Friday, October 4, 2013

"I will not glory save in the Cross of Our Lord Jesus Christ"

Today is the liturgical Memorial of St. Francis of Assisi. In an exchange with one of his friars, a certain Brother Leo, Brother Francis taught that prefect joy is only found in the Cross of Christ: "Above all the graces and gifts of the Holy Spirit which Christ gives to His friends," Francis told Leo, "is that of conquering oneself and willingly enduring sufferings, insults, humiliations, and hardships for the love of Christ. For we cannot glory in all those other marvelous gifts of God, as they are not ours but God's, as the Apostle says: 'What have you that you have not received?' But we can glory in the cross of tribulations and afflictions, because that is ours, and so the Apostle says: 'I will not glory save in the Cross of Our Lord Jesus Christ.'"

St. Francis of Assisi, by Giotto

In his homily for last Friday, 27 September, the man who took the papal name Francis, preaching on Luke 9:18-22, spoke of the same thing. The pope said, "'Spiritual well being can only take us so far.' What remains in order to be a true Christian is 'the anointing of the Cross, the anointing of humiliation. He humbled himself even to death, death on the Cross. This is the touchstone, the proof of who we are as Christians.'"

The Holy Father urged us to ask ourselves, "Am I a Christian of the culture of comfort, or am I a Christian who accompanies Jesus to the Cross?" The sure sign that we are those who follow Jesus to the Cross is our "ability to endure humiliation. The Christian who doesn't agree with the Lord's plan is only halfway down the road: he is tepid." Dear friends, let's not be tepid Christians, but ones on fire with love, the love for which the Cross is the only conduit.

Or, as the first line from the Church's reading for Morning Prayer today (regular psalter- Week II), taken from the second chapter of Ephesians, states it: "Now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near through the blood of Christ."


In reading, once again, through the Book of Job, I was struck yesterday by this passage:
A mortal, born of woman, few of days and full of trouble,
      comes up like a flower and withers,
      flees like a shadow and does not last.
Do you fix your eyes on such a one?
      Do you bring me into judgment with you?
Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean?
      No one can (Job 14:1-4 NRSV)
These inspired words, written without knowledge of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, express the hopelessness and futility of life without Him. We can rejoice in the words of the apostle, who wrote that for our sake, the Father "made" Christ, "who knew no sin," to "be sin" in order "that in him we might become the righteousness of God" (2 Cor. 5:21).

In beholding Jesus Christ hanging on the Cross we see what the inspired author(s) of Job could not see; how, in Him, God's justice and mercy are perfectly reconciled, "making peace through the blood of his cross" (Col 1:20). Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? Jesus Christ, offering Himself as the only acceptable sacrifice to the Father on our behalf. Hence, we pray, "For the sake of His sorrowful passion/Have mercy on us and on the whole world."

In light of all this, a fitting Friday traditio, returning after a two-week hiatus, is Phil Keaggy's rendition of "Nothing But the Blood":

Oh! precious is the flow/That makes me white as snow

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