Tag Archives: the Cross

A Heart Says it All

IMG_0291

Faith has a way of saying great things in the simplest of ways. Sometimes a few words say it all, like the simple words the publican in the gospel utters, not raising his head. “Be merciful to me, a sinner!” Sometimes signs like bread and wine point far beyond themselves to an infinitely generous God.

Today’s Feast of the Sacred Heart offers the sign of the human heart as a way of expressing divine love that cannot be measured. How is it possible to sum up all the words and works of Jesus Christ? He burned with love for us.

The feast of the Sacred Heart is always celebrated on Friday, the day Jesus showed us the depth of his love. The day he faced rejection, he gave himself to us. The day he died, he gave us life. John’s gospel sums up this mystery by pointing to an important but easily overlooked moment of that fearful day– a soldier pierced the heart of Jesus on the cross and blood and water poured out. “Immediately blood and water poured out.”

Look at these signs with eyes of faith, John’s gospel says. They are powerful signs of God’s love for us and for our world. A pierced heart says it all.

The Sign of the Cross

The parable of the mustard seed tells us to watch for small things. Small gestures, small acts of kindness, small prayers. Life comes from small things.

I was thinking of the Sign of the Cross, a small prayer.

We pray as Jesus did. How did he pray? He prayed from the heart, yet Jesus used words and signs– sometimes even cries– to pray. Like him, we also use words and signs in prayer.

One prayer we pray frequently is the Sign of the Cross.

The Sign of the Cross goes back to the earliest days of Christianity. It’s made on us at baptism, when we become members of the church and it’s the last sign made over us as we pass to our future life. The Sign of the Cross is used in liturgical prayer and celebrating the sacraments. We begin and end our prayers with it.

When we “bless ourselves” we trace with our hand the figure of the cross on our forehead, our heart, our shoulders, and say:

In the name of the Father,
and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. 
Amen.

The Sign of the Cross is a prayer of blessing because it symbolizes God embracing us and blessing us. For the Jews God is always One who blesses.  God blessed Noah and saved the world from the flood. God blessed Abraham and Sara with blessings more than the stars in the sky. God blessed the Jewish people, redeeming them from the slavery of Egypt. Life itself and all creation are blessings from God. And God’s blessings, beyond measure, continue, always and everywhere.

Since God blesses us continuously, we bless God in return. “I will bless the Lord at all times,” the psalmist says.

As Christians we bless God who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  As Father, God offers us the blessings of creation and also gives us his Son. “Blessed be God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has bestowed on us in Christ every spiritual blessing.” ( Ephesians1,3 )  Jesus Christ is our God, our Friend, our Brother, our Savior. With the Father he sends the Holy Spirit  “to complete his work on earth and bring us the fullness of grace.”

When we bless ourselves, we remember God “from whom all blessings flow,” Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Blessed by the Cross

As Christians we believe the Cross of Jesus Christ is the greatest blessing given to us. Why is it our greatest blessing? Because God expresses his love for us above all in Jesus Christ who died on the Cross for us and rose again.  The Sign of the Cross is a reminder that Jesus’ love never ends. His blessings are ours forever.

We express our daily relationship to God in this simple prayer. We have God’s blessings each day, in good times and bad, in danger and sorrow.  God’s blessings and love are always there. Before we take one step, we receive blessings from his hands.

 

 

 

 

 

A Cross in Haiti

Like so many, I’m following developments in Haiti these last few days, especially the activities of Father Rick Frechette, CP, a member of my community, the Passionists. He’s a medical doctor in charge of a free pediatric hospital, St Damien’s, outside Port-au-Prince, which is still functioning in make-shift conditions after the horrendous earthquake. You can read about him, and donate to his mission, if you wish, here. Major networks, like NBC and ABC, have been covering his story and the hospital where he ministers.

The world is responding to this poorest of countries with sympathy and help. How could it not? An earthquake is such an unexpected tragedy, and this one struck a poverty-stricken land crowded with human beings living in brittle homes that crumbled and crushed thousands of men, women and children.

We ask “Why?” Is the natural world cruel as it is kind? Is its Creator uncaring or distant from all of this, or not there at all?

Faith doesn’t answer our questions, but instead invites us to look at the mystery of the Cross of Jesus as God’s wisdom for times like this. One picture from Haiti yesterday showed a crucifix in the midst of the destruction. A reminder to see Haiti’s  suffering and death with this mystery in mind.

The mystery of the Passion of Christ doesn’t give answers, but it gives comfort and hope. That’s what the great English mystic, Julian of Norwich, says it brings:

“The passion of Christ is a comfort for us. He comforts us readily and kindly and says:All will be well, and every kind of thing will be well.”

Teresa of Avila sees this mystery in the same way.  When Jesus says “Come to me all you who find life burdensome and I will refresh you” he is inviting us to find refreshment in his Passion, she says.

When faced with the mystery of suffering and death, go to the Cross of Jesus, she tells us, and look up into his face. “And he will  forget his own sorrow, turning his face to relieve yours.” He will be our comfort, our refreshment.

Certainly, this is a time to reach out and extend our help in material aid to the poor people of Haiti. But let’s not forget to pray for them, to stand before Cross of Jesus and look into his face, to ask him to see, not us, but them, to care for them, to comfort them, to give them hope.

In many ways Haiti has been a forgotten place in our world. Will this terrible event help us remember this land and its people? The Cross of Jesus is a mystery that brings humanity closer.

“The nearer we come to the cross, the nearer we come to one another.”