At the morning parade in Dachau on 22nd July 1943, six prisoners were found to have escaped. Retribution was swift and brutal. Randomly selected, 12 people were hanged. As the other prisoners watched their 12 fellow inmates gasp for breath, someone in the crowd cried out, "Where is God?" Silence descended on the yard. The 12 bodies were now in spasm, jerking and struggling for breath. As everyone watched, the voice came again, this time more urgently, "Where is God now?" "My God," another voice yelled back, "My God is hanging there." This sort of faith is what today’s Gospel is all about. Christianity is the only world religion that holds that God took our flesh, suffered, died and was raised to life. It is certainly true that we have domesticated the scandal of the cross, even to the point that, these days, it dangles from various parts of people’s anatomies. I often wonder, had Jesus been electrocuted to death, whether we would have little golden chairs around our necks? But while we have tried to tame the reality of Jesus’ tortuous hours in Jerusalem, the reality of the cross in each of our lives cannot be so commercially soothed. Christians are not meant to be smiling masochists. We are not meant to be lovers of pain - just bearers of it. We are invited, by Jesus, to see the burden of suffering in our lives as an opportunity to be faithful to his example. It also gives us an opportunity to be in solidarity with all those who suffer in our world. This is easier said than done. When we suffer in our daily lives, thoughts of others rarely come to mind easily, but it can be consoling to keep our suffering in context and know that we are not facing it alone. We are encouraged to see that suffering can be an opportunity to grow in love. If we understand our crosses as our particular schools of love, then we learn more about ourselves and God and are able to help others carry their crosses as well. Carrying our cross, however, is not just about bearing physical, personal, sexual, spiritual or emotional pain; it can also be in the sharing of our gifts and talents, our love and compassion. In every gift there is a burden. Following Christ’s example we are called to share our gifts heroically, with anyone in need, even to the end. Some people complain these days that God is often presented as a big marshmallow, all sweet and soft. Today’s Gospel shows the edge involved in being a follower of Christ. I don’t know of a more demanding vocation in our world than that of taking up the cross of being faithful, loving and selfless. And while we are invited to take up our cross and follow Jesus, we never do it alone. If we have the eyes to see it and the humility to accept it, Christ, literally, hangs in there with us every step of the way. So let’s recall the first cross from which we take comfort as we bear our own crosses. "In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen." Richard Leonard, S.J.
22nd Sunday: The Scandal of the Cross