A reflection on the need for the Cross in the Christian life as we begin this Easter season, under the guidance of our new Holy Father, Pope Francis.
By Anne McGuire
Although the date Wednesday, March 13, 2013, may not immediately sound personally relevant, the significance of the day’s events will long be remembered. At about 2:00 in the afternoon (EST), white smoke poured out of the chimney of the Sistine Chapel, announcing to Catholics around the world that we had a new pope. We waited in suspense to find out the identity of our new Holy Father, unable to guess who the Holy Spirit had chosen to lead the Church. When it was finally revealed that the former Cardinal Bergoglio had been elected and had accepted, choosing the name Francis, we paused, uncertain of who he was. Yet in the course of hours, it became obvious that the Holy Father was not afraid to depart from the norm, yet his fatherly care continues in a similar spirit to his predecessors.
Pope Francis has charmed the world with his remarkable humility, which is illustrated through such unprecedented gestures as requesting prayers of the people for himself before giving the papal blessing. In his first homily, the Holy Father went straight to the heart of Christianity, which has remained the same from the beginning: the Cross of Christ. He said,
“When we walk without the Cross, when we build without the Cross, and when we profess Christ without the Cross, we are not disciples of the Lord. We are worldly, we are bishops, priests, cardinals, Popes, but not disciples of the Lord.”
Entering the Easter season, we recall the triumph of Christ’s Cross, and all that it has won for us. The importance of the Cross is as old as Christianity itself, and still – no, because of this – Pope Francis’ moving words stir our hearts to remember this life-changing truth of our Faith. The simplicity of the Holy Father’s teaching on the foundation of what it means to be a Christian naturally extends also to respect for human life in all stages, and as a cardinal he acknowledged, “We cannot embrace the culture of life if we do not put our roots in Jesus, if we are not united to Him as a branch to the trunk of the vine.”
Spurred by Pope Francis’ witness, we are provoked to look at our own lives. When we are living our day-to-day lives, do we embrace the Cross, which is the instrument of salvation that Christ gives to us? Do we seek to unite ourselves to Christ, allowing ourselves to be rooted in Him and allowing Him to direct our paths? When we encounter obstacles, challenges, or trials, do we give in to the temptation to wallow in discouragement, or do we allow even those moments to become moments of grace for us, reminding us of our complete dependence on the Lord?
As we begin this Easter season, celebrating the triumph of the Cross, let us take very seriously the Holy Father’s invitation “to walk in the presence of the Lord, with the Cross of the Lord: to build the Church on the Blood of the Lord, which is shed on the Cross, and to profess the one glory, Christ Crucified. In this way, the Church will go forward.”