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Father Muench Says...

Considering Jesus' cross and our crosses

Sept. 26, 2018

By Father William Muench
NCC columnist

Jesus teaches us, as the Gospels report, that holiness may mean a cross. During this past month our Catholic Church celebrated a Feast Day in honor of the Holy Cross. The Sunday Gospels during this month often remind us of the importance of the “cross” for each of us Christians. Jesus challenges his followers to take up our own cross. Actually, we are asked to take up his cross.

Today, I would like to reflect with you a little about the importance of the cross for us who follow Jesus. The cross is essential to Catholic spirituality. We, Catholics, place crosses over our Churches. We place the cross over the altar of the Eucharist in our Churches. We, Catholics, like to place a cross on a chain around our neck as a remembrance of Jesus. Before we pray, we begin with the sign of the cross.

For us, the cross has become a powerful sign of God’s great love for us. Actually, the cross seems a curious symbol for us to use. In those early days, the cross was an implement of torture and of death for criminals.

However, Jesus accepted the cross and died for us on a cross. So, the cross is sacred for us. We were saved, and our sins were forgiven because of the cross of Jesus. Jesus made the cross a symbol of love, God’s love for us all.
In one of the Sunday Gospel readings this month, we are told a story concerning St. Peter. He makes it very clear that he understands who Jesus is – “You are the Christ.” Each time we enter a church, we must take the time to remember just who Jesus is; we must understand who Jesus is for us. How does Jesus make my life different? Do I realize just what it means to believe In Jesus as my Lord and Savior?

In that same Gospel reading, St. Peter becomes very upset with Jesus. Jesus has gone on to explain to him and the apostles that he will have to suffer, that his life is being threatened, that he will die and will truly rise again. The very thought that Jesus would suffer and be put to death was too much for St. Peter to accept. He does not want anything like this to happen to Jesus. He does not want Jesus to suffer. He can’t accept this, even from Jesus.

Jesus has so much to teach St. Peter. At this moment, he boldly rebukes him, saying, “Get behind me Satan.” I know if that response were aimed at me, I would have been broken hearted. Jesus, the Son of God, wanted St. Peter and all of us to realize that suffering would be a necessary part of Jesus’ life on this earth. The cross was to become a universal sign of God’s great love for us all. God sends Jesus to our world not only to live among us but also to suffer and die for us. Jesus was to show people of all time that the cross was to be a powerful symbol of God’s love and concern for us all.

Jesus goes on to call upon each of us to follow Jesus by taking our own crosses each day. Jesus shows us the way by walking before us to the cross.

When we hear the word “cross,” or the phrase “taking up our cross,” we often think the crosses of pain and suffering that are such a part of life. We will find a time of uniting ourselves with the Lord during that moment and learn how Jesus will be ready to walk with us and strengthen us in those times of difficulty. With the Lord’s help, we strive to live in Christian love and peace despite the sufferings that may be part of our lives.

One thing more to add here: a cross – the cross of Jesus – may be for us a challenge from Jesus, a call from the Lord to bring Christ’s love into our lives and our world. Jesus makes it clear that often we are needed and challenged by our Savior to do something – possibly something difficult and unselfish to help another – to truly make our world a better place.

This can be a cross. But with the help of our Lord, we will successfully transform our lives and our world.

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