Program #0135 for Wednesday, September 14, 2011: Understanding and Embracing the Cross

September 14, 2011

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Emperor Heraclius carries the recovered Cross into Jerusalem. Photo by George Martell

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Today’s host(s): Scot Landry and Fr. Matt Williams

Today’s topics: Understanding and embracing the Cross of Christ

Summary of today’s show: On this Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross, Scot and Fr. Matt confront the scandal of the Cross, explain how and why Catholics embrace the Cross of Christ as a sign of ultimate love, talk a little about the history of the feast day as well as why our cathedral in Boston is dedicated to the Cross, and then considers the prayers and readings from today’s Mass for the feast.

1st segment: Scot and Fr. Matt will talk about the power and scandal and confusion of the Cross of Christ because today is the Feast of the Exaltations of the Cross, which is important in Boston because our Cathedral is dedicated to the Holy Cross.

Fr. Matt told Scot that his office has been working over the past week to plan out their schedule for the next year for youth ministry and young adult ministry. He said it’s important to step back and evaluate, to consider what you do well and what you don’t do well, to look at what they have done over the past year. Especially in youth ministry, you need to do more than just pull out what you did last year and do it again. The Holy Spirit evangelizes each generation in a new way.

2nd segment: Today we honor the holy cross by which Christ redeemed the world. Veneration of the cross began in the 4th century after the discovery of the relics of the Cross by St. Helen, mother of Emperor Constantine, on September 14, 326. In the Western Church the feast came into prominence in the seventh century — after 629, when the Byzantine emperor Heraclitus restored the Holy Cross to Jerusalem, after defeating the Persians who had stolen it. The cross is the primary symbol of our faith.

Fr. Matt said we find the cross everywhere in our society, and it is the power of God made manifest, the manifestation of his love. The sacraments bring the power of the cross into the moment of grace it confers. The first prayer we learn is the Sign of the Cross. During baptism, the baby or adult is baptized with water in the Sign of the Cross. In confirmation, the oil is place on the forehead in the Sign of the Cross. And so on through the sacraments.

Scot said the YouCat, a new catechism intended for youth in a question and answer format. The Cross on which Jesus, although innocent, was cruelly innocent was the place of utmost degradation and abandonment,. He chose the Cross to bear the sin of the world and bring the world back to God. God could not show his love more forcibly than allowing his son to be nailed to the cross for us. Crucifixion was the most shameful form of execution in Roman times and God entered into the most abysmal suffering of those times.

Fr. Matt talked about how Jesus became a curse to redeem his people on the cross. The cross was considered to be a curse and those crucified on it to be cursed. So Christi who is sinless became cursed on behalf of all of us sinners. He was willing to suffer the most painful form of death to show us that he is the true Lamb of God willing to take away all our sins.

Fr. Matt said you often realize how much faith is a gift and it takes humility to receive that gift. Fr. Matt told a story from tradition that when the Persians returned the Cross, the Emperor Heraclius carried the Cross back into Jerusalem on his back. He was clothed in costly garments and jewels. But at the foot of Calvary, he couldn’t pass onto the hill. So the bishop of Jerusalem told him that in his costly garments he was far from resembling Jesus. So the Emperor changed into penitential garb and was able to carry it to the top of the hill. In order to conform our lives to the cross, we need humility. Scot noted that Jesus told us that we have to pick up our cross to follow him as well in order to be his disciple. That’s challenging in this culture where we look at self-denial as a big deal.

Fr. Matt said the saints are always reflecting on the cross, which teaches us by their witness. They always meditate on the wounds of Christ as a sign of the love of Christ.

Thomas a Kempis, Imitation of Christ: “If you carry your cross joyfully, it will soon carry you.”

Fr. Matt said Andrea Alberti often preaches the cross to the teens she ministers to and says, “Who doesn’t respond to love?” Evangelization always begins with love. From the love we have in ourselves, we have to introduce others to the love of Jesus. She tells them, “How much are you worth? The Precious Blood of Jesus.” Fr. Matt said the movie The Passion of The Christ was an accurate and shocking portrayal of the crucifixion of Jesus and just what he went through. Scot remembers Jim Caviezel, the actor who portrayed Jesus, talking at the Boston Catholic Mens and Womens Conference about how, even with special effects and protection, how much he suffered himself. And then he understood that Jesus suffered more than just physically, but also mentally as he considered the sins of all of us that he was carrying. In the scene where Jesus falls with the cross at his mother’s feet, you see Jesus close his eyes and hug the cross. Why? Because Jesus knew that this was the means by which he would gain for all of us eternal life with the heavenly Father. It’s a reaffirmation of his mission and why he came.

Scot said on Good Friday, the central part of the service on that day is the procession where we all venerate the cross. We can venerate the cross each day as well.

3rd segment: It’s time to announce the winner of the weekly WQOM Benefactor Raffle.

Our prize this week is Crossing the Goal: Playbook on the Virtues and Crossing the Goal: Playbook on Our Father, both by Danny Abramowicz, Peter Herbeck, Curtis Martin and Brian Patrick.

This week’s winner is Christopher Dolan from Seekonk, MA. Congratulations, Christopher!

If you would like to be eligible to win in an upcoming week, please visit WQOM.org. For a one-time $30 donation, you’ll receive the Station of the Cross benefactor card and key tag, making you eligible for WQOM’s weekly raffle of books, DVDs, CDs and religious items. We’ll be announcing the winner each Wednesday during “The Good Catholic Life” program.

4th segment: Here in the Archdiocese of Boston, the mother church is the Cathedral of the Holy Cross and it was a significant choice when the earliest priests in Boston recommended to the Bishop of Baltimore that New England’s mother church be named after the Holy Cross. Fr. Matt thinks of the thousands of priests who have been ordained in the current cathedral and all the beautiful liturgies over the past century plus, including funeral of our bishops and Holy Week liturgies.

The current cathedral was inaugurated in 1875 on the Feast of Immaculate Conception, replacing the original cathedral downtown on Franklin Street. At the time, the South End was much more rural. The cathedral is longer than a football field and 12 stories high. Scot recommends listeners visit this beautiful church.

Fr. Matt said for those who haven’t seen the giant churches in Europe, they will be struck by the size of it compared to other churches in the US. In St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican, on the floor of the church, there are plaques in the floor marking the size of other churches in the world compared to St. Peter’s. Holy Cross is one of the churches listed in comparison.

Fr. Matt said as you come down the main aisle, on the right, you see the stained glass window of St. Helen discovering the Cross in Jerusalem. Scot said there is richness in meditating on the cross in our lives, especially when doing so in the Cathedral on this feast. He said the North Transept window allows one to meditate on the resurrection of Christ and on the South side is the exaltation of the cross. In the Blessed Sacrament chapel, up until about a year ago there was a relic of the True Cross there. It was stolen about a year ago, and later returned. It is planned that it will be put back when it can be better secured.

5th segment: Scot quotes the YouCat: “Why are we expected to accept suffering our lives” and accept the cross of Jesus? Why does God permit suffering? Christians should not seek suffering, but when confronted by it, it can become meaningful for us when united with the sufferings of Christ. Human suffering becomes united with redeeming love of Christ.

Fr. Matt said that if he had the answers to why there is suffering, he would write a book and make a lot of money. There is no single answer to say why anything happens for a particular reason. We have to look at the cross of Jesus Christ. There is a God who did not remain distant and removed from our human condition, but rather emptied himself, taking the form of a slave and giving himself up to be pierced for our sins. He paid a debt he didn’t owe because we owed a debt we couldn’t pay.

He notes that the Holy Father writes to people in suffering that he is “spiritually close” to them. Now imagine how God is even closer to us when we are suffering. If God’s posture is to be close to us, why would he send us evil to drive us away from him?

By offering up a prayer for others, to offer up our suffering for the sake of others, not only changes other, it changes ourselves, because it purifies us and helps us to avoid becoming bitter and inward-turning.

Scot said one of the challenging questions is why suffering is not doled evenly. Some seem to suffer more. We are told that in the challenges we face, God will give us the grace to deal with them as long as we ask. Fr. Matt said we all know people whose suffering seems to be ongoing and continuous. We look to the Cross and the saints would rejoice in their sufferings. They would say that the Lord loves them more deeply that the Lord allowed them to share more deeply of his suffering. Every single one of us, no matter how much suffering we have, have to consider why we are here on this earth and what is our ultimate destiny.

Scot quoted the hymn, “Lift High the Cross”: “Lift High the Cross, the Love of Christ proclaim, until all the world proclaim his holy name!”

They then considered the prayers of the Mass today. Scot suggested that listeners take the opportunity to venerate the cross in their home tonight and embrace the cross that redeemed the world.

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