22nd Sunday: The Scandal of the Cross

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.
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10 years 4 months ago
I would like to quote something Fr. Joseph Komonchak once wrote. "This is what Bernard Lonergan called 'the law of the cross,' and in it he found the intrinsic intelligibility of the redemption. It was not something necessary, something that had to follow from the nature of God or the nature of sin. But it is something that we can try to understand in its contingent meaning: that God in his wisdom and goodness chose not to free humanity from evil by some great act of power; he chose rather that Christ encounter that evil and transform it by his love into the great good that is the salvation of the human race. It certainly was not God's will that Christ be unjustly tried, convicted, punished, and executed--all of this is the evil of sin. But Christ understood that fidelity to his God-given mission required him to suffer this evil rather than to try to escape it or to respond in kind, and the fidelity, love, and courage that enabled him to endure it are the great gift that God inspired and enabled in him, the full price he himself was willing to pay because of sin and for the sake of sinners..."
10 years 4 months ago
The poet Christian Wiman has become important to me. Wiman has an fatal illness that might kill next month or in ten years. He wrote an essay with the title "Gazing Into the Abyss" (can be googled). In this essay Wiman talks about how the galvanizing prospect of death has lead him back to poetry and a "hope toward God." This is a quote from this essay, "'It is necessary to have had a revelation of reality through joy,'Simone Weil writes, 'in order to find reality through suffering.' This is certainly true to my own experience. I was not wrong all those years to believe that suffering is at the very center of our existence, and that there can be no untranquilized life that does not fully confront this fact. The mistake lay in thinking grief the means of confrontation, rather than love. To come to this realization is not to be suddenly 'at ease in the world.' I don't really think it's possible for humans to be at the same time conscious and comfortable. Though we may be moved by nature to thoughts of grace, though art can tease our minds toward eternity and love's abundance make us dream a love that does not end, these intuitions come only through the earth, and the earth we know only in passing, and only by passing. I would qualify Weil's statement somewhat, then, by saying that reality, be it of this world or another, is not something one finds and then retains for good. It must be newly discovered daily, and newly lost..." Michael


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