April 19, 2013 – We Need the Cross of Christ

Well we have seen yet another week that has probably left us with many more questions than answers.  The terrible tragedy in Boston, the explosion of the fertilizer plant in Texas, the large earthquake that affected Iran and Pakistan, the letters that contained poison addressed to our country’s political leaders, and the seemingly endless list of hurtful events can certainly make us wonder if we are living in a world that has gone out of control, and can also make us wonder if God is truly there for us.  We who practice Christianity make the decision to continue to maintain our faith in God, and believe that He is always present among us.  We also know that until the end of time, we will live in an imperfect world because God is so compassionate, he gave us free will, and unfortunately some people will choose to use their free will in a destructive way.

We as Christians shouldn’t be concerned with whether God is with us – this should be assumed.  What should concern us is why it appears that fewer and fewer people believe that this is the case.  In a study released in the fall of last year, about 20% of Americans have no religious affiliation.  These are not just people who have ceased practicing the faith for whatever reason, but people who do not believe in the existence and power of God.  I am sure that events such as the bombings in Boston, the school shootings in Newtown, CT, and so many other acts of violence have influenced this growing number.  I am sure it has caused people to question how a God who is supposed to be merciful can cause such horrific things to happen. 

We have already stated that God doesn’t “cause” these things.  God certainly did not tell these individuals to construct bombs and place them in a crowded area.  God did not tell the terrorists on 9/11 to fly planes into large buildings.  This is the work of Satan, the master of darkness.  However, there seems to be a prevailing attitude among more and more people that being religious should entitle you to some sort of shield of protection, some sort of exemption from having to experience tragedy.  And to an extent I can see the irony.  We currently are in the Easter season, a time when we are told to rejoice.  We proclaim in our readings from Psalm 118 which tells us that “This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.”  Yet there are many people this week who have seen their lives turned upside-down, and will have a much more difficult time finding joy in their lives.

What people who do not believe in the true God fail to understand is that being religious gives no guarantee of protection from hardship.  The Bible, as a matter of fact, is full of tales of hardship and tragedy.  Floods, famine, disease, war – many of the same things we still experience today.  The Massacre of the Innocents, the order from King Herod to kill all infant boys 2 years and younger in fear that the rumored “Messiah” would claim the throne, was probably much bloodier than the Newtown tragedy.  And of course there was the ultimate act of hatred – the killing of not only an innocent man, but the Son of God, by the most torturous means possible.  Yet it is this suffering that gives us hope, because as we know Jesus conquered death and rose to eternal life.

Timothy Cardinal Dolan, when he returned from the conclave to elect Pope Francis, told of something that happened when the Cardinals were holding meetings prior to the conclave.  They began the meeting with prayer, and during the prayer they were asked to focus on the cross of Christ.  However, when the Cardinals looked around the room, no one could see a cross.  Cardinal Dolan had been in the same venue before, and he knew where the cross was supposed to be.  In its place was a video screen on which they could see each of the Cardinals who were scheduled to speak.  So Cardinal Dolan went to the technician and told him that he thought they needed to raise the screen.  When he did, the cross was revealed, and the Cardinals applauded.  Why would the Cardinals applaud at having to see this portrait of suffering?  Why is it that we as Catholics display the suffering servant on our crosses when other churches do not, if they display a cross at all?  Because, as Cardinal Dolan said, we need to see the cross of Christ.  In 1st Corinthians, chapter 1, verse 23. Paul says, “…but we preach Christ crucified…” , and in Corinthians 2:2 Paul writes, “For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.”  Some feel it is distasteful to show Jesus at his most vulnerable.  Well, this should make us uncomfortable. Every lash that he took, every blow that drove the nail into his hands was caused by you and me. Our sins hung Jesus on that cross. The crucifix is the ultimate expression of the lengths that a loving God will go to reach us. 

This past Wednesday, several of our parish representatives met with several from St. Mary’s, Ellis Grove.  It was a good first meeting.  We expressed concerns and surfaced issues that we will have to work on as we form our partnership.  One of the concerns is how we can do a better job of evangelizing while at the same time having to combine resources, provide fewer Masses, and deal with other consequences of fewer clergy, fewer young people filling the pews. etc.  We as a parish partnership will also have to keep our focus on the cross of Christ.  We will have to keep in mind that our main priority is how to remain church in the face of change.  Before we can tackle the sharing of material things such as buildings, money, etc., we need an effective plan for providing the Eucharist to the most people in the most effective way.  If we maintain our focus on the cross of Christ, the Christ who conquered all, we know that we can remain a viable church.

Have a great week ahead – hopefully a quieter week ahead.  PEACE.

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