Why I became a priest

     The simple truth is I never wanted to be a priest. Yet now, as I look back on my life, it is clear that God was calling me to the holy priesthood from an early age. I grew up in a very Catholic family; my parents brought me to daily Mass, encouraged family prayer and taught us that the faith should be at the center of our lives, but it was not until the end of my junior year of high school that I first realized the call to be a priest.

     My life, while focused on Christ, was full of distractions. I attended an academically challenging high school, played high school sports and worked a job. With all of those activities and an active social life there was very little time for silence, where I could have heard God’s call. Just before the Triduum, one of the monks who taught at my high school, challenged me to make a three-day silent retreat over the Triduum at the monastery. I agreed to make the retreat, not because I really wanted to spend the time in prayer, but because I was challenged and was not about to back down from a challenge.

     As the silence began to settle in on that retreat, deep down I felt an understanding that I was supposed to be a priest. I had previously been searching for colleges and discerning what to study in college but the thought to become a priest never crossed my mind. Yet as I continued in silence on that retreat the nudge towards the priesthood would not go away and the harder I tried to convince myself that priesthood was not for me the stronger the call became.

     As I left that retreat, on Easter, I found myself lying awake at night for the next few weeks trying to fight off the call to be a priest. While, I had never stopped before to think about where priests come from and I certainly had never heard of a seminary, I had other plans for my life that did not include the priesthood. Since the inner tugging towards the priesthood would not go away I finally gave in and decided to inquire into what it takes to be a priest.

     I approached a priest to inquire what the process was to become a priest; deep down hoping he would tell me not to bother because the priesthood was not for me. Rather then turn me away from the priesthood, he encouraged me and directed me to the rector of the seminary. After visiting the seminary and learning about the formation required to become a priest I felt more comfortable with the idea of becoming a priest, yet I still had other plans for my life. While I had a great respect for the men at the seminary I had no desires to enter the seminary.

     The harder I tried to suppress the tugging towards the priesthood, the stronger the pull to the priesthood became. After fighting the tug for months I came to realize I could not make it go away so I made a deal with God. I promised God that I would spend two years in the seminary and then leave, but in exchange for spending two years at the seminary He would make the rest of my life, after I left the seminary, successful.

Thinking I had tricked God, by promising Him two years at the seminary, I entered the seminary after graduating from High School. As I settled into the seminary formation program and began to spend focused time in prayer I quickly began to realize that I had approached God’s tug towards the priesthood in all the wrong ways. It did not take long for me to realize that there was a lot of selfishness in the “deal” I made with God.

     As I spent focused time in prayer and study at the seminary I quickly began to realize that God, who loves me with an unconditional love and wants me to be happy, was calling me to the priesthood and He certainly wants me to flourish so naturally it became clear to me that following His call was the only wise choice. As that first year in the seminary progressed I entered into a deeper relationship with the Trinity and began to trust God more and more. By the end of my first year in the seminary, I found the courage to change the question from what do I want to do to whom did God create me to be and what where is God leading me. As soon as I changed the question I found myself at peace knowing that I was being called to the Sacred Priesthood.

     In short, the answer is simple, I became a priest because after prayer, study and discernment, I believe that is who God is calling me to be. While I had to overcome my own selfishness and learn to trust the Lord, once I changed the question from “what do I want to do when I grow up” to “who did God calling me to be” I have found great peace in following God’s call to the priesthood. While I know my life will not always be easy or feel fulfilling, I know God has called me to the priesthood and by faithfully living out that call to the priesthood, God will bring me immense joy and peace.

6th Sunday of Easter Year B / Mother’s Day

     I come from a large family and even though my 5 brothers and 5 sisters are scattered throughout the country for school and work, we always try to make it a point to get together as often as possible. A little while back some of us were together and we noticed that it seems like every time someone finds out that we come from a large family, they assume my mom must be a saint. Now all of us certainly think our mom is a saint, but we don’t like the idea of her getting the credit for it, so we decided that anytime someone tells us our mom must be a saint we are going to take credit for it. Growing up, like most people, my siblings and I enjoyed life and we often left our mom no other option than to drop to her knees and pray, so after all why shouldn’t we get some credit for making her a saint?

     As my siblings and I were reflecting back on our childhood we realized that we frequently accused my mom of being too strict, too unpopular, and out of touch with reality, yet as we have grown up we are beginning to realize that our mom was not trying to make our lives a living hell, but rather she only wanted what was best for us, she wanted our joy to be complete. Like all good parents, Jesus tells us in today’s gospel that He wants us to remain in His love so that our joy may be complete. Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life, and before He ascended into heaven, the feast we will celebrate next Sunday, Jesus summoned St. Peter and told him “you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.”[1] The Church founded by Christ on St. Peter, still feeds us today through the Holy Eucharist, the Word of God contained in Sacred Scripture and the teachings of the bishops, in union with the Pope.

     If you are anything like me, we can at times find ourselves wanting to remain in God’s love, but struggling to know how and our faith can become a source of stress in our lives. Yet there is no need for anxiety because in today’s Gospel, Jesus is very clear, “if you keep my commandments, you remain in my love.” If we simply stay in the Church, following Her guidance in living out the true Christian way, we can be assured of remaining in God’s love and hold out hope for our salvation. My friends, the Church is our mother. Just as mothers often have to put unpopular limits on their children and have to teach them truths that are unpopular, so too the Church must often speak truths that are unpopular and call us to a life that will not always be easy. Yet even when we don’t see it, like all good mothers, our mother the Church, only challenges us in the ways She does because like our own mothers, She knows that it will lead us to remain in God’s love.

     If we are honest with ourselves, I don’t think anyone here would say being a mother is easy, nor is living as a son or daughter always easy. Likewise living in the Church can be hard, but we can never forget that “love demands effort and a personal commitment to the will of God.”[2] Yet regardless of how hard it was at times growing up with my mom, she was always my mom. Like most of you I love my mom and I am not afraid to tell the world how great she is and I would be the first to defend her, if she came under attack. If we love our own mothers enough to tell the world how much we love them and we are ready to defend them at any cost, shouldn’t we also desire to express our love of our mother the Church and be prepared to defend Her, whenever necessary. I think today’s Gospel and the celebration of mother’s day gives us pause to ask ourselves two questions. First, do we stand up and defend our mother the Church when others attack Her? Secondly, do we take the opportunity to tell the world of our mother the Church? After all we know there are countless people out in the streets near this Church and near our homes that need to hear the message of Christ, but Christ needs your hands, Christ needs your feet, Christ needs your mouths, and Christ needs your lives to spread the message of His love.

     I think as Americans, we often like to think that we can do everything ourselves, but the reality is we can’t get ourselves to heaven on our own, only Christ can lead us to heaven. We need the protection and guidance of our mother the Church to lead us to heaven. We need to root our lives in Holy Mass on Sundays and living as members of this parish community.

     We are blessed to live under the protection of our Mother the Church, but there are many people out there who do not know the motherly love of the Church. We must go out and share the loving message of Christ’s resurrection and the gift of our Mother the Church. People are searching everywhere that their joy might be complete, but we know they will only find the fullness of joy in Christ. Just as someone other than ourselves, whether it was a parent, friend, or someone else, lead us to the safety of the Church, we too must lead others to that same safety, so that our world may truly be a world full of joy and peace.

     My friends find your safety in the Church. Bring others to the protection of our Holy Mother the Church. Come to your mother the Church and have life and have it abundantly.

[1] MT 16:18

[2] Karol Wojtyla. The Meaning of Vocation. United States: Scepter Publishers, 1997. pg 20.

5th Sunday of Easter Year B

Acts 9: 21- 36 / Ps 22: 26-27, 28, 30, 31-32 / 1 Jn 3:18-24 / Jn 15:1-8

     The last conversation I had with my grandmother before she passed away was a simple one. My grandmother, who had very severe dementia, kept asking my brother and I “what do you want to be when you grown up?” Since I was only in 7th grade I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life, so my brother and I would tell her that we did not know, to which she would respond “you can be whatever you want to be when your grow up.” Due to her dementia, we must have had that conversation 50 times in a row, and while I’m sure it wasn’t her intention, that conversation forever drilled into my mind, the important lesson of the American dream, the belief that this country affords anyone who works hard enough the opportunity to succeed. While the American dream is one of the things that makes our country great, as with anything, if it is abused, it can lead to the deadly conclusion that each of us has the power to pull ourselves up by our bootstraps and succeed simply by ourselves.

     Today’s parable of the vine and the branches warns us against taking the American dream to the extreme, by being so overly independent that we reject the help of others. There simply is no room in our faith for believing that we can achieve our eternal reward by earning it on our own, after all our Lord is clear in today’s gospel when He says “without me you can do nothing.” It is really quite simple, “a persons development is compromised if he claims to be solely responsible for producing what he becomes.”[1] The problem with taking the American dream and making it a spiritual principle is the American dream promises worldly success, but if we want heavenly success we need the help of those who have already obtained their heavenly reward. I think all of us are pretty good at falling to our knees when things go bad; we turn to the Lord in times of illness or difficulty, but do we really believe that without Jesus we can do nothing. How often do our lives proclaim “without my work ethic, talent, money etc. I can do nothing.” When we fall into the trap of making the American dream a spiritual principle do we not say that we don’t need a savior? Do we not then say we don’t need Jesus?

     My friends, it is in our sinfulness, our poverty and our failures that we find space to hear God. How often do we grow closer to Him when we find ourselves against the wall? Is it not true that “God makes use of evil in such a superb way and with such skill that the result is better than if there had never been evil.”[2] Is it not when we face our greatest difficulties, when we find ourselves helpless and left with no other option that we often realize we are not in control and turn to God?

     Every time I go to Washington DC, I meet a friend of mine who works at the Pentagon for breakfast and then I ask him to take me to the Pentagon’s Hall of Hero’s. I have visited that wall more times than I can count, but every time I visit I find myself standing there in awe. There is something about that wall that for me defines the true American dream. Every time I stand their I cannot help but be thankful that these true American heroes understood that the true American dream is not about one’s own individual strength, but rather about persevering when their back was against the wall, so that a greater good could come from the great evil and difficulties they faced. Did you know that since the Civil War only three US military chaplains have won the Medal of Honor and all 3 of them are Catholic priests. I can’t say that surprises me, because as Catholics we know that God is present in the midst of our greatest difficulties and struggles so as Catholics even when things are at their darkest, we have hope, and uniting ourselves ever more closely to our Savior, without whom “we can do nothing,” we should find the strength to push on in complete trust and abandonment to the Father.

     One aspect of becoming a Christian, one aspect to abiding in Christ, is having to “leave behind what everyone else thinks and wants, the prevailing standard, in order to enter the light of the truth of our being and aided by that light to find the right path.”[3] We must remember “holiness does not stem so much from the effort of man’s will, as from the effort to never restrict the action of grace in one’s own soul.”[4] Jesus’ parable of the vine and the branches is a stark reminder to us that “Jesus always has victory when He has your abandonment He needs nothing more than that to bring about the Divine wonders that His Heart has prepared for you from all eternity.”[5] Regardless of where we are experiencing pains, sufferings, or weaknesses, we must allow faith, hope and belief to enter into that darkness, remembering that without Jesus we can do nothing. God truly uses those moments of weakness in our lives to call us to abandon ourselves to Him, so that being grafted onto Him we will bear heavenly fruit. May we never forget that “the Lord does not disappoint those who take this risk; whenever we take a step toward Jesus, we come to realize that he is already there waiting for us with open arms.”[6]

[1] Cardinal Ratzinger. Encyclical Letter Caritas in Veritate. Washington DC: US Conference of Catholic Bishops. (2009). par. 68

[2] Wilfrid, Stinssen. Into Your Hands, Father Abandoning Ourselves to the God Who Loves Us. San Francisco: Ignatius Press 2011. pg 15.

[3] Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger. Jesus of Nazareth Part II. San Francisco: Ignatius Press,2011. pg. 67.

[4] Karol Wojtyla. The Meaning of Vocation. United States: Scepter Publishers, 1997. pg. 10

[5] Fr. Jean CJ D’Elbee. I Believe in Love. Manchester: Sophia Institute Press. (2001.) pg. 89.

[6] Evangelii Gaudium pg. 1.

4th Sunday of Easter / Good Shepherd Sunday Year B

Acts 4: 8 -12 / PS 118: 1, 8-9, 21-23, 26, 28, 29 / 1 Jn 3:1-2 / Jn 10: 11-18

     If I asked you to pause for a moment and think about who God is, what image would pop into your mind? Perhaps some of us would have an image of God as a judge wearing a long black robe, perhaps others of us would see God as the kind grandpa sitting in His rocker chair, others maybe would see God as a great kingly ruler. In fact, I bet if I went around the Church we could come up with hundreds of different images for God and some of them would be better than others. While interesting, that exercise is not necessary because in today’s Gospel Jesus gives us His own image of God when He says “I am the good Shepherd.”[1]

     The image of the Good Shepherd is one of the most ancient images for our Lord. In the Old Testament God calls Himself the Good Shepherd, promising “I will pasture my sheep; I myself will give them rest.”[2] Our Jewish ancestors prayed regularly in the psalms “the Lord is my shepherd there is nothing I will want.”[3] The early Christians dearly cherished the image of Christ as the Good Shepherd because they understood the rapport that existed between a shepherd and his sheep. Sadly for most of us living in our high tech computerized world the significance of the relationship between a shepherd and his sheep is lost. In biblical times the shepherd lived as a nomad, sleeping next to his sheep and frequently traveling with them from one region to another as the seasons changed. It was the role of the shepherd to care for his sheep, by leading them to fresh pastures and water, finding shelter for them in inclement weather and being willing to risk his life to save them from bandits and beasts seeking to cause them harm. While sheep are simple animals they have great confidence in their shepherd. They recognize his voice and obeying his commands because without Him the Sheep would not survive.

     This beautiful image of Jesus as the Good Shepherd gives us a glimpse into who Jesus truly is. The Good Shepherd knows His sheep and they know Him. Our God is not some disconnected judge in the sky; no He knows our innermost selves and loves us with a personal love that treats us as though we are the only people who exist. The Good Shepherd loves His sheep so much that He freely gave His life for us.

     Sadly, living in the 21st century, we so often see ourselves as far advanced from the days of shepherds and sheep, but perhaps we are more like sheep than we care to admit. Whether we like it or not, the image of the Good Shepherd and His sheep is forever a part of our lives, after all Jesus Himself tells us He is the Good Shepherd and while we may not always appreciate the image, if we truly think about it, is it not really a truth that fits every generation? Does not every generation, no matter how independent they may think they are, need divine assistance to enter into our heavenly reward? Is it not true that “no one is strong enough to travel the entire path of salvation unaided? All have sinned, all need the Lord’s mercy, the love of the crucified one.”[4]

     God is not an evil judge sitting on a judgment bench, He is not a grandfather sitting in a rocking chair, He is who He says He is; He is the Good Shepherd. The Lord is clear, “my Sheep hear my voice; I know them and they follow me.”[5] To hear the Shepherd we must take time daily to turn off our electronics and put everything else on the back burner so that we can learn to recognize the voice of the Good Shepherd in the silence. If we want to be led towards the green pastures of eternal life we must spend some time every day sitting in prayerful silence, learning to recognize the voice of Jesus, the Good Shepherd and learning to follow Him with great joy and confidence wherever He may lead us.

[1] Jn 10:11

[2] Ez 34:15

[3] PS 23

[4] Pope Benedict XVI, Jesus of Nazareth Part II. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2006. pgs 151 – 152.

[5] Jn 10:27

Villa Duchesne / City House Alumnae Mass 2015

Acts 5:34 – 42 / PS 27: 1,4, 13-14 / Jn 6:1-15

     A few weeks ago I was at a cocktail reception talking with a couple about how to decide where to send their kids to high school. Like any good Catholic parent they simply wanted their children to grow up to be healthy, happy and holy, so I suggested they look at a school who has a track record of forming the whole human person, by encouraging them to look for a school whose alumni have a track record of giving completely of themselves.

     St. Madeline Sophie Barat, understood the sacred work of education, which is still carried on by the network of Sacred Heart Schools, is essentially tied to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. As Catholics we profess Jesus to be both fully God and fully Man. He is the fullness of humanity revealing the fullness of divinity. While none of us profess to be God, all of us are human and so if we want to be more holy, if we want to be more like God (the best definition I know of holiness), we will strive to be as authentically human as we possibly can. After all anything that helps us to become more perfectly human makes us more like God, who in the person of Jesus is both perfectly human and perfectly divine. I believe this is why St. Madeline Sophie Barat considered education to be such a sacred work, for in teaching not only theology, but math, history, the sciences, the fine arts, athletics, extracurricular, etc. we help people become more perfectly human and in so doing we help them to be more like God, to grow in holiness.

     When we look at the Gospels we see that Jesus lives His life to give it away. In fact while all of us come into this world to live, Jesus was the one human person who came into this world to die. The Sacred Heart of Jesus teaches us that to be fully human requires us to hand over our life by serving others “for whoever wishes to save his life will loose it, but whoever looses his life for my sake will find it.”[1] The education we have received is a gift given to us. Like the loaves and fishes in today’s Gospel, Jesus wants to take the education He gave us and through the witness of our lives multiply it so we can share it with those who are less fortunate. You see, in sharing the gifts and talents God has blessed us with and which were honed through our education, we can help others become more human, thus leading them to greater holiness and in giving we so often receive more than we can give, and thus become more human, leading us to greater holiness.

     The measure of the success of your education is the measure to which you share the principles of your Sacred Heart education with those who never had the privilege to attend a Sacred Heart School. Your education enables you to give something to someone else and in so doing you truly own your Sacred Heart Education. So today as we gather here around the altar where our Lord shares Himself with us, we give thanks to God for the gift of a Sacred Heart education, we give thanks for those who have labored after the example of St. Madeline Sophie Barat to pass that education on to others and we ask God to conform us more closely to His Sacred Heart, so that in becoming more authentically human, we can become more like Him and offer our lives in service to Him and the world.

[1] Mt 16:25

Second Sunday of Easter / Divine Mercy Sunday

     While Catholicism is by far the largest religion in the United States[1], the second largest religion in our country is sadly fallen away Catholics.[2] As I have watched many friends and loved ones walk out the door of our Catholic churches and into the Protestant mega churches I have tried to understand why. I think the answer is simple; these good people are searching for an encounter with God which, for one reason or another, they are not finding in the Catholic Church.

     I think at times, we as Catholics, forget that “being Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction.”[3] The Catholic faith is not about a set of rules and obligations, but rather about an encounter with the risen Jesus. I think at times all of us come to Mass on Sunday only out of obligation and while this is a good start, it completely misses the point. Coming here every Sunday out of an obligation is kind of like paying our car insurance bill. None of us like to pay the bill, but it’s simply too important to be without since we never know when we might need it. Now, I’m not saying the Catholic Church should get rid of obligations, after all it is these obligations that often serve as a life jacket which keep us afloat when our zeal and enthusiasm for the faith is failing, but each of us should have a desire for a deeper encounter with the risen Lord, one based in love not in obligation. Parents, how much joy would there be in your family if you only cared for your children out of a legal obligation and not out of love? Why should it be any different in our relationship with God?

     Sunday Mass is much more than an obligation, it is the closest encounter we can have with the risen Lord this side of heaven. The closest encounter we can have with the one who alone can bring us lasting happiness and peace. Just as St. Thomas’s anxieties were relieved when he was invited to put his hands in the side of Christ, so too our anxieties can be relieved when we are invited to receive the Lord in Holy Communion. Today’s Gospel recounts Jesus spending the first two Sunday’s after His resurrection with His apostles. Today’s Gospel account of the first Easter evening is repeated every time we gather to celebrate the Mass. At Mass Jesus comes to us disguised in the host, just as He came to His frightened friends in Jerusalem 2000 years ago, and gives us His peace. In just a few moments, after we recite the Our Father, the priest will say “Lord Jesus Christ, you said to your apostles, I leave you peace, my peace I give you,” and we will exchange the sign of peace. After the sign of peace we will receive our Lord’s Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity and strengthened by Him we will go forth, to share that peace He offers with the whole world. If we want an authentic encounter with the risen Lord, we must participate in the sacraments where God Himself comes to minister to us. We must remember that “the Church is sent by Jesus Christ as the sacrament of salvation offered by God.”[4]

     I don’t know about you, but at times I find religion frustrating. It seems that regardless of how hard I try to live my Catholic faith I seem to fail often and when I fail I feel far away from God. I feel far away from God because I take my eyes off the risen Christ and forget that He is the one who “is the victor over the world.”[5] I forget the truth that God the Father sent His Son into the world to undergo the Passion, Death and Resurrection we celebrated last week, as an act of mercy, so that you and I can be reconciled with Him. While yes, I, like all of you, fail daily; daily our Lord is their waiting to reconcile us to the Father in the sacrament of Confession, which the Lord Himself instituted in today’s Gospel when He commanded His disciples “Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.” Sadly so many people look for God’s mercy but run away from confession, the one instrument Jesus Himself assured us would forgive us of our sins and bring us peace. As Pope Francis so often reminds us “God never tires of forgiving us; we are the ones who tire of seeking his mercy.”[6] Like so many Catholics, I often find myself acting like Thomas, challenging our Lord to prove His love to me. Like Thomas I often want to see for myself, but like St. Thomas I have also learned that I only find the strength to believe when I return to the unity of the Church. Like Thomas I only find Jesus when I return to be with the Church. It is in gathering here, around this altar that I truly come to realize that “faith is joy, therefore it makes beauty.”[7]

     My friends, “each year, celebrating Easter, we relive the experience of the first disciples of Jesus.”[8] The celebration of Mass “is not just a commemoration of past events, or even a particular mystery, interior experience, but essentially an encounter with the risen Lord.”[9] Christ is truly risen, and from the risen Christ springs the sacraments of Baptism, Confession and Eucharist, which gives eternal life to all those approach these sacraments with true faith. “Let us welcome the gift of peace that the risen Jesus offers us, let us fill our hearts with His mercy”[10] so that “in this way, with the power of the Holy Spirit who raised Christ from the dead, we too can bring these Easter gifts to others.”[11]

[1] The Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life. Religious Landscape Survey. Religious Affiliation: Diverse and Dynamic February 2008. Available at http://religions.pewforum.org/pdf/report-religious-landscape-study-full.pdf

[2] Karen Mahoney. Why won’t my kids go to church. Archdiocese of Milwaukee Catholic Herald. Available at http://catholicherald.org/special-sections/parenting/10172-why-wont-my-kids-go-to-church.html

[3] Pope Benedict XVI, Encyclical Letter Deus Caritas Est. §1, http://w2.vatican.va/content/benedict-xvi/en/encyclicals/documents/hf_ben-xvi_enc_20051225_deus-caritas-est.html

[4] Pope Francis. Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium. §112. http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/apost_exhortations/documents/papa-francesco_esortazione-ap_20131124_evangelii-gaudium.html

[5] 1 Jn 5:5

[6] Pope Francis. Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium. §3.

[7] Pope Benedict XVI, Church Fathers and Teachers (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2010), 31.

[8] Pope Benedict XVI, Regina Caeli Address for Divine Mercy Sunday. 15 April 2012. http://w2.vatican.va/content/benedict-xvi/en/angelus/2012/documents/hf_ben-xvi_reg_20120415.html

[9] Pope Benedict XVI, Regina Caeli Address for Divine Mercy Sunday. 15 April 2012. http://w2.vatican.va/content/benedict-xvi/en/angelus/2012/documents/hf_ben-xvi_reg_20120415.html

[10] Pope Benedict XVI, Regina Caeli Address for Divine Mercy Sunday. 15 April 2012. http://w2.vatican.va/content/benedict-xvi/en/angelus/2012/documents/hf_ben-xvi_reg_20120415.html

[11] Pope Benedict XVI, Regina Caeli Address for Divine Mercy Sunday. 15 April 2012. http://w2.vatican.va/content/benedict-xvi/en/angelus/2012/documents/hf_ben-xvi_reg_20120415.html

Good Friday Stations of the Cross Homily

     At this hour when Jesus was lead out to die we, as Catholics, gather to prayerfully journey with Him to the cross recalling His triumphant passion and death. Today’s ancient devotion of the Stations of the Cross finds us waiting at the foot of the cross, for Easter Sunday. Resting at the foot of the cross should be normal for us; after all it is the vocation of every Christian to live at the foot of the cross. We have no option, “everyone in the world is either on or underneath the Cross. No escape is possible. Some are on it through physical suffering or because they are identified with the suffering of others in Christ’s name sake … others are beneath it, demeaning His crucifixion, ridiculing sacrifice, or being indifferent enough to play games under its shadow.”[1] The question is not will we stand at the cross, but rather what is our attitude to the cross. Will we look at Christ on the cross from afar or will we follow after Him and join Him on the cross? The Gospel accounts of the crucifixion show us that there are only 3 possible attitudes towards the cross, the attitude of antipathy, apathy, or empathy.

Like those who stood at the foot of the cross and said “let the Messiah, the King of Israel come down from the cross that we may see and believe,”[2] many people in today’s society approach the cross with antipathy. Countless Christians in our world want the creed without the cross, they cry out for the Lord to come down off the cross, ready to believe the faith it if means they don’t have to embrace the cross. Sadly we see this attitude towards the cross in many people who have bought into the prosperity Gospel, the belief that worldly success is the ultimate will of God for Christians and so rather than looking for a proof or an explanation of the faith they refuse the command to be crucified with Christ.[3]

     Like those who sat around the cross and cast lots for our Lord’s garment[4] many people today want to be spectators to the cross rather than follow Him to the cross. Sadly many people are so wrapped up in our busy culture that they rarely, if ever, stop what they are doing to practice their faith. Faith for them, is a nice thought, or some kind of cultural tradition that they may engage every now and then, perhaps at Christmas and Easter, but fail to take seriously. My brothers and sisters, if we truly believe that God suffered His most painful passion, as a pure act of love, and rose from the dead to save us, our faith simply cannot be regulated to the sidelines our life. The attitude of those who cast lots for our Lord’s cloths is simply illogical, we cannot accept the truth of the crucifixion and not allow it to radically transform our lives.

     The only proper attitude towards the cross is one of empathy, the attitude of sharing the feelings of the other. This is the attitude we see expressed by the Blessed Virgin, the women of the cross and St. John, who through their prayerful witness at the foot of the cross united their own pains and sufferings to the suffering of Christ on the cross. There is no doubt these holy women were looked down upon for standing at the feet of our Savior on the cross, but they were willing to stand up for the Truth even in the face of controversy. Do we run to the cross, when the going gets tough or do we flee? We must glory in the cross[5] because when we unite our sufferings to the suffering of Christ on the cross we are blessed to participate in the crucifixion of Christ and can cooperate with His grace for our good and the good of all His holy Church.”[6]

     As we prepare to journey with Jesus towards the cross, what will our attitude towards the cross be? Will we battle through the uneasiness and remain standing at the cross, or will we look to take the easy way out by trying to avoid the cross, or regulating the cross to the sidelines of our life. Today our Lord holds out salvation for us to merit with His grace, will we run to the cross or run from it? My friends the cross is not a curse to run from, but a witness to hope. Let’s not forget it is our vocation to sit at the foot of the cross, uniting ourselves to Him who endured the suffering for us so that we reap the merits of His crucifixion.

[1] Archbishop Fulton Sheen. Those Mysterious Priests. New York: The Alba House, 2005. pg. 101

[2] Mk 15:32

[3] Gal 2:19

[4] Mt 27:36

[5] Gal 2:20

[6] Roman Missal