Some time ago, I attended a workshop on Chinese medicine sponsored by Marquette University. The Chinese presenter was not only knowledgeable, but respectful of western traditions. But the American presenter objected noisily at one point about how offensive it was to him as a healer to have the figure of a dying man hanging on the walls of hospitals. I finally protested and asked him to stop. Clearly, he had no idea what significance the cross of Jesus had for both the sick and the healthy members of the community, including Christian doctors and nurses.
The cross is a sign of contradiction to many and always has been, although after nearly 2,000 years we are not so much shocked and scandalized by it as annoyed. But properly understood, it is the sign of our salvation, as celebrated in the hymn cited by St. Paul in the second reading. It is a sign of life, not death. And the first reading connects it, as does Jesus in the gospel passage, with healing. Again this year, with the memory of the terrorist attacks of 2001 still so vivid in our minds this week, we might dwell for a moment on the lesson of love and forgiveness revealed by the cross.