Exaltation of the Cross



1.     Fr. John Speekman:

 The Triumph of the Cross - Year A
Numbers 21:4-9; Philippians 2:6-11; John 3:13-17 

The Cross in our lives usually occupies the same space we put all the other unpleasant, unwanted things – disappointments, hurts, humiliations, failures - all the burdensome things we don't want to remember, all the broken relationships and sufferings of our lives. Needless to say it's not a pleasant spot to go; it's a dark, uncomfortable place, to be avoided at all costs. 
This is what makes today’s feast so puzzling – The Triumph of the Cross. Even for Christians it’s not an easy thing to make sense of, while for the godless world which seeks to avoid the Cross at all times it’s just sheer madness.
This lack of understanding of the Cross and its place in our Christian lives lies at the heart of our difficulties with it. St Peter was the first to reject it: 'Heaven preserve you, Lord;' he said 'this must not happen to you'. Jesus quickly rebuked him but it was a long time before Peter understood. The trouble is, the Cross is God’s way of thinking but not ours. 

St Paul seems to have learned more easily: As for me, the only thing I can boast about is the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ…(Gal 6:14). 

But even Paul recognised that the Cross was to the Jews an obstacle that they cannot get over, to the pagans madness… (1Cor1:23). He said also: The language of the Cross may be illogical to those who are not on the way to salvation, but those of us who are on the way see it as God's power to save. (1Cor 1:18). 

God’s power to save! A little later (vs. 24) he calls it the power and the wisdom of God.

Jesus himself said: Anyone who does not take his cross and follow in my footsteps is not worthy of me (Mt 10:38). 

At another time he said: If anyone wants to be a follower of mine, let him renounce himself and take up his cross and follow me (Mt 16:24). 

The people at the foot of the Cross of Calvary totally rejected the Cross and yelled: …come down from the Cross!(Mt 27:40) 

The chief priests with the scribes and elders made it a condition of faith in Jesus: …let him come down from the Cross now, and we will believe in him (Mt 27:42). 

Whatever way you look at it, our relationship to the Cross is a defining reality of our Christian life. This is borne out almost every day in my work as a hospital chaplain. There I meet Catholics who no longer believe in God’s goodness, or even his existence, because of the Cross they must carry; while others, like Mrs Grixti, adrift on an ocean of intense pain, can look up at me and say with gut-wrenching conviction, ‘God is so good. God is so good.’ 

I know I’m digressing here but one reason for it all is the fact that all too often our faith is dependent – our faith depends. I remember the man who stopped believing ‘because of the war’. I remember the young mother who wanted to believe but every time she went to church something bad seemed to happen. Then there was the old man who could no longer believe because his son was killed by a runaway car; and the woman who came to believe because a prayer was answered. 

Very few people believe in the existence of God with a faith that is ‘sovereign’, that is, independent of changing circumstances and experiences. People who say: I believe God exists because God exists.  
On the way through the wilderness the Israelites lost patience. They spoke against God and against Moses … . 

To lose patience with God or to speak against God is the same as losing faith in him; the Israelites lost faith. As the NAB translation of Psalm 106:13 says so eloquently: …they soon forgot all he had done; they had no patience for his plan; and it’s precisely God’s ‘plan’ that is the key to understanding the Cross. 

At this point in our reflection I can’t present you with a fully developed theology of the Cross, rather let me outline again our Christian faith in the power of God who reconciled us to God and made peace by his death on the cross (c.f. Eph 2:16 and Col 1:20). 

There is no hope we can ever understand this reconciliation or this peace which Christ won for us, if we don’t have a lively appreciation of the debt humanity was in through the sin of Adam and Eve. Through that Original Sin the floodgates of suffering and death were opened and mankind found itself helpless to restore the innocence and harmony which it had forfeited.

The plan of God was to enter the suffering itself and take it to himself in Jesus.

He has overridden the Law, and cancelled every record of the debt that we had to pay; he has done away with it by nailing it to the Cross (Col 2:14). In this way he opened for us the way to heaven.

He was bearing our faults in his own body on the Cross, so that we might die to our faults and live for holiness; through his wounds you have been healed (1Pet 2:24).

And now he says to each one of us, ‘Do not be afraid. Retrieve all those discarded sufferings, your Cross. Gather them all up and follow me. They are your salvation now, because I have made suffering the greatest possible expression of love open to man. Your sufferings are invaluable when you bear them with me and they will lead you to eternal life.’ 
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2.     Fr. Munachi Ezeogu, cssp

 The Triumph of the Cross - Year A

Numbers 21:4-9; Philippians 2:6-11; John 3:13-17 

The Cross in our lives usually occupies the same space we put all the other unpleasant, unwanted things – disappointments, hurts, humiliations, failures - all the burdensome things we don't want to remember, all the broken relationships and sufferings of our lives. Needless to say it's not a pleasant spot to go; it's a dark, uncomfortable place, to be avoided at all costs. 

This is what makes today’s feast so puzzling – The Triumph of the Cross. Even for Christians it’s not an easy thing to make sense of, while for the godless world which seeks to avoid the Cross at all times it’s just sheer madness. 

This lack of understanding of the Cross and its place in our Christian lives lies at the heart of our difficulties with it. St Peter was the first to reject it: 'Heaven preserve you, Lord;' he said 'this must not happen to you'. Jesus quickly rebuked him but it was a long time before Peter understood. The trouble is, the Cross is God’s way of thinking but not ours.

St Paul seems to have learned more easily: As for me, the only thing I can boast about is the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ…(Gal 6:14). 

But even Paul recognised that the Cross was to the Jews an obstacle that they cannot get over, to the pagans madness… (1Cor1:23). He said also: The language of the Cross may be illogical to those who are not on the way to salvation, but those of us who are on the way see it as God's power to save. (1Cor 1:18).

God’s power to save! A little later (vs. 24) he calls it the power and the wisdom of God.

Jesus himself said: Anyone who does not take his cross and follow in my footsteps is not worthy of me (Mt 10:38).

At another time he said: If anyone wants to be a follower of mine, let him renounce himself and take up his cross and follow me (Mt 16:24). 

The people at the foot of the Cross of Calvary totally rejected the Cross and yelled: …come down from the Cross!(Mt 27:40) 

The chief priests with the scribes and elders made it a condition of faith in Jesus: …let him come down from the Cross now, and we will believe in him (Mt 27:42). 

Whatever way you look at it, our relationship to the Cross is a defining reality of our Christian life. This is borne out almost every day in my work as a hospital chaplain. There I meet Catholics who no longer believe in God’s goodness, or even his existence, because of the Cross they must carry; while others, like Mrs Grixti, adrift on an ocean of intense pain, can look up at me and say with gut-wrenching conviction, ‘God is so good. God is so good.’ 

I know I’m digressing here but one reason for it all is the fact that all too often our faith is dependent – our faith depends. I remember the man who stopped believing ‘because of the war’. I remember the young mother who wanted to believe but every time she went to church something bad seemed to happen. Then there was the old man who could no longer believe because his son was killed by a runaway car; and the woman who came to believe because a prayer was answered. 

Very few people believe in the existence of God with a faith that is ‘sovereign’, that is, independent of changing circumstances and experiences. People who say: I believe God exists because God exists.

On the way through the wilderness the Israelites lost patience. They spoke against God and against Moses … . 

To lose patience with God or to speak against God is the same as losing faith in him; the Israelites lost faith. As the NAB translation of Psalm 106:13 says so eloquently: …they soon forgot all he had done; they had no patience for his plan; and it’s precisely God’s ‘plan’ that is the key to understanding the Cross. 

At this point in our reflection I can’t present you with a fully developed theology of the Cross, rather let me outline again our Christian faith in the power of God who reconciled us to God and made peace by his death on the cross (c.f. Eph 2:16 and Col 1:20). 

There is no hope we can ever understand this reconciliation or this peace which Christ won for us, if we don’t have a lively appreciation of the debt humanity was in through the sin of Adam and Eve. Through that Original Sin the floodgates of suffering and death were opened and mankind found itself helpless to restore the innocence and harmony which it had forfeited.

The plan of God was to enter the suffering itself and take it to himself in Jesus. 

He has overridden the Law, and cancelled every record of the debt that we had to pay; he has done away with it by nailing it to the Cross (Col 2:14). In this way he opened for us the way to heaven. 

He was bearing our faults in his own body on the Cross, so that we might die to our faults and live for holiness; through his wounds you have been healed (1Pet 2:24). 

And now he says to each one of us, ‘Do not be afraid. Retrieve all those discarded sufferings, your Cross. Gather them all up and follow me. They are your salvation now, because I have made suffering the greatest possible expression of love open to man. Your sufferings are invaluable when you bear them with me and they will lead you to eternal life.’ 

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Homily from Father Joseph Pellegrino
The Triumph of the Cross:

God Loves Us For five years I lived in one of the most beautiful places in our country, believe it or not, in New Jersey. I attended Don Bosco Seminary in Sussex County, the Northwest corner of New Jersey. This is an area of green rolling hills and the most colorful autumns you could ever imagine. It is hard to explain the hills of New Jersey to folks who have lived in the flat area of Florida all there lives. The hills just seem to pop up everywhere. Naturally the main roads are in the valleys between the hills.

When the Salesians of St. John Bosco who ran Don Bosco Seminary first arrived in Sussex County in the 1920's they were greeted with a most unpleasant sight. On the hill directly across from the seminary, the local Ku Klux Klan erected a burning cross to welcome the Catholics. Anti Catholicism was part of their many prejudices. Time went on. The seminary and the order grew. The KKK faded away, at least from Northwest New Jersey. Forty years later the Salesians remodeled their chapel. In the center of the sanctuary they placed a large burnt cross as a sign that the hatred of men could not destroy the love of Christ. Sadly, this cross was replaced by a traditional crucifix, but the burnt cross made a lasting impression on me and on many others. 

Today we celebrate the Feast of the Triumph of the Cross. This feast goes back to the seventh century when the Cross was recovered from the Persians and exposed for veneration in Jerusalem. The Triumph of the Cross is the Triumph of Jesus Christ whose love for us and obedience to his Father climaxed with his death on the cross. Moses lifted up the serpent on the cross in the desert. People looked at this cross the prefigured Jesusâ??s cross and were healed. In Johnâ??s Gospel we hear Jesus telling Nicodemus that he would be lifted up so that all who see him and believe in him would have eternal life. For God so loved that world that he gave his only Son that whoever believes in him may not die but may have eternal life.

The cross is the symbol of the Christian. It is our sign of our personal relationship with our Savior. He died not just for people in general but for me and for you. He calls us to join him on his cross not just as a people but as individuals. The ideal that he realized is the goal of our lives, to make real the only true love there is: sacrificial love. Some people treat the cross as a trinket. Other people treat the cross in a superstitious manner. Some people will give a cross powers that belong to God. These people have seen too many cheap horror movies and act as though a cross can defeat evil spirits. It is not the object that conquers evil, it is the power of Christ whose presence the object reminds us of that conquers evil.

The deeper meaning of the Cross is presented in today's second reading from the Letter of Paul to the Philippians. Jesus emptied himself completely, not just becoming a human being but accepting the worst public death of the society he was in to demonstrate the extent of the love of God for us. He died making a willing statement of love, filling the world with the love he had for his Father and his Father has for him. We are saved from the horrors of evil, from meaningless lives due to the love of the Lord. Because Jesus died on a cross for us we are able to proclaim to the world: Jesus is Lord. His love made this possible.
When we wear a cross we are saying: Jesus is Lord of our lives. This is the ideal set before us: as followers of Jesus, as people with a personal relationship with the Lord who loves each of us, we have to be willing to sacrifice everything we have to fill the world with the Father's love. Our daily turmoil, our problems, our pains all take on an infinite value when we trust them to Jesus, when we unite them to his cross, to our cross. How much does God love the world; so much that he gave his only son to the world so that when he would be lifted high on a cross all might be saved through him. Praise be Jesus Christ in whose cross we find meaning in this life and eternity in the next.

Homily from Father Phil Bloom

Message: If we look at the cross with faith, if we recognize that Jesus died not just for high priests' envy, but also for your envy and mine, we will receive healing and we will live. This year the Feast of the Holy Cross falls on Sunday. For me this occurrence is providential. I have been giving a series of homilies on Finding Your Place in God's World - How to Overcome Envy (the comparison trap)

The Cross of Jesus both reveals envy and provides the the ultimate cure. The Old Testament says that "through the envy of the devil death entered the world." (Wis 2:24) We see in the New Testament that envy caused the crucifixion of Jesus. It's interesting that Pilate recognizes this. Pilate is a non-Jew, an outsider. We have a difficult time recognizing our own envy, but an outsider can see it easily. Pilate sees that "out of envy the chief priests delivered Jesus up." Instead of rejoicing in all the good Jesus had done, the authorities hated him. Why? Because they thought Jesus made them look bad by comparison: Envy, plain and simple. We saw something similar in the Holocaust. The Nazis thought the Jews had some great financial and cultural power. Because of that envy, they hated them and eventually killed most of the European Jews: the elderly, children, women - it did not matter.
Their envy made them blind. Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel tells the horrific story of boy put to death by hanging.* One of the men who saw it asked, "Where is God?" From within Elie Wiesel heard a voice, "Where is He? This is where--hanging here from this gallows..." When you and I look at the cross we see God in human flesh. For that reason the cross not only reveals envy, it provides the remedy. The first reading indicates how the cross can cure envy. The people were complaining that they had better food in Egypt. Complaining almost always involves comparison - envy. "Ma, the other kids get to do this, why can't we?" Well, God sent a punishment - a plague of serpents. There's a lot I could say about this punishment, but the point here is how God healed them. He had Moses make an image of a bronze serpent and put it on a pole. Anyone who looked at that image with faith, lived.
Something similar applies to the cross. Jesus says, "just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert so must the Son of Man be lifted up..." If we look at the cross with faith, if we recognize that Jesus died not just for high priests' envy, but also for your envy and mine, we will receive healing and we will live. As we have learned, envy demands, it gets hurt, it insists on its "rights." By way of contrast, St. Paul tells today how Jesus emptied himself, taking the form of slave.

He humbled himself, becoming obedient to death - even to the most humiliating death, the cross. St. Paul then adds that because of his humility, the Father lifted him up. So he will do for us - in Christ. Through the cross we find our place in God's world. We have only one more week in this series on Finding Your Place. I will use Pastor Rick Warren's Purpose Driven Life to sum up. I believe you will find it both enlightening and encouraging.

But I want you to know that today we have seen the heart of the matter - the cross. As Jesus tells us, "Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life." Amen.  

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ILLUSTRATIONS: 

From Fr. Tony Kadavil's Collection:

1: Trinket or Treasure:

Ann Thomas tells this story of herself. She was at a garage sale with her friend Betty. Ann had just sorted through a tray of trinkets. Betty came up and asked, “Any luck?” “No!” said Ann. “It’s just a pile of junk.” She stepped aside to let Betty see for herself. Betty took one look at the pile, picked up a tarnished old cross and said, “I can’t believe it. I’ve found a treasure! This cross is made of antique silver.” When Ann’s friend got home, she cleaned the cross and polished it. It was indeed a treasure. Ann ended the story saying, “Betty and I both looked at the same cross. I only saw junk; Betty saw a treasure.” Later Betty’s seven-year-old son, Bobby picked up the cross, held it reverently in his hands, and looked at it for a long time. Suddenly he began to cry. “What’s wrong?” asked Betty. Bobby said, “I can’t help it. I was looking at Jesus on the cross.” Three people looked at the same cross. One saw junk, another saw a treasure; a third saw Jesus. Today’s feast reminds us to see Jesus and appreciate the price he paid for our salvation each time we look at a cross or crucifix. (Mark Link in Sunday Homilies).
2: Uncle Tom's Cabin;
 
or, Life Among the Lowly is an anti-slavery novel written by American author Harriet Beecher Stowe and published in 1852. The sentimental novel depicts the cruel reality of slavery while also asserting that Christian love can overcome something as destructive as the enslavement of one’s fellow-human beings. The story follows the fortunes of a slave, the dutiful Uncle Tom. He was a slave on the Shelby plantation in Kentucky. There he was loved by his owners, their son, and every slave on the property. He lived contentedly with his wife and children in their own cabin until Mr. Shelby decided to sell him and another slave to pay off debts to Augustine St Clair in New Orleans. In the idealistic St Clair's household, the young daughter Eva became fond of Tom, and his life with his new master was relatively happy. However, following the deaths of the decent master St Clair and the kindly Eva, Tom was sold again and his new master Simon Legree, the owner of a cotton plantation, was the embodiment of cruelty.  He treated the good and loyal Tom so terribly that Tom died just before rescue arrived, in the person of George Shelby, Tom’s first owner’s son. The novel ends with George Shelby’s return to the Shelby plantations. There he freed all his slaves, as a memorial to the sacrificial, loving and dedicated service of Uncle Tom, with the advice: “Remember … when you look at the wooden cabin of our dear Uncle Tom … that great man and his sacrificial suffering and heroic death which gave you your freedom.” On the feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, the Church, our mother, gives us, her children, a similar challenging reminder: “Look at this Holy Cross of Christ and learn to appreciate the great price He paid for our freedom from the slavery of sin by his suffering and death on the cross.” 
 
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From Sermons.com

June 22, 1996 in Ann Arbor, Michigan there was a rally of the Ku Klux Klan at the City Hall. It was quite legal. There were also 300 anti-Klan people assembled to protest the rally. One white male Klansman stood out, perhaps because he was proudly displaying Confederate flags on his vest and T-shirt. Suddenly, without warning, a swarm of angry anti-Klan demonstrators rushed him, pushed him to the ground, beat him with their signs and kicked him. Appalled, an 18-year-old African American girl named Keisha Thomas, threw herself over the fallen man, shielding him with her own body from the kicks and punches. Keisha, when asked why she, a black teenager, would risk injury to protect a man who was a white supremacist said, "He's still somebody's child. I don't want people to remember my name but I'd like them to remember I did the right thing." A black teen laying down her life for a racist - an enemy. I think Keisha understood the symbol of the cross better, understood Jesus' words "Father, forgive them for they know not what they do."

CROSS OF CHRIST

The government of Polish Prime Minister Jaruzelski had ordered crucifixes removed from classroom walls, just as they had been banned in factories, hospitals, and other public institutions. Catholic bishops attacked the ban that had stirred waves of anger and resentment all across Poland. Ultimately the government relented, insisting that the law remain on the books, but agreeing not to press for removal of the crucifixes, particularly in the schoolrooms.
But one zealous Communist school administrator in Garwolin decided that the law was the law. So one evening he had seven large crucifixes removed from lecture halls where they had hung since the school's founding in the twenties. Days later, a group of parents entered the school and hung more crosses. The administrator promptly had these taken down as well.
The next day two-thirds of the school's six hundred students staged a sit-in. When heavily armed riot police arrived, the students were forced into the streets. Then they marched, crucifixes held high, to a nearby church where they were joined by twenty-five hundred other students from nearby schools for a morning of prayer in support of the protest. Soldiers surrounded the church. But the pictures from inside of students holding crosses high above their heads flashed around the world. So did the words of the priest who delivered the message to the weeping congregation that morning. "There is no Poland without a cross." 
Chuck Colson, Kingdoms in Conflict, pp. 202-3.


In Planet In Rebellion, George Vandeman wrote: "It was May 21, 1946. The place - Los Alamos. A young and daring scientist was carrying out a necessary experiment in preparation for the atomic test to be conducted in the waters of the South Pacific atoll at Bikini. "He had successfully performed such an experiment many times before. In his effort to determine the amount of U-235 necessary for a chain reaction--scientists call it the critical mass--he would push two hemispheres of uranium together. Then, just as the mass became critical, he would push them apart with his screwdriver, thus instantly stopping the chain reaction. But that day, just as the material became critical, the screwdriver slipped! The hemispheres of uranium came too close together. Instantly the room was filled with a dazzling bluish haze. Young Louis Slotin, instead of ducking and thereby possibly saving himself, tore the two hemispheres apart with his hands and thus interrupted the chain reaction. By this instant, self-forgetful daring, he saved the lives of the seven other persons in the room. . . as he waited. . for the car that was to take him to the hospital, he said quietly to his companion, 'You'll come through all right. But I haven't the faintest chance myself' It was only too true. Nine days later he died in agony.
George Vandeman, Planet in Rebellion.


If you were to look at Rembrandt's painting of The Three Crosses, your attention would be drawn first to the center cross on which Jesus died. Then as you would look at the crowd gathered around the foot of that cross, you'd be impressed by the various facial expressions and actions of the people involved in the awful crime of crucifying the Son of God. Finally, your eyes would drift to the edge of the painting and catch sight of another figure, almost hidden in the shadows. Art critics say this is a representation of Rembrandt himself, for he recognized that by his sins he helped nail Jesus to the cross.

Source Unknown.

Short Statements on the Cross

Jesus was crucified, not in a cathedral between two candles, but on a cross between two thieves. 
George F. MacLeod.


The figure of the Crucified invalidates all thought which takes success for its standard. 
Dietrich Bonhoeffer.


The cross cannot be defeated, for it is defeat. 
Gilbert K. Chesterton.


There are no crown-wearers in heaven who were not cross- bearers here below. 
Charles Haddon Spurgeon.


We need men of the cross, with the message of the cross, bearing the marks of the cross. 
Vance Havner.


Christ's cross is such a burden as sails are to a ship or wings to a bird. 
Samuel Rutherford.


He came to pay a debt He didn't owe because we owed a debt we couldn't pay. 
Anonymous.


The old cross slew men; the new cross entertains them. The old cross condemned; the new cross amuses. The old cross destroyed confidence in the flesh; the new cross encourages it.  
A.W. Tozer.


All heaven is interested in the cross of Christ, all hell is terribly afraid of it, while men are the only beings who more or less ignore its meaning. 

Oswald Chambers.


The cross: God's way of uniting suffering with love.  
Georgia Harkness.


Poems

In evil long I took delight,
Unawed by shame or fear,
Till a new object struck my sight,
And stopp'd my wild career:
I saw One hanging on a Tree
In agonies and blood,
Who fix'd His languid eyes on me.
As near His Cross I stood.
Sure never till my latest breath,
Can I forget that look:
It seem'd to charge me with His death,
Though not a word He spoke:
My conscience felt and own'd the guilt,
And plunged me in despair:
I saw my sins His Blood had spilt,
And help'd to nail Him there.
Alas! I knew not what I did!
But now my tears are vain:
Where shall my trembling soul be hid?
For I the Lord have slain!
A second look He gave, which said,
"I freely all forgive;
This blood is for thy ransom paid;
I die that thou may'st live."
Thus, while His death my sin displays
In all its blackest hue,
Such is the mystery of grace,
It seals my pardon too.
With pleasing grief, and mournful joy,
My spirit now if fill'd,
That I should such a life destroy,
Yet live by Him I kill'd!
John Newton, 1725-1807

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Powdered Christian. You might remember comedian Yakov Smirnoff. When he first came to the United States from Russia he was not prepared for the incredible variety of instant products available in American grocery stores. He says, "On my first shopping trip with my American friend , I saw powdered milk. What is it , I asked. My friend explained, “You just add water, and you get milk.” I was amazed. Then I saw powdered orange juice--you just add water, and you get orange juice! And then I saw baby powder, and I thought to myself, you add water and get a ready made baby!! “What a country!" So many Christian denominations claim that they can make powdered Christians. They preach: “Accept Jesus as Lord and Savior, surrender your life to him and confess your sins to him. You are saved.“ Once saved, you are always saved. Just add water and disciples are born not made. Unfortunately, there is no such powder, and disciples of Jesus Christ are not instantly born. We must understand what it really means to be a Christian disciple from the mouth of Jesus. He proclaimed in Mathew 16: 24, “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross and follow Me.” (Matthew 16: 24).It means that a truly practicing Christian must be a self denying and cross carrying Christian who obeys the teachings of Jesus. That is why we ask the question on Good Friday: what is the real message of the cross?

1) “But you wear a cross.” On her first night there, the head counselor said that three of the boys had asked to escort her to dinner. Alone! How would she handle it if all three decided to act out at once? She swallowed hard. She desperately needed this job so she fought back the panic and walked with her charges to the dining hall. They passed through the cafeteria line as tantrums and fights erupted around them. Fortunately none of her boys exhibited any kind of behavioral outburst. They made their way to a table in the center of the busy cafeteria and the boys took their seats. Margaret picked up her fork and was about to take the first bite when she noticed that all three boys were staring at her. "What's the matter?" she asked. Aren't you going to ask a blessing?" asked eight-year-old Peter. "I didn't think I was supposed to," she responded. "This is a state school, isn't it?" "Yes," said David, his blue eyes brimming, "but you wear a cross." Her grandmother's words surged to the surface of her memory. "Never forget what this cross means," her grandmother said. "We thought that meant something," said Roman, clearly disappointed. "It does. Thank you for reminding me," Margaret said, as she bowed her head, no longer afraid. (CATHOLIC DIGEST, Feb. 92, p. 64) Margaret learned something about sainthood that day. Saints trust in God and God alone for their ultimate security. Saints submit their will to the will of God. Saints stand firm and witness to their faith.

2) What’s that plus sign doing up here? A young Jewish girl visiting a Catholic church for the first time, was puzzled at the cross on the altar. She asked her Catholic friend, “Marie, Why do you keep that plus sign on the altar? That’s one wrong understanding – the cross as a plus sign. It is an equally distasteful idea that the cross is the I, the capital “I” crossed out. The truth is that cross is “I” stretched out - reaching down into the ground of being, up in the infinity of becoming, and out toward as many others as it can touch. With the Cross as a plus sign shaping our lives, we can live while we wait, knowing that a) renewal comes through rejoicing; b) grace is communication by gentleness; c) peace comes through prayer; and d) attitudes produce action.

3) You took my parking space at church: One day, a man went to visit a church; He got there early, parked his car and got out. Another car pulled up near the driver got out and said, “I always park there! You took my place!"

The visitor went inside for Sunday school, found an empty seat and sat down A young lady from the church approached him and stated, "That’s my seat! You took my place!" The visitor was somewhat distressed by this rude welcome, but said nothing. After Sunday school, the visitor went into the sanctuary and sat down. Another member walked up to him and said, “That’s where I always sit! You took my place!" The visitor was even more troubled by this treatment, but still He said nothing. Later as the congregation was praying for Christ to dwell among them, the visitor stood up, and his appearance began to change. Horrible scars became visible on his hands and on his sandaled feet. Someone from the congregation noticed him and called out, "What happened to you?" The visitor replied, as his hat became a crown of thorns, and a tear fell from his eye, "I took your place.”

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 June 22, 1996 in Ann Arbor, Michigan there was a rally of the Ku Klux Klan at the City Hall. It was quite legal. There were also 300 anti-Klan people assembled to protest the rally. One white male Klansman stood out, perhaps because he was proudly displaying Confederate flags on his vest and T-shirt. Suddenly, without warning, a swarm of angry anti-Klan demonstrators rushed him, pushed him to the ground, beat him with their signs and kicked him. Appalled, an 18-year-old African American girl named Keisha Thomas, threw herself over the fallen man, shielding him with her own body from the kicks and punches. Keisha, when asked why she, a black teenager, would risk injury to protect a man who was a white supremacist said, "He's still somebody's child. I don't want people to remember my name but I'd like them to remember I did the right thing." A black teen laying down her life for a racist - an enemy. I think Keisha understood Good Friday, understood Jesus' words "Father, forgive them for they know not what they do."

Lesson in unconditional forgiveness: If someone hurts our feelings can we forgive that person,   pray for God's blessings on him or her and continue to treat him or her as our friend?  Here is a Chinese proverb: "One who hates another digs two graves: one for himself and the other for the one he hates."  St. Paul admonishes, "Be ye therefore kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another" (Ephesians 4:32).  He advises the Romans: "If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals upon his head. Do not be conquered by evil but conquer evil with good"(12: 20-21).

2. The word of assurance: Then he said, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom." He replied to him, "Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise." (Luke 23:42-43).  On either side of Jesus, on their crosses were two thieves.  These two were really guilty men who deserved death.  When sunlight falls on wax it melts, but the same light hardens the clay.  The waxy heart of the thief on the right (traditionally called Dismas) literally melted with repentance at the sight of Jesus crucified, prompting him to address Jesus humbly and devoutly," Lord, remember me when you come into your kingdom."  Jesus said, "Today you shall be with me in Paradise." Dismas did not have to confess all his sins to Jesus - Jesus forgave and forgot them all… and at once!  But the hard-hearted, unrepentant sinner on the left remained that way in spite of Jesus' presence and exemplary, heroic death right before his eyes. 

Judas committed the same folly as the thief on the left, hardening his heart with unbridled love for money, in spite of his three years of close association with Jesus and active participation in his healing and preaching ministry.  The same thing happened to Cardinal Woolsey of England who sided with the emperor Henry VIII in creating a heretical Christian denomination and died in despair, while Henry's Vice Chancellor Thomas Moore bravely courted martyrdom for his faith.