Central idea: 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.
To view Lectionary 96, click here.
Central idea: The Cross
Reading 1 Zec 12:10-11; 13:1
Thus says the LORD:
I will pour out on the house of David
and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem
a spirit of grace and petition;
and they shall look on him whom they have pierced,
and they shall mourn for him as one mourns for an only son,
and they shall grieve over him as one grieves over a firstborn.
On that day the mourning in Jerusalem shall be as great
as the mourning of Hadadrimmon in the plain of Megiddo.
On that day there shall be open to the house of David
and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem,
a fountain to purify from sin and uncleanness.
- Seen from the perspective of Christianity, the prophet Zechariah offers us a tremendous vision of Jesus Christ crucified.
- In the Passion of Christ, the inhabitants of Jerusalem did look on him whom they pierced. Some of them did mourn over him. He was the only son and firstborn of Mary and of God (though in different ways). And through the Sacrament of Baptism, a fountain was opened for every citizen of Israel and for all those who would be incorporated into citizenship in the New Jerusalem, the Church. This fountain of grace does “purify from sin and uncleanness.”
Responsorial Psalm Ps 63:2, 3-4, 5-6, 8-9
R. My soul is thirsting for you, O Lord my God.
O God, you are my God whom I seek;
for you my flesh pines and my soul thirsts
like the earth, parched, lifeless and without water.
Thus have I gazed toward you in the sanctuary
to see your power and your glory,
For your kindness is a greater good than life;
my lips shall glorify you.
Thus will I bless you while I live;
lifting up my hands, I will call upon your name.
As with the riches of a banquet shall my soul be satisfied,
and with exultant lips my mouth shall praise you.
You are my help,
and in the shadow of your wings I shout for joy.
My soul clings fast to you;
your right hand upholds me.
- Man desires God. He may attempt to crush this desire. He may confuse this desire with money, power, pleasure, honor, glory, work, art, sports, or any other real or apparent good. But the underlying desire for God always remains.
- Sound philosophy, Divine Revelation, and personal experience teach us that the satisfaction of this thirst for God can be partly satisfied in this life. Divine Revelation teaches us that it can be fully experienced in the next.
- A Christian’s interior life begins with this need for God. This inner life grows with the experience of God in this life.
- The Church’s liturgy is certainly not the only way we offer proper worship of God. But the Mass is the preeminent way and the necessary way. We gaze on Him in the sanctuary, bless Him, praise him, glorify him, call upon Him in our needs, and receive him in Holy Communion.
- This parish church is our temple. This Mass is our temple sacrifice.
Reading 2 Gal 3:26-29
Brothers and sisters:
Through faith you are all children of God in Christ Jesus.
For all of you who were baptized into Christ
have clothed yourselves with Christ.
There is neither Jew nor Greek,
there is neither slave nor free person,
there is not male and female;
for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
And if you belong to Christ,
then you are Abraham’s children,
heirs according to the promise.
- Abraham is our father in faith in God. God promised Abraham that through him all the nations would be blessed. We are heirs to this promise through our Baptism into Christ. Regardless of our status in the eyes of the world we are all equally heirs of this blessing.
Gospel Lk 9:18-24
Once when Jesus was praying by himself,
and the disciples were with him,
he asked them, “Who do the crowds say that I am?”
They said in reply, “John the Baptist;
still others, ‘One of the ancient prophets has arisen.’”
Then he said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”
Peter said in reply, “The Christ of God.”
He scolded them
and directed them not to tell this to anyone.
He said, “The Son of Man must suffer greatly
and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes,
and be killed and on the third day be raised.”
Then he said to all,
“If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself
and take up his cross daily and follow me.
For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it,
but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.”
- Our Lord asks his disciples perhaps the most important question that that can be asked about him: who is he? But this one question is actually two. First, who is Jesus objectively or who is he really? And second, who is Jesus subjectively to each one of us or who do we think he is? Given that truth for human beings is the correspondence between thought and thing we want both answers to be correct.
- At the time they asked, the disciple knew that objectively their Lord was the Messiah, the one sent by God to redeem Israel: that was enough for then. Later, they and we could learn that he is the savior of the world and the only-begotten Son of God, consubstantial with the Father and the Holy Spirit.
- One of the goals of the Christian life is that, over time, we get to know the real Christ so that who we say he is corresponds more and more to who he is.
- At the time Christ foretold his Passion—that he would redeem the world by suffering—his disciples could hardly grasp his words. They really didn’t know who he was.
- Christ gives his disciples and all of us the pattern of our Christian lives: to take up our own cross daily, denying ourselves.
- Mostly what Christ asks us to deny are the good things we imagine sin would give us. They also include actual good things that conflict for a time or permanently with loving God above all and our neighbor as ourselves. Taking up our own cross may also mean literally laying down our physical lives.
- What a huge honor God pays to us in that he allows us to participate in our own redemption and that of everyone else by daily taking up our cross.
Doctrine: Taking up one’s daily cross–Christian holiness by way of the Cross
- Each of us is called to holiness, to be 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 media 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.
Written as an aid for homilists and a resource for the faithful, this doctrinal homily outline (1) provides insights into the Lectionary readings, (2) explicates a doctrine of Catholic Faith or morals from them, and (3) shows specific ways lay persons can live these truths. (To read more about this approach, click here.)
This outline is written to be in accord with the Homiletic Directory issued by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments (2014). (To read an excellent summary of the Homiletic Directory, click here.)