The Convergence of the Mysteries and the ‘School of Love’
”It is not the finest wood that feeds the fire of divine love, but the wood of the Cross.” ~ Saint Ignatius of Loyola
First Friday brings with it the celebration of the great Saint Pope Sixtus II who, along with his Companions, was ambushed and subsequently beheaded while presiding over the Eucharist in a cavernous underground catacomb in the year 258. His papal reign fell 25 days short of a year, an otherwise alarming fact until one is presented with this very sobering statistic: every Pope up to and including Saint Sixtus II was martyred. This reality only serves to underscore Jesus’ message to his disciples in today’s Gospel (Matthew 16:24-28).
“Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me,” Jesus explains. “For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.“ He then gives those on hand a lesson in perspective, a perspective offered against the backdrop of eternity and rooted in judgement, the topic we focused on yesterday https://hubpages.com/religion-philosophy/JUDGEMENT-Coming-to-a-Soul-Near-You.
“What profit would there be for one to gain the whole world and forfeit his life?“ Jesus asks, going on to remind his disciples that “the Son of Man will come with his angels in his Father’s glory, and then he will repay each according to his conduct.“
Back in my gambling days, which seem so long ago, I always had my eyes peeled for the underdog, the “barking ‘dogs” as I used to call them. And although many of them had bark, far too few of them, when the game clock read 00:00, proved to have much bite. One of the perks of betting underdogs however was the possibility of achieving what gamblers like to call a “backdoor cover.”
Let’s say for instance that the Cincinnati Bengals are a 13 point underdog to the Baltimore Ravens. Let’s also assume that the game goes, for the most part, according to script. With about 3 minutes left in the game, the Ravens lead the Bengals by a score of 31-13, a blowout by any definition of the word (...except for the one used at women’s hair salons). The Ravens, with the game in the proverbial bag, begin to pull their starting players because they have a huge match-up the following week with their arch-rival the Pittsburgh Steelers and do not want to risk injuries to any of their key players.
The Bengals in the meantime are looking for what I used to call the “L’Oreal Touchdown,” named as such because it’s purpose is merely cosmetic; to make the final score a little less uglier and the game appear to have been far closer than it really was. So as the Ravens starters are on the sidelines hamming it up for the cameras, nailing down the post-game party location and putting the finishing touches on what will be their self-aggrandizing post-game Tweets, Cincinnati is quietly proceeding down the field against the Ravens’ newly employed “matador defense,” charging through them like an ambulance through pudding. The Bengals ultimately score a meaningless touchdown with less then a minute to play, which to those of you who do not know counts for 7 points, thus giving Bengal bettors an improbable and rather undeserved point spread winner. Through the backdoor as the expression goes.
But as we learn today, there is no backdoor play into Heaven; No Cross, no Crown. This is a tough pill to swallow for many. In light of the recent Hollywood College Admission Scandal, I’m quite sure there are some deep-pocketed actors and actresses who would gladly pay someone to lug their cross for them, making the huge assumption of course that the Hollywood elite even consider such things as judgement, Heaven, or hell. After all, if one would risk prison merely to get one’s child into a high-profile college, what would he or she pony up for a repercussion-free life, lived in the palatial and isolated lap of luxury, only to culminate in an effortless jaunt through the gates of Heavenly Paradise? As stayed earlier, we are for the most part highly adverse to suffering. Yet the harsh reality of the matter remains: we must endure suffer and embrace the crosses that God gives us.
Saint Paul of the Cross once said “the more deeply the cross penetrates, the better. The more deprived of consolation that your suffering is, the purer it will be; the more creatures oppose us, the more closely shall we be united to God.” “Oh cherished cross!,” he would go on to say. “Through thee my most bitter trials are replete with graces!”
Is it any wonder how this guy earned his nickname?
Today, very much like yesterday when we celebrated the Feast of the Transfiguration on a day in which those who are devoted to the Daily Rosary prayed over the Luminous Mysteries (of which the Transfiguration is one), we reflect upon the Cross on this the day that Rosarians contemplate the Sorrowful Mysteries. As the title of my essay suggests, the mysteries of our faith, collide and converge. If that weren’t enough, the picture I chose for today’s reflection was one that I took on my way out of Mass this morning. Sure, there are times when God seems distant and indiscernible, But there are times too when he speaks ~ loudly ~ revealing Himself in profound fashion.
Reflecting upon these mysteries is an excellent way to align one’s self with and subsequently embrace Jesus’ sufferings on the Cross. It is impossible, for instance, to emerge from a trip through the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary without cultivating a deeper love for Jesus; Mary too. Tomorrow we will celebrate the Memorial of Saint Dominic, a prolific proponent of the Rosary. It was Saint Dominic who famously said “one day, through the Rosary and the Scapular, Our Lady will save the world.” https://hubpages.com/religion-philosophy/One-Hail-Mary-at-a-Time.
Eucharistic Adoration is another great source of grace that is readily available to us. As Father John Riccardo likes to say “we cannot run this race without spending time with the Master.”
“The Cross is the school of love” said Saint Maximilian Kolbe, a man who was no stranger to devastating hardship, suffering, and ultimately, a martyr’s death. May we grow in the spiritual gifts of fortitude, understanding and self control so that we too can gracefully accept our Crosses with complete and total confidence in God’s will and love for us, a love that desires far more than mere Earthly trappings. It is a love that desires perfect and eternal Heavenly Glory.
Saint Pope Sixtus II and Companions, pray for us.