Twenty Third Sunday: The Cross, the Eucharist, and Life Eternal

‘Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple’ (Lk. 14:27). ⧾

This saying of Our Lord is very well known to us and we know that it expresses the essence of our Christian discipleship and commitment – the embrace of the cross. Are we willing to carry our own cross? This is really as simple as it gets when it comes to understanding what it means to be, and to live, as a Christian. All those who through the ages have listened to these words and followed Our Lord along the path of devout humility have made their own these words of the Apostle Paul: But far be it from me to glory except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world (Gal. 6:14). It is evident that St. Paul understood Our Lord’s words in a very personal manner; and we, each in our own way, must do likewise. There is nothing generic about the embrace of the cross. Similarly, the Christian faith is in no way generic about anything. It is very specific.

‘Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple’ (Lk. 14:27).  If we consider these words in the context in which they are spoken, we see that Our Lord further explains that we must also be willing to sacrifice whatever is necessary to preserve our faith. ‘In the same way, anyone of you who does not renounce all his possessions cannot be my disciple’ (Lk. 14: 33). The all or nothing quality of this proposition brings home to us both the demands of Christian discipleship and the power of its witness when it is authentic. It produces fruits of holiness in great abundance which benefit the world at large; and their embrace of the Cross makes them lights for the world in their several generations.

What is the motivating force that enables us to sacrifice, to carry our cross and follow Our Lord and to place our faith above all other goods? It is quite simply, the love of God. This willingness to suffer with and for Our Saviour, the Messiah, has always been enigmatic for those who have no faith; though the witness of this love and suffering has often brought others to faith. Last week, we commemorated in our liturgy Blessed Dominic of the Mother of God, a Passionist priest, a missionary to England at the time of the Catholic revival in the early 1800’s. Anti-Catholic bigotry was common and at times violent. On one occasion, some young men threw stones at Blessed Dominic. He picked the ones that hit him and kissed them. This gesture caused three of these young men to embrace the Catholic Faith. Such is the power of one’s willingness to be one with Christ in the embrace of the Cross.

A cross-less Christianity is perhaps one of the subtlest temptations of the Antichrist, and it leads us nowhere. The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass which Our Lord left us as the memorial of His sacred Passion is the reality of the Cross in our midst. When we receive Holy Communion, the Sacrament of the Cross, very intimately each one of us is saying to Our Lord, Yes, ‘Lord, I embrace the cross you have given me to carry and with Your love and grace I will be Your faithful disciple and do what You ask of me. Help me to be your light in this, my generation’. This is what are called to do and to become: to radiate Christ. We do this not only through our good works, although these are not unimportant. We do this because of our intimate union with Our Lord.

At last count, sixty-eight churches have been vandalized or burned in our country, the most recent a historic church in Alberta. It may be that no negotiations are possible with a government that considers such acts ‘understandable’ and a national hierarchy that is more or less silent. In the early part of the twentieth century when the Church in France was experiencing similar persecution, back then explicitly on the part of the government, religious orders, especially the orders dedicated to prayer and penance, were suppressed and members exiled, the Trappist Abbot Dom Jean-Baptiste Chautard was charged with the delicate task of preserving the monastic presence in France. In his discourse with Georges Clemenceau, the anti-clerical prime minster of France, Dom Chautard enunciated words that we do well to ponder in this our time of persecution.

Dom Chautard provides us with a concise summary of our Eucharistic faith, the central dogma of our religion because in the Eucharist, God is truly Emmanuel, God-with-us: The Eucharist is the central dogma of our religion. It is called the generating dogma of Catholic piety. It is not the papacy, as you seem to think….Now, Christ is not a Being who disappeared someplace we do not know of, nor even the far away Being that we think of. He is alive. He lives among us. He is present in the Eucharist. And this is why the Eucharist is the base, the centre, the heart of religion. From whence comes every life. Not from anywhere else….You do not believe it. But we believe it. We believe firmly, resolutely, from the depth of our being, that in the tabernacle of each of our churches, God truly resides under the appearance of the Host….To Love Crucified, we try to respond with a crucified love. You are scandalized by our way of life; you think it goes against nature. Yes, it would be so if we did not have faith in the Eucharist. But we believe in the Divine Crucified and we love Him; and we want to live like Him and through Communion we participate in His life.

The Mass enables us to participate in Our Lord’s life, in His love of the Father and of the Holy Spirit; of Our Lady and St. Joseph and in His love for all of humanity. In this our generation, may our embrace of the Cross be our glory and our strength; that we might radiate the love and mercy of Our Saviour.  ⧾