Sunday, September 14, 2014
Getting cross with suffering
Sermon preached at Our Lady of Walsingham and St Francis on the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross
How many times a day do you make the sign of the cross? How many times have you made it during the Mass so far? Have you ever wondered why?
It’s a strange fact that the sign of the Cross is actually a sign of blessing. When we cross ourselves outside of Mass, we say “In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost” and thus ask for God’s blessing upon us. Only Our Lord could turn a device meant for torture, pain, humiliation and death into a symbol for blessing. Just think. In other ages, it could be the sign of the rack, the noose, the stake. All of these devices have been used to destroy some innocent people, or at least some misguided people. None of them, however, have been as designed explicitly for torture, pain, humiliation AND death as the Cross.
Why then, have we the Cross as a symbol of blessing if it represents such a terrible, gruesome and miserable way to die?
It is surely hard for us Christians to think of those who are dying in the Middle East in such horrible ways. Our minds try to run away from the facts, and we do not wish to think upon them. Millions of innocents (and not just Christians, it should be remembered) face agonies around the world at the hands of other human beings. There are many folk out there who say that because Man is so abominable to his brothers and sisters, a loving God cannot possibly exist.
Of course, this is false. Human beings have been given freedom by God, and that includes freedom to behave as we choose. We are free to choose to do evil just as freely as we choose good. Without God, though, we lose all sense of what is truly good. Even what we think is good can turn out to be the worst possible evil. The chief priests and Pharisees think that they are doing a good thing by protecting the people from Our Lord’s teaching.
“Then gathered the chief priests and the Pharisees a council, and said, What do we? for this man doeth many miracles. If we let him thus alone, all men will believe on him: and the Romans shall come and take away both our place and nation. And one of them, named Caiaphas, being the high priest that same year, said unto them, Ye know nothing at all, Nor consider that it is expedient for us, that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation perish not.”
They seek to make an example to prevent people from following Jesus, and so they subject him to the worst death imaginable at the time – crucifixion.
If human beings do this to the Son of God, what will they do to each other?
We have to remember God will deal with every single act of injustice.
How can we be so sure?
Well, that’s the point of the Cross. It shows that God’s goodness is more powerful than any evil that can come from man.
Our Lord suffered the worst that Mankind could throw at Him – torture, pain, humiliation and death – and rose above it. Indeed through the Cross, we have grace! It is through the Cross that God clears the way between Him and us. Just as He washed the world clean of sin in the flood, so does He wash us clean with the flood of love that comes through the cross.
Each time you cross yourself and each time you are blessed by the sign of the cross, whether at the end of Mass or at Baptism, you have the opportunity to be washed in the flood of God’s blessing.
This does not mean that the cross has been emptied of its heavy weight. Our Lord tells us that we must bear our crosses if we are to be His disciples. We Christians are not going to have an easy life just because God loves us. It is because he loves all people, even those who work wickedness, that we cannot be exempt from our crosses. We are in this together, and that’s hard to bear sometimes.
However, we may bear our cross, but does the Lord not bear it with us?