Central Idea: Salvation comes by way of the Cross. Doctrine: Taking up one’s daily cross – Christian holiness by way of the Cross. Practical Application: The necessary virtues of fortitude and temperance.
For the Lectionary 96 readings click here.
Central Idea: Salvation comes by way of the Cross
- Christ redeemed us from sin through his Cross, that is by what he suffered.
- Zechariah foresees Christ, this Son of David, whom his own people will put to death but who will become a “fountain” to purify from sin. His own people will mourn him like a lost only son.
- Zechariah foresees the piercing of the Son of David. When Christ was pierced with a lance by that Roman soldier, out flowed blood and water, “a fountain to purify from sin and uncleanness.” Christ’s followers lost Him who was the only son and firstborn, not only of his mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary, but also of God the Father.
- As the Psalm tells us, the condition of anyone who follows God is to thirst for him and to offer him thanks and praise because of his power, glory, and kindness.
- The human being has an innate desire for God. This can be seen in the experience that we endlessly seek satisfactions but nothing in this life can fully satisfy us.
- Often at the beginning of our faith journey, God gives the soul sweetness and consolation, to draw us to him. Also, often, God withdraws those blessings to purify our wills.
- Abraham is our father in faith. God promised Abraham at the beginning of his faith journey that he would make him a universal blessing. St. Paul reveals a dimension of that promise and something unheard of in the ancient world: The radical equality of every human being in Christ. Every person who is baptized into Christ has the same dignity. Men are not superior to women; the Jew is not superior to the Gentile; the free person is not superior to the slave.
- To be baptized into Christ means to be transformed from within—that is what God does. It also means to cooperate in that transformation by following him in his Passion—that is what we do.
- If you wish to be a follower of Christ, you must endure your own suffering, rejection, and death, in order to enjoy your own resurrection.
- This means self-denial, because no one naturally chooses suffering. This self-denial is daily because every day we are drawn away from God in small and big ways. But we can always return to Christ, that fountain of forgiveness.
- Sacrifice, even of good things, is the cost of salvation. But the end is to “on the third day be raised,” to lose your life to save it.
Doctrine: Taking up one’s daily cross–Christian holiness by way of the Cross
- We are called to holiness, achieved through devotion to God and service to neighbor in union with Christ. (CCC 2013-2014)
- “The way of perfection passes by way of the Cross. There is no holiness without renunciation and spiritual battle. Spiritual progress entails the ascesis and mortification that gradually lead to living in the peace and joy of the Beatitudes:
- [As St. Gregory of Nyssa put it] “He who climbs never stops going from beginning to beginning, through beginnings that have no end. He never stops desiring what he already knows.” (CCC 2015)
- When we make that conscious decision to follow Christ, wouldn’t it great if our lives suddenly became easy and problem-free? Instead what happens is life seems to become harder. This why we need ascesis, the practice of self-discipline in the spiritual life.
- You can’t think anything you want (like imagining taking revenge), look at anything you want (like nudity), eat and drink anything you want, say anything you want (like lies).
- Instead you are asked to think things that are hard (like forgiving past slights), look at things you don’t want to face (like your unconfessed sins), say things that are hard (like “I’m sorry”), and do things that are difficult (like give time, talent, and treasure) out of charity.
- As Fr. Robert Spitzer points out, this taking up our cross makes us real partakers in the life of Christ. We prove our love and loyalty. We enhance our own dignity.
- Two of the key virtues that are required for taking up one’s cross are fortitude and temperance.
Practical Application: The necessary virtues of fortitude and temperance
- Fortitude is courage in the face of fear and toughness in the face of pain. Temperance is self-control when presented with any pleasure.
- While we should not foolishly throw ourselves into danger unnecessarily, and while there are situations we ought to avoid and even run from, whenever there is something we have a duty to do but are afraid, God asks us to face it. That is courage.
- God also asks us to endure pain and toil when we have a duty to act or to keep on acting.
- The Passion of Christ is the supreme example of courage and perseverance endured for love. In agonizing fear, Christ sweated blood in the Garden of Gethsemane. Then he endured that cruel catalog of suffering. To take up your cross and follow him means courage and toughness for love.
- Seeking pleasure is natural to us and we can’t live without it. But the way of holiness also means rejecting evil pleasures like carnality, drunkenness, cruelty, and domination. This is one dimension of temperance.
- Temperance also asks us to forgo even innocent pleasures if love of God or neighbor requires it. For example, the Church asks us to do some act of penance every Friday. If you chose to fast, likely you will suddenly be thinking of all the delicious things you won’t be enjoying. That calls for temperance.
- A mother with young children might desire to just sit down and enjoy a quiet cup of tea, but her love and care for her children keep her up on her feet attending to their needs. By doing so, she’s growing in fortitude and temperance, carrying her daily cross—sometimes light and sometimes quite heavy—and cooperating in her own salvation and that of her family.
- Fortitude and temperance are important virtues for any person who wants to accomplish anything. They are necessary for each follower of Christ in order to obey the Lord’s new commandment to love one another with a spirit of sacrifice, taking up one’s cross daily.
- Please leave a comment. Let’s get a discussion going!