Feast of the Triumph of the Cross
(24th Sunday Year A)
September 14, 2014


We always feel right when we complain. Whenever we feel aggrieved, we always have a sense of entitlement. And we tend to be very vocal – even, vociferous – about it. Take the case of the Israelites. One day they were excited to leave their hell-hole; another day they were angry at being caught in the little pigeonhole of their uncomfortable desert meandering. And boy, did they raise hell for Moses as they hollered: “Why have you brought us up from Egypt to die in this desert, where there is no food or water?”

But the very same man they blamed was the man they begged assistance from. They thought better of him when they were in dire straits … when their lives were threatened by something far worse than not having meat or spices to tickle their choosy palates – serpents! And then, when they started falling down like flies smitten by those deadly and abominable reptiles, they cried for clemency.

The bitter complaints were met by sweet compassion. The lack of tolerance they showed was matched by God’s ultimate long-suffering patience and unconditional positive regard – with an instant antigen to boot! God had a saraph mounted on a pole, and all those bitten could look up to it for dear salvation.

The world of human affairs tries to be very logical. The world of business, in particular, follows the strict logic of exchange. Strict rules of commutative justice keep the economic forces alive, and the wheels of business-strictly-for-profit grinding. Markets don’t go by the logic of compassion. Complaints need to be dealt with with dispatch, not dilly-dallying hesitation and vacillation.

Today, however, we are face-to-face with a different logic. Benedict XVI calls it the logic of love, as against the logic of exchange. Whilst he used the phrase when talking about macro-economic realities and extolled the beauty and virtues of a logic of communion as against the logic of competition, the same illogical “logic” might as well apply to today’s feast – the triumph of the Cross!

Yes! When it comes to today’s feast, the first word that comes to mind is “illogical.” There is no rhyme nor reason to what it refers to – Christ’s ignominious and painful death on the cross.

Just draw from your very own experience … Isn’t it true that when someone pulls a fast one on you, you try your best to outdo him and even out scores? For men who read this now, isn’t it true that if someone cuts you on the road, your tendency is to nose up and speed up and cut him, too, at the next opportunity? A worse logic is in operation here – the logic of tit-for-tat … the logic of “I’ll-show-you-what-I-am-capable-of.”

Today, God shows us what God is more than just capable of … In fact, he tells us what stuff He is made of, and what stuff we, too, ought to be fashioned of. And it has nothing to do with the logic of loathing and hatred and revenge. It has to do with the logic of lowliness: “He emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness.”

The human logic of tit-for-tat was transformed to the seemingly illogical logic of life through death, love from hatred, lauds from loathing, and glory from ignominy. This was the logic of the cross, whose paradoxical triumph we now celebrate and extol.

I need to quiet down today. All of me revolts with anger and sadness at the illogicality of it all … the senseless painful deaths suffered at the hands of jihadists and terrorists … the merciless sending of entire villages and clans and ethnic groups to cruel exile, for many of them only to die slow deaths due to exposure and starvation.

But in tears, despite tears and because of the same tears, I see a little bit more clearly. And what do I see? The compassionate and merciful Lord, whose logic of love and forgiveness belied the seeming defeat of Him, on account of whom “every tongue confesses that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

And this, ultimately, is what lies beyond the seemingly blatant lack of human short-sighted logic, and for good reason that reason itself may not know of: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that he who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.”