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Father Muench Says...

Spending time with Jesus on his cross

April 3, 2019

By Father William Muench
NCC columnist

We are now near the middle of Lent. This can be a spiritually difficult time. I suspect that you, like me, begin Lent with enthusiasm and spirit, and extra prayer and sacrifices. But after a few weeks, as we get into the middle of the season of Lent, I know that my enthusiasm loses some of its fervor. So, I write today to share with you some of my ideas and hopes to get my Lenten Spirit going again.

I have decided that this is a good time for me to spend some time with Jesus on the Mount of Calvary. I have been there before, of course, at the foot of the cross of Jesus. But now is a good time to climb that hill and find that cross of Jesus. As the church looks ahead to Good Friday and Easter, the best preparation for those holy days is to now pray at that Lord’s cross. This is a time to allow the Lord to lead us and guide us to carry our own cross. Jesus died on the cross for me and for you, demonstrating God’s great forgiving love for us all. Lent leads us to the cross of Jesus.

So, let us take a moment to think about the cross of Jesus. The cross was in those days an instrument of death. But now for us the cross is sacred. Jesus, Our Savior, died on a cross. Now we place a cross over our churches; we place the cross of Jesus over the altar for our Eucharist. For us, Catholics, the cross must be more than just a reminder of Jesus. The cross for us is a sacred icon. Each time we pause to pray we begin with the Sign of the Cross, even in a restaurant as we say grace before meals. Every blessing I do as a priest, I complete with a Sign of the Cross. Every one of our Catholic Sacraments involves the Sign of the Cross – the water of Baptism is poured in a Sign of the Cross, the priest forgives our sins with a Sign of the Cross. You may have noticed that some ball players, as they come up to bat, steady themselves with the Sign of the Cross.

I believe that Jesus, on the cross, in that moment, recognized just what salvation would cost him. On the cross, in that very moment, Jesus recognized each one of us, his people of all time. At that moment of his crucifixion, we were all there; he could recognize us all. Standing at the foot of the cross, even now, I see Jesus for the first time, and each time is the like the first time. Jesus on the cross is my symbol of love.

At the foot of the cross of Jesus, my prayer is a prayer of gratitude. Because Jesus died on the cross for me, my life is filled with gratitude. The Lord’s action in my life profoundly changes each and every moment. Jesus’ death on the cross changes all the way I live. All my relationships are touched by the love of my Savior. Jesus shows me how I must treat all others, as I learn to live by joining Jesus on that cross.

I believe it is important for us all to learn to carry the cross of Christ. The best way for me to face the crises that touch my life is by carrying the cross of Jesus. I need the strength and power of Jesus to meet the hardships of life. I will always find that strength by carrying the cross of Christ.

I believe that when I need the help of the Lord to accomplish something each day, when I must make an important decision, when I must say the right thing (as in a homily or as the Confessor in Confession), I do this best when I am carrying the cross of Jesus.

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