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Lifting High the Cross

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Lifting High the Cross

One summer my sister and I decided to tour Washington National Cathedral in D.C., a stupendous Episcopal church and, as it happens, dedicated to the honor of Sts. Peter and Paul. We drove around, looking for a parking space. Finally spying one, I offered to stand guard over it while she inched up alongside the car in front, preparing to parallel park. 

Good move. As I planted myself possessively over our precious find, a mini-van halted directly behind her and in front of me. The passenger window slid open, and the driver called out, “That’s our space; we got here first!” “I’m sorry,” I pointed out, “we are in front of you.” “But we had our blinker on,” she barked.” We did too. I shook my head and stood my ground. She sputtered, “And you call yourself a Christian!” That was low. I snapped back, “‘Christian’ does not equal ‘doormat’!” She left. 

Jesus did not allow himself to be bested when the integrity of his message was at stake. A Temple, moneychangers, and a whip come to mind. There came a time, though, when losing himself out of love was his message. He had already “emptied himself” by becoming human; then he “humbled himself, becoming obedient to death” (Phil. 2:6-7). His faithfulness to the truth of his identity and his mission led him to choose death, on a cross no less, and by doing so, save the world. 

I’m afraid to be vulnerable. It leaves me open to possible abuse and exploitation. Even with an infinitely good God, it makes me feel powerless. That’s why I need the cross of Christ. I need a reminder of where vulnerability will surely take me and of the fact that it was a God, my God, who went there before me…and lives to tell the tale. This is where the Good News becomes Great News. He didn’t stop being vulnerable when he rose from the dead (think Eucharist), but his openness became undying life. 

As for Christ, so for Christians. If the Holy Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in us, that Spirit will give life to our mortal bodies, also (See Rom. 8:11). The cross is triumphant because of the Resurrection and it triumphs in those who believe: “This is the victory that has overcome the world: your faith” (1Jn. 5:4). 

One day journalist James Foley made a decision to pray the Apostles’ Creed “mindfully” every day. “A remarkable thing happened,” he wrote. “I could feel my connection to Christ Jesus and His church strengthening. With my every assent I realized I was connecting with, and conforming to, God’s giant and ongoing “YES,” which formed and sustains all of creation.” This yes gave him wings. Commenting on his Libyan captivity in Tripoli, he wrote in the Marquette Magazine:  “If nothing else, prayer was the glue that enabled my freedom, an inner freedom first and later the miracle of being released….” 

“No one can take my life from me. I sacrifice it voluntarily” (Jn. 10:18). This is said in a unique way about the God-Man, but also in an ordinary sort of way about each of us. Could my sister and I have relinquished that coveted parking spot? Of course. Did the other driver need to hear what Christianity is and is not? Yes. It was unjust for her to demand—and in the name of Christ—what we had a right to. Likewise, for us to give it up out of coercion, even in the name of Christ, would have been dysfunctional. Only freedom makes love possible. Paul wrote that Christ was his law (1Cor. 9:21). So, love leads me to imitate Jesus Christ, not just conform to a law. My course of action may be the same. My decision will be made, however, not out of indignation, but in love.

 

Margaret J. Obrovac, FSP

 

 

How do you feel drawn to exalt the cross of Christ in your “ordinary sort of way’? 

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Comments

  • We will meet confrontations in everyday trials, and when we act in a loving way, that is a good beginning. Examination of conscience is very important to me to reflect on my intention.When done prayerfully, it can give me peace and courage to stand for what is right rather than feeling a false guilt. May the Holy Spirit guide us to always work for the right intention in our hearts.
    9/15/2014 7:02:18 PM Reply
  • Reading through all the comments show's that to be a Christian(more Christ like) is very difficult for "us humans". Our Lord knows that the way "of the cross" is hard. Giving up the parking space or not giving it up is something we all work on every day. Unfortunately, we live in a world that has rejected Christ, which has lead us to "parking lot" discussions. As Christians we must stay in the Word and ask for Our Lords help.
    9/14/2014 6:22:08 AM Reply
  • I see the cross of Christ as freedom from my own ugliness and having it and overcoming the problem brings back to my mind how really beautiful God created ME and those he gave me to have in my life. I see THEIR BEAUTY and how great he made the world around us. I thank God every day for giving me life and the ability to believe in him and accepting me as one of his own for he makes my world go around. Without him I am nothing. I accept the cross for I intend to make for myself with the help of Jesus a better and better pure soul for that specail mansion just made for me in heaven. I love you Lord.
    9/14/2014 5:00:31 AM Reply
  • I beg to differ with the situation of the 'parking lot'. Are we not supposed to humble ourselves with all things? I live almost directly next door to the Vatican. I see a lot of nuns & priests go in and out daily there, and especially on special occasions. When those certain events come, the queues are very long & people tend to loose their patience. Instead of being kind & understanding, I see pushing & shoving & surprisingly mainly by nuns, of all people. I had one nun yell at me, because she would not let me cross over to get home. Finally I had to have the police come to her and tell her to let me pass. What I am trying to convey is this; shouldn't we humble ourselves and be charitable towards others, not expect to have something because we are this or that? My spiritual director, an OFM, is always reminding me to give to others FIRST before giving to myself. As Jesus said...the first will be the last & the last shall be the first. Perhaps I am wrong, in thinking that. I just saw another comment on here. This one about ISIS and ''evil''. Who are we to judge who is evil and who isn't. Isn't God our judge? I know that the early Christians ( through the middle ages), many wanted, even begged to become martyrs. Such was the case with St. Catherine of Siena and St. Francis of Assisi, though God had other plans for them. So, this begs the question, should we worry about being a 'door mat', or should we just allow God to show us His path for us and not worry, but have faith?
    9/14/2014 4:59:52 AM Reply
  • Thank you for writing this article. So often I struggle with this type of decision, to be or not to be a doormat. Which is the best choice for me, to be charitable and allow someone to have preference? Or is it more charitable to speak to them in love about the truth when living out our normal lives in Christ? Often I find the challenge for me is to give up my good name, since I know that speaking for what is right will surely draw unwanted ire. Thank you so much for sharing this, I have to say that I enjoyed it very much.
    9/14/2014 2:52:48 AM Reply
  • Keeping the Cross alive is a struggle when facing frustrations in the church, when you see priest unable to proclaim the good news to enlight those who need the most, those that only came once to church because a friend or a family member was forcing them and instead of hearing the good news you hear blah and blah... When prayers are seem unanswered ... When whatever you do turns against you... When facing pain, hurt, adversities just by being able to take a breath ... When we know of those not making the next hour.... Or laying hungry somewhere, too weak to pray... Keeping the cross alive is a struggle when dealing with division, with lack of understanding... I know the cross is my victory and that's the only way I am able to face these daily obstacles...I remember that my Lord walk these paths before me... And with just a look at the cross, strength is regained
    9/13/2014 3:04:28 PM Reply
  • I have been struggling with the reaction we should have as followers of Christ in light of the horrific executions by ISIS. Are we wrong if we fight hard to obliterate them? It seems that negotiation with such people is futile. How do we follow Christ yet not allow pure evil to exist grow and perform the unthinkable on so many innocent victims. I am still struggling with this.
    9/13/2014 2:56:56 PM Reply
    • @Rosanne Hughes: You are struggling with a question that the world leaders are wrestling with right now, and Pope Francis himself. He has called for the UN to do something. Individually we may not be able to determine what is the right or wrong thing to do. I have found peace in asking God what he wants ME to do right now. There is no one absolutely clear sure way. Everything in such a messy situation is a prudential decision made in the dark. But God has a mission for you even today, even in this. Your contribution to world peace and mine comes in following that. - Sr. Kathryn
      9/18/2014 1:15:35 PM Reply

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