does it mean to be Christian?
Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
it mean to be truly Christian? Is it about music, buildings, or even
service to others? Our Lord gave the answer. We must take up our own
cross and follow Him. Without that, our worship is empty. Without
that, the most splendid choir is mere entertainment, and the greatest
service means absolutely nothing. Taking up our own cross and
following the Lord, however, does not mean merely sitting in the pews
on Sunday. Singing in the choir is insufficient, too. Giving money to
the work of the Church is not enough, even in our commercialized
society. Our worship on Sundays and Holy Days must be active. Christ
must be the center of all that we do each and every day of the week.
Abbot Leonard Giardina, OSB, had the most simple and eloquent way of
putting this that I have ever heard. To experience what he said
yourself, take a crucifix and look at Christ hanging on the front.
Then turn the crucifix around and see the empty back. You must be
willing to hang right there on the cross with our Lord. That is what
it means to be a Christian. What a beautiful thing that is!
experience this closeness to Christ first and foremost through the
mass, for it is there that we witness and join with the true and
living Sacrifice of our Lord upon the Cross. This is the most
magnificent thing the Church has to offer. The entire ministry of the
Church begins at the altar. Nothing in the world can take the place
of the mass. No other sacrament means anything without it. Baptism
does not, for without Christ on the Cross, there would be no Church
to join. Matrimony does not, for there is no Christian sacrament of
marriage without our Lord's Passion. Ordination does not, for without
the Cross, there would be no Sacrifice to live, no Church and no
Christian ministry. Holy Unction and Penance would not, for without
the Cross, there would be no Resurrection and no hope for the
remission of sins and victory over the grave.
up our own cross, by being willing to hang right there alongside
Christ, we begin to live in Christ and for Christ. From there and
only from there we may live the Great Commandment of our Lord, that
we love one another. What greater love can anyone have than God the
Father, who sent our Lord and Savior to the world as a man? What
greater love can anyone have than our Lord, who suffered and died for
the remission of our sins? This is true love and the kind of pure
love that can only be expressed by one who is willing to hang on the
Cross with our Lord. Mere human emotion is insufficient and will
always leave a void.
purpose, all things in your life must originate from the Cross of
Christ, and you must be there alongside our Lord. To achieve true
joy, you must be willing to suffer alongside Christ. This is the
plain and simple essence of the Christian Faith. May your life be
enriched greatly through it that you may attain to the eternal reward.
Yours in Christ,
Card. v.r.p. I
of St. Stephen