The Cross and the Christian
This week's reflection is written by
V. Rev. Lewis S. Fiorelli, OSFS, Provincial.
A few days ago we celebrated the feast of the Holy Cross. We venerate the Cross of Christ because it was the means of his redemptive death on our behalf. It is a “holy” Cross, therefore, because of its role in our salvation.
St. Francis de Sales used to advise people not to be too concerned about choosing crosses such as particular penances or bodily disciplines. Asceticism of that sort is good and it has a role to play at times in our spiritual lives. Still, he preferred that, like Jesus, we accept the shape, timing and weight of the crosses that the Lord himself permits to befall us as life unfolds. There are lighter crosses such as a bothersome co-worker, a crowded highway, or a cranky baby. There are much heavier crosses such as a major illness, a severe financial challenge, or a strained relationship with a loved one. St. Francis de Sales would want us to practice the virtues that are called for depending on the shape, timing and weight of our particular cross. Jesus promises never to give us a cross that, with his help, is too heavy for us to shoulder. We Christians follow Jesus, a crucified Savior. The cross is, therefore, always a part of our journey with him.
At this time, the Church itself is being asked to shoulder a very heavy cross, one largely shaped by the sinful behavior of some of its priests and bishops. Collectively, we are the Body of Christ, the Church of Christ. Its cross is our cross as well. We may not have shaped it as others have, but to some degree we all bear its heavy weight.
What virtues are we called upon to practice at this very challenging time of scandal and humiliation in the Church? First, let us acknowledge that Jesus is bigger than his Church. This is why he invites us to follow him and to go to him alone when we are heavily burdened: “Come to me, all you who labor and are overburdened” (Matthew 11: 28). “Overburdened” --that is certainly all of us Catholic Christians as this moment. Let us, therefore, go directly to Jesus for comfort. But let us also remain faithful to the Church which he has left behind to nourish us with his Word and Sacraments, even though it may at times be led by very wounded healers and all-too earthen vessels.
Judas shamefully betrayed his friend and Lord; Peter cowardly denied him, not once but three times, and the other disciples fled from him in fear, deserting him on Calvary, leaving him to die a painful death almost all alone. Yet, the risen Lord came back to those very same disappointing disciples, his earliest Church. He forgave them and sent them as wounded healers but also as gifted with the Holy Spirit into the whole world.
The Church is still guided by disciples who at times seriously fail their Lord and gravely wound his people. But Jesus remains faithful. His Holy Spirit still fills his Word and Sacraments with love, grace and power. At times like these, he invites us to come to him for comfort and rest awhile with him alone.
We embrace the shape of this very heavy cross and, with Jesus, we bear it upon our shoulders until such time as he himself lifts it from us to carry it alone to the death of another Calvary and, we firmly trust, to the risen life of another Easter!
In St. Francis de Sales and Blessed Louis Brisson,
V. Rev. Lewis S. Fiorelli, OSFS
P.S. Know that the Oblate community is praying for victims of clergy sexual abuse and all forms of abuse, and recommit ourselves to the safety and well-being of all God's people, especially the young.