During the past week, Thursday the 14th of September, we celebrated the great feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross. This weekend we continue that celebration and venerate the Cross of Christ.
Our Epistle reading is taken from the letter of Paul to the Galatians. In it he has these words:
…knowing that a man is not justified by legal observance but by faith in Jesus Christ, we too have believed in him in order to be justified by faith…. I have been crucified with Christ, and the life I live now is not my own; Christ is living in me. I still live my human life, but it is a life of faith in the Son of God….
Indeed similar words should be on the lips and in the heart of each and every Christian. Paul indeed shows us how to think as a Christian and how to live.
Our second reading, taken from Mark’s Gospel, presents the doctrine of the Cross. Mark summarizes the doctrine of the Cross in this manner:
If a man wishes to come after me, he must deny his very self, take up his cross, and follow in my steps…. Whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will preserve it.
The story of the Cross of Jesus is perhaps the greatest story every told since it tells us humans how to live life. It is a story of great faith in God and great personal strength. Jesus was a man who truly lived what He believed and He clearly showed us how to live. It is a story about what is possible for human beings if they hope and trust in God.
I know that many will immediately say that Jesus was able to endure His crucifixion because He was God. That is not what our faith tells us. He truly endured crucifixion because of the way that He embraced life and what He thought about the meaning and purpose of life. He did not endure the crucifixion the way that He did because He is God.
I know that this may be difficult for some to believe. Our human instinct is to deny that a human could go through what Jesus did only because of His faith. We don’t want to believe that He endured what He did simply as a human person. We don’t want to believe any differently because it would mean that we too could live like He did. Our faith tells us that He endured all as truly a human.