The Church of Jesus Without the Cross

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What I write below I do in the first person for several reasons. For one, it occurs to me that it is true and I do well by saying so. For another, I suspect there may be others who have a similar problem, and yet it is presumptuous of me to include those who see no problem in my indictment of it. The Holy Spirit has been speaking through a megaphone to me recently. I guess I just need to adjust my own ear-trumpet and try to start listening.

Flannery O'Connor wrote in Wise Blood of Hazel Mote who wanted to found "The Church of God Without Christ." His goal was to undo some of the "damage" done by religion and by the "Christ-haunted" South.

I think too often that I want to belong to the Church of Jesus Without the Cross. That is I really do love Jesus, I accept all that I understand of what the Church teaches about Him, and the rest I agree to by faith even though my understanding is weak. I love the Eucharist and the rich treasury of the Church and I believe what she teaches. I even believe in the necessity of personal sacrifice.

Sort of. I believe in the abstract principle. But when it comes right down to it, I don't really want the cross. Every time its shadow looms, I run for cover. I turn to the gospels and spend time in the Garden with Jesus. I pray with Him, up to a point, and then I say, "Nevertheless Father, my will not thy will." I want protection. I want the "Be Happy" prosperity gospel of Robert Schuller and his ilk. I want to be transformed into the likeness of Christ, but if it involves even so much pain as a leg-waxing, I could do without it, thank you. Change me, but do it gently. Batter my heart three-personed God, but use nerf projectiles.

The shadow of the cross looms and I run from it. Or perhaps eventually I take it up, with long face and long sighs and much lamenting. Take this recent spate at work, where I will need to put in more hours for an extended period in order to accomplish our goals. I do this, but I make sure that the entire world knows how much I suffer and how meaningful that suffering is.

I take up my cross, but I do not embrace it. The sad fact of the matter is that there is no genuine love of Jesus Christ without willingly embracing everything that comes to me from His hand. Jesus did not reluctantly take up the cross, but as memorably portrayed in Gibson's film version, out of love, He embraced it for us all.

St Thèrése of Lisieux told us that the sacrifices need not be monumental. Bearing with the unbearable with a smile, sitting on a hard bench to talk to a friend in desperate need. Listening one more time to what you thought would drive you crazy a moment ago ("Jingle bells, Batman smells. . . " you get the picture). In the words of Don Quixote, "to bear with unbearable sorrow, to fight, the unbeatable foe."

I do not embrace the cross. I run from it. And until my cooperation with graces causes enough change in me to make embracing the cross a reality, my love for Jesus is incomplete. I must love Him as He loved me, even to the death of the Old Man and the resurrection of the new. And if that does not happen in this life, I have wasted my life. There is no love without sacrifice, personal, meaningful sacrifice of what I would rather.

So now I return to my overlong work week with a different perspective, one granted by this meditation. Perhaps I can make a worthy offering of this admittedly minor sacrifice. Perhaps I can start on my way today and embrace the cross as I wait for the coming of Our Lord Jesus Christ.

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This really meant something to me. Thank you for posting it.

I have a friend who made the "new year's resolution" (On the first Sunday of Advent, of course!) last year to stop complaining. She thought it too much to hope that she would stop thinking in her head the things she used to say out loud, but thought at least not complaining to others would be a START.

She says it is amazing how much that one little resolution changed EVERYTHING. By ACTING it, even though she didn't FEEL it, she began to feel more uncomplaining and ready to take what God gave.

I'm thinking and praying over that same resolution for myself.




About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Steven Riddle published on December 6, 2004 7:52 AM.

Trying Very Hard to Turn Off the Judgment was the previous entry in this blog.

A Reading Suggestion for the Year of the Eucharist is the next entry in this blog.

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