Last week after the tornado hit and destroyed the church of St Joseph in Ridgway, there remained, praise be to God, all the people of God from that parish; no one from the community suffered loss of life in what turned out to be a week of a deadly outbreak of tornadoes. Several days later there was a prayer service with hundreds gathered in the parish hall to pray for the people who died from their neighboring community of Harrisburg (and beyond), for provision for the remaining needs; but also to express deep thanksgiving.
The imagery pierces deeper though than mere words. They had been able to salvage the cross from the steeple, and it was the cross behind and above Fr Steve Beatty that was eye grasping. Why such a symbol? Battered and bent there was in that cross comfort and challenge. It had stood atop a steeple that was a point of reference (when you get to town look for the church and turn …) for anyone new to town. It was a beacon to those seeking what it points to, and a reminder to what we are called to. Fr Jurek, the Chapter Guide, captured the point of the cross in his commentary:
In the various Eucharistic Prayers in the third typical edition of the Missale Romanun, we acclaim; “Save us, Savior of the world, for by your Cross and Resurrection you have set us free.”
WHY? Why would Jesus the Christ suffer and die on the cross for us? The significance of the cross can be reduced to one single idea: God’s great love for us. We must remember that according to the Jews and Romans, death on the cross was a sign of shame and disgrace (1Cor1:18-23). Death by crucifixion was extremely painful and could take a long time for a life to come to an end. Yet, according to Paul the Apostle, Jesus did not shrink from this extreme manifestation of his love for us.
The cross of Jesus became a means by which a fallen and sinful humanity was reconciled with God. The cross of Jesus became the instrument of humanity’s liberation from its slavery to this world, to the evil-one, and to sin; and it became the means of humanity’s renewal to a life of grace. Through the cross of Jesus, we were taught, by word and action, how to love, and how to be loved. Through the cross of Jesus the redeemed have become new creatures, new people, and co-heirs with Jesus the Christ in the kingdom of heaven.
The cross is a symbol of complete union with Jesus the Christ. To take up one’s cross, means to turn away from the cravings of the world and the flesh, and to embrace a life guided by the Holy Spirit (Gal5:13-26). Yes, to take up one’s cross, one must become a true disciple, a true follower of Jesus the Christ (Mt 16:24-25). (Click here for the complete commentary.)
How am I, how are you, being challenged to follow Jesus the Christ today?