Thursday, August 25, 2016

What Do You See in the Cross?

By Colleen O’Sullivan

Brothers and sisters: Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the Gospel, and not with the wisdom of human eloquence, so that the cross of Christ might not be emptied of its meaning. The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God…(W)e proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those who are called, Jews and Greeks alike, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.  For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.  (1 Corinthians 1:17-18, 23-25)

Oh, that old rugged Cross so despised by the world
  has a wondrous attraction for me
For the dear Lamb of God, left his Glory above
  to bear it to dark Calvary.
The Old Rugged Cross, George Bennard, 1913

Nikolay Ge, Crucifixion (1892)
As I write this, I am surrounded by piles upon piles of boxes, all waiting for me to unpack them and turn my new house into a home filled with peace and love. I had a great deal of help from family and friends getting those cartons packed up and moved, for which I am very grateful.  But for a long time to come, I think one particular moment will stand out in my memory. One of my youngest friends, a 10-year old who considers me one of his “aunts,” was bubble-wrapping and packing all my framed pictures and decorations. I thought every wall was empty and every tabletop bare, when he said, “Aunt Colleen, what about these?” In a little corner next to my bedroom I had a picture of St. Clare of Assisi and my Crucifix. I said, yes, we have to pack them. They’re very important! So, a few more feet of bubble wrap were dispatched to take care of St. Clare. 

Then, while holding the Crucifix, he asked, “What’s this?  It’s shaped like a cross.” For a second I thought he must be joking, but when I glanced up, I saw that he was dead serious. “And why is there a person attached to it? Who is it?” That he truly had no idea took my breath away, but I tried to hide my shock and simply answered his question. He’s an inquisitive child, and he had a lot of questions about Jesus and why he ended his life on a Cross. It’s difficult to impart the Gospel in one morning’s packing session, but I gave it my best shot!

St. Paul, there may very well be people in the world who find it impossible to accept the notion that the Son of God would give his life on a Cross.  There may be people who consider themselves too worldly and sophisticated to put any stock in such “religious nonsense.” If you were writing today, you would have to add another group of people as well, people who know a lot about “Pokemon Go!” and texting but nothing at all about the Lord or the Cross or what any of it means for their lives. 

I can’t imagine my life without faith, and at the core of my faith lies the Cross of Christ. When I look at the Cross, I see many things. I see what seems to me to be the greatest injustice ever perpetrated against another human being. I see the result of sin and betrayal. I see innocent suffering in its purest form. (I’ve always found it interesting that in My Name is Asher Lev by Chaim Potok, the main character, a Hasidic Jewish artist, can find no other way to portray his mother’s great suffering than by painting a crucifixion scene, which results in his being asked to leave his community.) I see the ultimate gift of love, Jesus’ outpouring of his very life blood so that you and I can have life and have it abundantly. I see someone without sin who is willing to take my sin upon himself. I see the glory of God hidden in what appears to be the degradation and humiliation of a death reserved for only the foulest of criminals.

I see the Jesus who sits at the bedside of the sick and dying, the Jesus who walks beside the world’s endless streams of refugees seeking a place to call home, the Jesus who comforts the sorrowing in every time and place. I see the Jesus who asks me to live as he died – for others.

Maybe an honorary aunt’s “job description” includes sharing her faith and introducing Jesus as our forever friend. It seems like that’s what God asks all of us to do.  With whom could you share the Good News today?

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