Friday, September 11, 2009

Christ Crucified

Crucified Christ

The question posed by the Lord to the Apostles was: Who do people say I am? The answer provided was generic and politically slanted: ‘Some say you are Elijah, some John the Baptist and some a prophet of some kind.’ Then, the Lord addressed the same question to Simon alone, for the pronoun used is in the singular: Who do you [Simon] say I am? The answer astounded all when he said: ‘You are the Messiah, or the Christ, the Son of the living God.’ In Matthew’s Gospel (Mt 16:18) the Lord, in reply, asserts that Simon’s response was inspired by God and that he would be the Rock, [which in English is Peter] upon which I will build my Church. Ever since that moment the Church of Christ has had a visible rock, or Pope, established by God to protect and safeguard his teaching.

Then Christ foretells his death. Simon Peter speaks out and is rebuked. What has happened? At one moment Peter was acclaimed as prince of the Apostles and then he is likened to the devil! He fell from sanctity to sinfulness, from saint to satan. Why did Christ refer to Peter in this manner? The term satan means adversary - the Evil One who opposes God's will. Peter opposed the will of God, he attempted to separate Christ from His cross. Hence the words of the Lord: ‘The way you think is not God’s way but man’s’.

Yet Peter's motives were humanly noble, he showed true compassion for the Lord and sought to prevent him from any possible pain. So humanly speaking the primate of the Apostles judged rightly, he spoke as many of us would speak for someone that we love. Christ however was divinely motivated for He sought not comfort but crucifixion. In short, the Lord was born to die, he came into the world to bear the cross. It was the purpose and culmination of his life. Only in time did Peter learn this, as do we!

How often in the hospital after the demise of a loved one, I hear words that convey human compassion but lack divine motivation. It matters little, to some, how their beloved die provided that it be devoid of physical pain. One easily forgets that eternal life for some may be an eternity of pain; and spiritual pain is far greater than the physical. The final moments of this life should be focused on how we enter eternal life, the state of the soul and its communion with the divine.

Often members of the family being afraid of any supposed unpleasantness deny the final ministrations of the priest to the dying but console themselves later that they provided the deceased with physical pain relief. I personally would much prefer to suffer much physical pain here before I die knowing that it would diminish my spiritual purification awaiting me in preparation for heaven.

Note that Our Lord tells us that the cross is not an option. God insists that if we want to follow Him to Heaven we must pick up our cross and follow Him (Mark 8:34). Our cross is suited only to us, so nobody should go in search of another. Although at the outset another cross may seem lighter it will become too burdensome. Each person has their own particular cross. We need to embrace it in imitation of Christ and follow Him. We do not bear the cross alone. The Lord goes before us to guide us and to inspire us. Along the way we shall be tempted by the Adversary, Satan, to abandon the Cross and with it Christ Himself. Thus, it is paramount that we focus our eyes - the windows of the soul - on Christ alone.

Your Cross
St. Francis de Sales (1567-1622)

The Everlasting God has in His wisdom foreseen from eternity the cross that He now presents to you as a gift from His inmost Heart. This cross He now sends you He has considered with His all-knowing eyes, understood with His divine mind, tested with His wise justice, warmed with loving arms and weighed with His own hands to see that it be not one inch too large and not one ounce too heavy for you. He has blessed it with His Holy Name, anointed it with His graces, perfumed it with His consolation, taken one last glance at you and your courage, and then sent it to you from heaven, a special greeting from God to you, an alms of the all merciful love of God.

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