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Faith isn’t easy but what worth having or doing is?
Without faith, we can see nothing. With Faith? Great wonders.
As we head into Lent, our Sunday school class is studying Christian symbolism. One of the first symbols that we studied was the Cross which is actually 400 different symbols.
In my mind, the cross has always been a comfort. Perhaps this was because I was raised by women who looked out for me both physically and spiritually. They wore crosses and reminded me that God was always there for me, watching out for me, guiding me and listening to me.
I was surprised to learn that the Cross wasn’t used by Christians until the fourth century when crucifixion was outlawed and Christianity was legalized. Until then, they cross, my cross, was a symbol of torture and execution. Only the very worst criminals were crucified. It was a symbol of shame. And Christ, the Messiah, the Redeemer, had died on a cross.
Nailed up like a murderer.
Imagine what that had to feel like for His followers. The shame and horror of seeing him hung up there, suffering and dying. The self-recriminations – what could I have done differently? Does this mean that all he preached, all that I’ve believed and hoped was . . . wrong?
The cross didn’t symbolize anything good until much, much later.
As we enter Lent, I’ve been thinking about what the cross means in the US today. Is it the signing of a loving Christ, drawing in those in need? Calling the little children to him? Because that’s what it means to me. As I pray, I can look at the cross and feel myself relax. This is my refuge. My source of strength.
But is that how it feels to the transgender teen who is agonizing over what bathroom to use in school? Does it mean hope to refugees from war-torn countries? Those who are just trying to reunite with brothers and sisters, children and spouses?
To many of these people it means judgement and recrimination. It means despair and sparks fear.
Two thousand years and we’re right back where we started, but it isn’t where we have to be. The meaning of this powerful symbol has changed in the past. It can change again in the future. It can truly become the Cross of Christ, drawing in those in need, calling to the children.
How I love our Pope! Did anyone expect such a firebrand? He stands with the poor, the oppressed, the marginalized. He stands with our Mother Earth. And this week, he made a pronouncement that’s sure to send conservatives into a lather: He said, essentially, that it is better to be an atheist than a hypocritical Catholic.
What’s a hypocritical Catholic? Let’s speculate. Perhaps it is a person who claims to follow Christ but does not welcome him in the form of immigrants. Perhaps it is a person who vows to respect all life, but doesn’t believe in providing help to those in need or protecting our planet from those who seek to plunder it for profit. Heck, maybe it’s me — I’m far from perfect. Whoever or whatever the hypocritical Catholic is, the Pope’s words are a challenge to us: Put your money where your mouth is. If you talk the talk, you better walk the walk. If you want to truly follow Christ, you better leave your ivory tower or diamond-encrusted cage and get down in the dirt with the least of God’s children.
I know several atheists. They are good people. They do good not because they believe in a theological or religious system, but because doing good makes sense to them. Because they want the world to be a better place. Even the most embittered atheists have to make moral choices. That they would make positive ones, without any spiritual model to back them up, is nothing short of wonderful.
And yet, supposedly Christian and Catholic people make bad choices all the time. I can think of several Catholics in government positions who think cutting health care, Medicare and assistance to the poor is a sound fiscal and moral idea. Sure, our country was founded on the separation of church and state. But if being a Christian Catholic is who you are at your core, it ought to drive everything you do, right?
Jesus was known for calling people out on uncomfortable realities. It seems Pope Francis is walking in his footsteps. That’s a very good thing.
Carry God’s love into the day and you will be carrying fire!
You. Just use the gifts God gave you.