WORD OF THE CROSS

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Nothing in history has transformed its nature in a moment like the cross. In the past it was an instrument for carrying out  the most   cruel form of punishment. But a single act rewrote the history  of  those two  pieces of  wood. Since then the cross has been a sign of contradiction just like the man whose  death on it  changed its  fate forever.  He was  ‘to be a sign that will be opposed’ (Lk 2:34).Those who could not  accept Jesus Christ, could not accept his cross as well.

‘For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but  to us who are being saved it is the power of  God’ (1 Cor 1:18). Jesus has left us only one message and it is the message of the cross.  As   human beings we cannot be indifferent to the message of the cross. We should   take an unambiguous stand. Either accept it or reject it.  Those who accepted it became Christians and those who rejected it became their persecutors.

For those who accepted the  truth of the cross, it was the ultimate reality; the ladder leading them to eternal glory!  They proclaimed this truth to everybody. ‘When Jews demanded signs and Greeks desired wisdom’ (1Cor 1:22), they opted for a different path. They ‘proclaimed Christ crucified’ (1 Cor 1:23) fully knowing that it was going to be  ‘a stumbling block to their own  people and foolishness to  the gentiles’ (1 Cor 1:23).

In fact they  stopped their search for  wisdom at the foot of the cross. When they were privy to the ultimate truth that was revealed in the cross, they voluntarily  withdrew  their minds from the outer world so as to avoid anything else that would  distract their thoughts from the truth they realized. Paul joyfully writes; ‘For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and him crucified (1 Cor 2:2). To a person who identified himself with Christ (I have been crucified with Christ- Gal 2:19)  it was the natural  response to the  arguments raised by the  enemies of  gospel message.  Paul had many things to his credit to be proud of. But he chose only  one thing, the cross of Lord Jesus Christ. It has been his earnest prayer that he should never be  tempted to take pride in anything else. ‘May I never boast  of anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world’ (Gal 6:14).

Here  we get the  answer to all questions about the message of the cross.  Previously it was an instrument of  torture for a  single person. Now  the cross has  transcended into  an instrument capable of holding not one, but two at a  time;  On the cross,  man stands crucified against the world and the world stands crucified against man! When Simeon told Joseph and Mary at the temple that Jesus was going to be   a sign that will be opposed, he envisioned a  world that would  stand against the cross, and those  men and women who  would, under the protection of  the cross, dare to challenge the world. Those few who dared to challenge the world were called ’the people who have been turning the world upside down’ (Acts 17:6).

Yes, there is only one thing that is strong enough to  turn our planet  upside down and it is the  cross of Jesus Christ. Why should we be  ashamed of  proclaiming our  affection and love towards it?

Yet we see many around us who live as enemies of the cross.  It has been a  perennial issue, indeed. ‘For many live as enemies of  the cross of Christ; I have often told you of them, and now I tell you even with tears. Their end is destruction; their god is the belly; and their glory is in their shame; their minds are set on earthly things’ (Phil. 3:18-19). But for those whose citizenship is in heaven (Phil. 3:20), it is a different story. They imitate their Master who humbled himself and became  obedient to the  point of death- even death on a  cross (Phil 2:8).

While giving  a discourse about his second coming  Jesus  told  his disciples that  his sign will appear in heaven as a  prelude to his  glorious return. He added that at the sight  of this sign,  people  will mourn! ‘Then the sign of the Son of Man  will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the  Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory’ (Mt 24:30). Theologians agree that the  sign of the Son of Man mentioned here is  the sign of the cross.

Why should the tribes  mourn at the sight of a cross? Because they hated it till that  moment.  We do not  belong  to any of those tribes that are destined to  mourn on that  eventful day. Because we know the cross and love it. We know the  person  who sacrificed his life on the cross  as a burnt offering for our sins. We are redeemed by his precious blood. His sacrifice being for the  whole humankind, it is our  duty as well to pray for those who  deride the cross now, so that one day they may see the light emanating from the  cross and    embrace the   crucified Lord. Our Father in heaven does not  want even a single  soul  to be lost. Our prayers should  be for the whole world to  unite in front of  the cross before it is too late for them.

To be near the cross of Jesus was a special privilege accorded to a selected few. Jesus’ mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene, and of course the Apostle who witnessed Jesus commending  his spirit into the hands of the Father (Jn 19:25). 

But the call to  take up the cross is  universal. Nobody who wants to  follow Jesus is exempted from  carrying it. ‘If any want to become my followers, let them  deny themselves and take up their  cross and follow me’ (Mt 16:24). It is precisely here that the  cross throws a challenge at us. To take it up or to denounce it. There is no middle path and our answer decides our destiny.

Let us pray for the grace to accept our crosses without complaining.

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