The Non-Negotiable Nature of the Cross in Christian Life 18

“The Cross marks out the militant dimension of our existence. With the cross, it is impossible to negotiate. The cross is either embraced or rejected. If we embrace the cross, then by that very decision, we lose our life. We leave it in the hands of God. If we decide to reject it, our lives are left in our own hands, encased in the petty confines of our short horizons,” Open Mind, Faithful Heart: Reflections on Following Jesus, by Jorge Mario Bergoglio (Pope Francis).

Those words reflect a powerful mind, informed with a deeply lived faith and an apostolic heart. I believe, if you want to understand Pope Francis, you need to get this book.

That quote was a paraphrase, by the way. I need to get my hands on the book myself. I copied those words down several times during my lenten retreat last weekend. Every time the retreat master repeated them, at the beginning of each meditation, they resonated more and more deeply in me, and I kept thinking,  “I’ve got to get that exact quote!” Didn’t get it when I had the chance, so that’s it — I’m buying the book!

*[Note: Rober Bruckner gives the full  quote in a comment below. Thanks Robert!]

I hope you don’t mind that brief endorsement, based solely on my still glowing post-retreat fervor. If there’s only one thing you do this Lent, embrace the cross!

There really is only one way to identify with Christ, and that is through his cross. Every word of the Gospel calls us to the reality of Christ’s sacrifice, a reality that we as Christians are all called to assimilate.

We often hear talk about doing more for the poor. We may even hear ourselves saying it: “What’s being done to help the poor?” When I hear the talk, I hesitate to ask, are you walking the walk?

Those words are far more difficult to hear and accept than the mere reminder that there are people who suffer far worse than we’ve ever experienced — we and our first world problems. But every Christian has to accept those words — talk the talk and walk the walk — just as we must accept and embrace the cross. The difficult reality to accept and live is this: if we share the cross of Christ, we must share all of his suffering.

When we open our eyes to it, we quickly recognize the cross in every corner of our lives. In the face of this reality, there are only two options, and we must chose: we can choose to shun it or embrace it. Whether we realize it or not, we make that choice every day of our lives, all the time.

The season of Lent is the opportunity for us to reflect on how we make this choice and on how we will choose differently, or better, from now on. The prayer, sacrifice, and almsgiving we should intensify during this penitential season is how we make it real.

I can sacrifice more of my time. Instead of watching so much TV or distracting myself with social media, I can give more of my time to others.

I can sacrifice more of my material possessions. By getting by with less of the things I don’t need, I’ll have more to offer to those who don’t have what they need to get by.

I can sacrifice my self-love. When I turn my heart and mind to the spiritual and material needs of others in prayer, I am forming the heart and mind of Christ within me. I will be more prone to see Christ in my brothers and sisters and moved to be more responsible toward them.

But there is no sacrifice without the shedding of blood. When we offer the short amount of time God gives us each day and give to others from our own means, we must take away from things we’ve worked hard to achieve. We should feel the pinch when this happens. That is what makes it a sacrifice. And you know when you experience that pinch and you accept it, you are accepting the cross of Christ. You accept his suffering by uniting yours with his and with others who suffer. You become a true suffering servant, like Christ.

As a Christian, that is what you ought to be. Do you realize this?

In one word, this is how we are called to live our Christian faith: Embrace the Cross of Christ. Embrace it!


    • Thanks Catholic Glasses for the reblog and comment. On reading this quote, one cannot deny the spiritual depth this pope has. As for the types of issues you know I’m familiar with, I really do sympathize with what you are saying. I agree, that he has been a challenging pontiff in many ways for a lot of people, especially Catholics. I pray this prayer for the pope before the blessed sacrament every day (have done so since the early days of John Paul II). It is the last part of the prayer I want to emphasize here:

      Christ Jesus, King and Lord of the Church, in your presence I renew my unconditional loyalty to your Vicar on earth, the Pope. In him you have chosen to show us the safe and sure path that we must follow in the midst of confusion, uneasiness, and unrest. I firmly believe that through him you govern, teach and sanctify us; with him as our shepherd, we form the true Church: one, holy, catholic, and apostolic.

      Grant me the grace to love, live and spread faithfully our Holy Father’s teachings. Watch over his life, enlighten his mind, strengthen his spirit, defend him from calumny and evil. Calm the erosive winds of infidelity and disobedience. Hear our prayer and keep your Church united around him, firm in its belief and action, that it may truly be the instrument of your redemption. Amen.

      I think we really need to pray especially that last part, that he will be enlightened and guided by the Holy Spirit. If the Church asks us to pray for the pope, I suppose it is because he must need it.

  1. Father:

    I heard this all weekend at our retreat; what simple beauty and truth from the Holy Father. Here is the exact wording from the book:

    The cross is what marks out the militant dimension of our existence. With the cross it is impossible to negotiate, impossible to dialogue: the cross is either embraced or rejected. If we decide to reject it, our life will remain trapped in our own hands, encased in the petty confines of our short horizons. If we embrace the cross, then by that very decision we lose our life; we leave it in the hands of God, in the time of God, and it will be given back to us in a different form.

  2. The precise words of Christ (Mt 16:24) indicate that the cross a follower must take up is not Christ’s Cross, but the cross God offers to a follower. A humble follower does this; but a follower suffering spiritual pride rejects the cross God chooses for him, and instead seeks a cross of his own choosing. God bless!

    • So true! Only through the grace of God can we ever understand the mystery of the cross. Thank God He is generous and loves us so much that he will not deny us this grace if we ask for it.

  3. Protestant churches use the empty cross and we get pounded about that by Catholics. For P’s it may be anti reaction to the C statue thing but actually the vacant Cross is a celebration of the “risen” Christ that is all. It is in no way to omit or diminish the suffering of Jesus.

    • I can’t fault any Christian for turning to the cross. We Catholics say per crucem ad lucem — through the cross to the light. Is that not the same message? There are more dimensions to the cross of Christ than we can possibly explore in a lifetime. To simply focus on one could be contemplation for all eternity. No pounding from me Carl. Just admiration.

  4. I hope you are still glowing in your post-retreat fervor, Fr Jason, as you gave us all a magnificent and meaningful morning! I’m trying to catch up with everything now (since while writing my final Avila essay on Noah our house suddenly flooded from a broken sprinkler pipe upstairs…no joke!…you just can’t make these things up, folks) Anyway, I just wanted to say thank you! I am uniting my suffering with Christ! (and the dinner invitation still stands, by the way…we will have a brand new home in a few days. These guys are working hard!) God bless you!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s