A Tale of Two Crosses
by Rev. Stanley J. Krempa
Reprinted by permission of "The Arlington Catholic Herald"
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Mark wrote to explain Christ
to the new Gentile converts.
Jesus and his disciples set out for the villages of Caesarea Philippi. Along the way he asked his disciples, "Who do people say that I am?" They said in reply, "John the Baptist, others Elijah, still others one of the prophets." And he asked them. "But who do you say that I am?" Peter said to him in reply, "You are the Christ." Then he warned them not to tell anyone about him.
He began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer greatly and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and rise after three days. He spoke this openly. Then Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. At this he turned around and, looking at his disciples, rebuked Peter and said, "Get behind me, Satan. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do."
He summoned the crowd with his disciples and said to them, "Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and that of the gospel will save it."
In this Sunday’s Gospel reading, two crosses loom before our eyes: the cross of Christ and our own cross.
In the first part of the Gospel, Jesus speaks about His coming suffering and crucifixion. It seemed scandalous to Peter who, as most people in those days, saw suffering as only a curse and without redeeming value. But, we know the rest of the story. From Jesus’ Crucifixion came His Resurrection, redemption and renewal. Some of the most majestic Christian hymns over the centuries have been about the Crucifixion of Christ. Today, we raise the crucifix high in our churches because we see it as the place of Christ’s great victory over sin, death and human treachery. Some churches conclude the Stations of the Cross with a fifteenth station of the Resurrection so that we don’t divorce Christ’s death from His Resurrection. To do so can be spiritually lethal. Cross and Resurrection go together for the Christian disciple.
The challenge to us from today’s Gospel is not the cross of Christ as it was for Peter but the second cross about which Jesus speaks. That is the cross we carry in our own life. Everybody has a cross. Life without a cross is a fantasy. Our cross may be medical, financial, emotional, familial, work-related; it may be our neighbor, our spouse or our memories. We do not see the outcome of our cross as clearly as we see the outcome of Christ’s cross.
The particular cross we carry, however, opens our eyes to some critical truths.
The first is that the cross is what unites us. The poet Virgil has a line in his epic poem, “The Aeneid,” where the protagonist Aeneas sees images of war drawn on a wall. It brings back memories of what he had actually experienced. Virgil then states, (“Sunt lacrimae rerum et mentem mortalia tangunt.” “There are tears at the heart of our world, and men’s hearts are moved by what people have to bear.”) Our individual crosses may differ but we all have a burden to bear. That is the common thread of our humanity. We all have a cross whether it is public or private.
The second insight for us from the cross is that the cross we carry is our distinctively individual and personal way of following the Lord. Jesus tells us to pick up our cross daily and to follow Him. It does little good to deny our cross, to resist it, to curse it, to refuse to deal with it. It is there as a fact of our life. All we can do is carry it. We can carry it grudgingly or as a disciple.
The third lesson of the cross for us is that the cross of Christ gives us hope. It is not hope that it will go away but that God will bring good from it in a way we can barely imagine. Through our cross, we will enter the world of deep discipleship; we will enter the path of faithful following of Jesus. It is the place where we will connect most deeply with the Lord.
When we boldly carry our cross, trusting in the Father’s love, that is when we can become most like Jesus. So, we have the tale of two crosses — Christ’s and our own. We know where the cross of Jesus leads. What about our own?
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