September 12: Christ’s Cross & Ours (24 B)

“For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and that of the gospel will save it.” Mark 8:27-35.

In Mark’s gospel, we hear the command to take up the cross and follow him. For Jesus and his band of followers, this marks a pivotal moment.

Last Sunday, as we introduced the school year here at Santa Catalina, I began highlighting features of our Rosary Chapel, the centerpiece of our campus. My hope is to make you familiar with this sacred space as well as comfortable with this weekly prayer service.

Today, let’s take special note of the cross above the altar. The crucifix is the most powerful symbol for Christians, a sign of suffering and death with the promise of new life and resurrection.

As I walked into church today, both the processional cross and the book of the gospels led us to the sanctuary area. This procession reminds us that we follow Christ and please notice how we walk behind the cross and how the body or “corpus,” as it is known, always faces outward. The Lord leads us into this holy presence.

The cross of Christ is our central focus as we listen to our Lord’s conversation with Peter. What a compelling statement; take up your cross and follow me! His statement may be the least attractive aspect of Christ’s challenging message because it is tough to do.

So much so that in the following line, we hear a Christian paradox found in the three of the narrative gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke.

“For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and that of the gospel will save it.”

Such emphasis lends weight to the idea that this may be a direct quotation from Jesus and perhaps an all-important “talking point” for followers along his journey.

Let’s consider the weight of the cross itself — yours and mine, and how we might best follow Christ on our journey with him.

Here’s a brief comment about “heavy-lifting.”

A friend of mine is considering a move back to Boston from here in California. Besides renting an apartment or the expense of buying a new home, comes an added factor: his treasured Yamaha Grand piano.

My friend Frank is a jazz pianist. Now the type of music he plays or the home and real estate deal is not the issue. Instead, Frank’s piano is a significant problem for him.

A Yamaha Grand piano can weigh anywhere from 750 to 1,500 pounds. To successfully move a piano cross country, you need experienced movers, a dolly for balance, and a strategy for the egress (out) and ingress (in) such a heavy load. Also, it would help if you considered vital factors such as the room’s size, the surrounding acoustics, and the construction of the floor to accommodate such a heavy instrument.

Typically, playing piano implies a solo performance, while the delicate act of moving a piano takes teamwork.

When our burdens or crosses trouble us like the weight of a Grand piano, we too have to size up the situation, take perspective, try our best to keep our balance, often requiring personal adjustments. No matter how heavy our crosses, this may be the moment to call on Jesus Christ.

Unlike playing piano, following Christ is not a solo act. Instead, we must draw on a community of believers. As cross-bearers, the gospel shows us that we are all journeying with the same Lord.

Systemic social problems continue to weigh down on our society – issues of fairness, justice, poverty, race, or crisis you cannot escape. These are crosses that challenge us enormously – and call for great courage, careful thinking, and prayer.

There is no effortless grace or quick solution when faced with the heavy burden of a child’s illness, the effects of bombing in war-torn places as in the Middle East, or the suffering and displacement of families because of the hurricanes, firestorms, natural disasters, and, of course, the Covid virus and worldwide pandemic.

Your future career and vocational choice could be made at the gospel’s service and spark the opportunity to heal and spiritualize the world.

So, here we are. We have a choice. Do I carry the cross? Or do we lift this cross in a fellowship of cross-bearers: sisters and brothers, all following the one who knows the way home. “Come, follow me,” he says.

Yesterday, on the occasion of the twentieth anniversary of the September 11th attacks on the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and the downing of United Airlines flight 93 in the fields of Shanksville, PA,  there were moving memorials across the country.

Among these commemorations was a concert performance of Verdi’s Requiem, performed by the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra and Chorus, under the direction of its conductor Yannick Nezet-Sequin. This was the very first performance in the Met Opera house since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic in March of 2020.

Listening to this brief selection, you better understand the power of the cross to ease our sorrows and know more deeply the role of the Catholic liturgy in helping us in our grief. Take a look:


Rosary Chapel, Santa Catalina School, Monterey, CA.

Sunday to Sunday is a documentary series about great preachers. For the past year, my production team and I have been carefully examining the lives of parishioners at Saint Monica’s Catholic Community in Santa Monica, CA. Our intent is to focus on the lives of service to the LA community and to a maternity hospital in Dandora, Kenya.

“On the Journey — Sunday to Sunday” recently has its premiere in Santa Monica on August 27. Please take a look, and I’m eager to hear your response to this video documentary. Take note of the scenes videotaped here at Santa Catalina.











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