating the Feast of the Cross which drove away darkness and brought in the light… Had there been no Cross, Christ could not have been Crucified. Had there been no Cross, Life Itself could not have been nailed to the tree. And if Life had not been nailed to it, they would be no streams of immortality pouring from Christ’s side, blood and water for the world’s cleansing. The legal bond of our sin would not be cancelled, we should not have obtained our freedom, we should not have enjoyed the fruit of the tree of life and the gates of paradise would not stand open. Had there been no Cross, death would not have been trodden underfoot, nor hell despoiled… The Cross is called Christ’s glory, it is saluted as His triumph. (St. Andrew of Crete)

How precious the gift of the Cross,
how splendid to contemplate!
In the Cross there is no mingling of good and evil,
as in the tree of paradise;
it is wholly beautiful to behold
and good to taste.
The fruit of this tree is not death but life,
not darkness but light.
This tree does not cast us out of paradise
but opens the way for our return. (
St. Theodore the Studite)

Let us then learn from the Cross of Jesus our proper way of living.
Should I say ‘living’ or, instead, ‘dying’?
Rather, both living and dying.
Dying to the world, living for God.
Dying to vices and living by the virtues.
Dying to the flesh, but liv­ing in the spirit.
Thus in the Cross of Christ, there is death
and in the Cross of Christ there is life.
The death of death is there and the life of life.
The death of sins is there and the life of the virtues.
The death of the flesh is there and the life of the spirit. (St. Aelred of Rievaulx)

O Wisdom, what a game you bring to perfection, what a joke you play on my Jesus. You lay bare the King of Glory, making Him a spectacle of abuse.   You affix to the trunk of a tree the price of the entire world.   You alone weigh and mark out how much value this mystery has in paying the debt for all transgressions   From the earth you lift up on the Cross the life of all that He, drawing everything to Himself in His death, (cf Jn 12:32) might make them live.

O wise Love, what a remedy you prepare so that universal ruin be filled.   Oh, what a plaster you apply to cure the wound of all.  O Love, your counsel is help for those who are lost.   You condemn the blameless man to save the miserable culprit.   You pour out innocent blood to be able to placate enraged justice and to ransom the motto is relief for those who are miserable.   You plead the cause of peace.   You heed the importuning mercy.   By your prudent counsel you bring help for the anxiety of all through the most gracious will of your clemency.   You impose an end to universal misery through the glorious work of your mercy.   O Love, what you have devised is the opportunity for salvation for those who are lost.

Behold, O Wisdom, your pantry full of loving-kindness is already open.   Ah, look upon me, the culprit, standing outside the door of your charity.   Ah, fill the little cloak of my poverty with the blessing of your gentleness.   Behold, before you is the empty little cup of my desire.” (cf Ps 37[38]:10)   Ah, lay the latch of your fullness open.…  Ah, do not treat me according to my sins nor repay me according to my iniquities (Ps 102[103]:10), my Jesus.   Ah, just as You have truly been favourable to me with Your blood, so also by virtue of Your precious Cross, make restitution to me for all the wastefulness of my life. (St. Gertrude the Great of Helfta)


I’m afraid of snakes.  I got it from my mother.  She wouldn't even look at a snake’s picture.  Neither will  I.  So when I go to a doctor’s office and see a snake wrapped around a pole, I get a little nervous.  Ever wonder where that came from?  It’s the symbol of the Greek god of medicine, Asclepius.  The snakes named after him are harmless.  They were kept in the hospital-temples built by the ancient Greeks in honor of the god.  That’s why you see them in doctors’ offices and hospitals to this day.

I must confess I always thought the medical profession got its snake from Moses. When the people grumbled against God and against Moses in the desert.  And the Lord sent poisonous serpents among the people, and they bit the people, so that many Israelites died.  Those snakes weren’t harmless.  They were called “saraphs,” which in Hebrew means “the fiery one,” because their bite burned.

Strangely, after the people repented God commanded Moses, ‘Make a poisonous serpent, and set it on a pole; and everyone who is bitten shall look at it and live.’ So Moses made a serpent of bronze, and put it upon a pole; and whenever a serpent bit someone, that person would look at the serpent of bronze and live (Num. 21:5-9).

Now I don’t know about you, but a snake--whether the innocent kind Asceplius carried or the poisonous kind Moses fashioned--a snake isn’t my idea of medicine.  Nor, I fear, was the cross.  Which, I suppose, is why Jesus compared being lifted up on the cross to Moses lifting up the serpent in the wilderness (Jn. 3:13).   For no one would imagine the cross to be a sign of healing.  Much less something that would draw all people to himself (cf. Jn. 12:32).  On the contrary, the sight of  it would provoke as much terror as any saraph.  No wonder Jesus compared the cross to Moses’ serpent on a pole.  There was nothing else to suggest such a loathsome thing could save people from perishing.

It reminds me of homeopathy--a Greek word meaning “similar suffering.” Homeopathy is a system of alternative medicine.  It’s based on the principle that “like cures like.”  So you’re given a very small does of what ails you in order to cure what ails you. Like in the case of  Moses, a serpent was just what the doctor ordered to cure a snakebite!  It doesn’t seem to make much sense, doesn’t it”  Yet, even in Jesus’ case, it was death that healed death--even death on a cross (Phil. 2:8)!  Or even more shocking, as Paul says,  for our sake [God]  made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God (2 Cor. 5:21).

For God, it seems, is the great homeopath, the One who embraces suffering similar to our own, in Christ who was born in human likeness:  “Like curing like” in human form to save human beings; in the form of a slave to free the captive; emptied for the desolate;  humbled for the lowly (cf. Phil. 2: 7-8).  Yes, like curing like when made God made him who did not know sin, to be sin for the sinner so that the the appearance of sin could cure sin; the appearance of guilt curing the liable; the appearance of condemnation curing the criminal.  Like curing like.

And here lies the triumph of the cross: the pain of the world cured by the pain of  the cross.  Like curing like.  Which means my pain, and your pain, can be cured too:  Similar suffering cured by similar suffering.  If we take the medicine God prescribes, an alternative medicine that doesn’t fit our view of what’s likely to cure us.  Like the people who tell me the way to cure my fear of snakes is to begin with drawings, and move to pictures, and then to being in a room with one.  When I can see no harm befalls me, they say, the fear gradually fades. It’s called “exposure therapy.”  Homeopathy, really: “like curing like.”  But I think I’ll pass! 

‘Cause it’s easy to miss the mystery.  How like cures like, right through the cross, to resurrection.  Which reminds me, the myth of Asclepius ends with him being struck dead by one of  Zeus’ lightning bolts.  Why?  Because the God of medicine was raising people from the dead. How unlike the Supreme God of Christian faith who highly exalted [Christ] and gave him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (Phil. 2:9-11) Who lives and reigns, forever and ever.  Amen.

INTERCESSIONS (Liturgy of the Hours)

O Christ, you emptied yourself, taking the form of a servant and being made like us,
— grant that your people may follow the example of your humility.

O Christ, you humbled yourself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross,
— grant that your servants may imitate your obedience and willing acceptance of trials.

O Christ, you were raised up by the Father and given the name that is above all other names,
may your people,
— strengthened in the hope of a heavenly resurrection, persevere to the end.

O Christ, at your name every knee in heaven, on earth and under the earth will bend in adoration,
— pour out your love upon all men that they may join together in proclaiming your glory.

O Christ, every tongue shall confess that you are Lord to the glory of God the Father,
— welcome our brothers and sisters who have died into the unfailing joy of your kingdom.

Lifted up among us, O God, is Jesus the crucified: sign of your steadfast love and pledge of your will to save. To those who look upon the cross with faith grant healing of soul and life eternal. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God for ever and ever. (ICEL; 1998)



Salvator mundi, salva nos, 


O Saviour of the world, save us,


qui per crucem et sanguinem redemisti nos,


who by thy cross and blood hast redeemed us,


auxiliare nobis, te deprecamur, Deus noster.


help us, we pray thee, O Lord our God.




Super omnia ligna cedrorum, tu sola excelsior:

Only thou exceedest in highness all the wood of Cedar:

In qua mundi salus pependit,

Upon which the salvation of the world did hang,

In qua Christus triumphavit,

On which Christ did triumph,

Et mors mortem superavit in aeternum.

And death overcame death forever.


May I never boast of anything
Save the cross of the Lord
The cross of Jesus Christ
Through it the world has been crucified to me
And I to the life of the world
Through the cross of Jesus Christ
All that matters now is one created anew
Peace and mercy on all
Who follow this rule of life
The Israel of God
Henceforth let no man trouble me
For I bear the marks of the Lord
The marks of Jesus Christ
All that matters now is one created anew
Peace and mercy on all
Who follow this rule of life
The Israel of God
May I never boast of anything
Save the cross of the Lord