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Missionaries of the scandalous cross

Photo: Stephen Brashear Photo: Stephen Brashear

Paradoxical wisdom

No cross without Christ

When no one expects it, when they are least prepared for it, that is precisely when the hidden monster of terrorism reappears. The goal of this horrible monster is to ensure that we always live in fear.

The Romans invented crucifixion to instill fear in all breakers of the law, and they imposed it in the territories they conquered, including the land of Jesus. Their methods created villages that were submissive, but which internally harbored rancor and resentment toward their oppressors. Their crosses were emblems of death and destruction.

Jesus turns the cross into a paradoxical and attractive instrument of life: “And when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself.” (John 12:32)

The shadow of the cross was present in the cultural ambience of Jesus, disseminating fear. Upon discerning the saving will of God, his Father, Jesus forged a new wisdom with that instrument of fear from which all fled, teaching us to walk toward the cross, teaching us how to embrace the cross in order to convert it, through love, into a fount of life.

The cross of Jesus is not an invitation to be submissive or masochistic when faced with injustice and suffering. By uniting himself to the cross in a loving embrace, Jesus transformed it into a new weapon that is capable of giving life, the weapon that is capable of defeating those who establish their power through violence by their own hand, their blinding beauty, their overwhelming intelligence or the seduction of their worldly riches.

The cross of Jesus is a scandal to the Jews and foolishness the Gentiles, but for believers of all races and nations, it is the strength and wisdom of God. (see 1 Corinthians 1:22-24)

For those who believe in Jesus, we are ready to become missionaries of the cross. Missionaries of that scandalous cross that carries Jesus, a cross that is not empty, a cross that has acquired a new dimension — a loving dimension that transforms suffering into joy and pain into perfection of life, only if it originates from love that is self-giving as Jesus taught us.

There is no Jesus without the cross

As believers, we cannot be authentic missionaries if we do not boldly preach “Christ, and him crucified,” resplendent by the coherence of our lives and the faith we profess. (1 Corinthians 2:2)

To be missionaries of Jesus is to be missionaries of the cross. Only if we have had a loving and personal encounter with Jesus, like the apostle Paul and all of the women and men we call saints, will we be capable of joyfully embracing the cross. If not, the cross becomes terror and death. That loving encounter of Jesus gives new wisdom to the presence of the cross in our lives. St. Paul eloquently expresses this paradox in the First Letter to the Corinthians saying: “Consider your own calling, brothers. Not many of you were wise by human standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. Rather, God chose the foolish of the world to shame the wise, and God chose the weak of the world to shame the strong, and God chose the lowly and despised of the world, those who count for nothing, to reduce to nothing those who are something, so that no human being might boast before God.” (1 Corinthians 1:26-29)

The cross of suffering in our own lives will become scandal for us if as missionaries we don’t embrace it as an instrument that frees us from spiritual death. “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather, be afraid of the one who can destroy both soul and body in Gehenna.” (Matthew 10:28)

Before the terrifying manifestations of violence in our society today, we, missionaries of the scandalous cross of Jesus, will continue to trust that the same Jesus who defeated death, nailed to a cross for love, will give us the strength to continue serving, to continue searching for new forms of forgiveness, reconciliation, fraternity, justice and joy with that wisdom that can only come from God.

The holy women and men who have had a loving encounter with Jesus know that lovers share their most intimate joys and sorrows. That is why the Venerable Conchita Cabrera of Armida lovingly reproached her beloved Jesus saying, “If you don’t give me your cross and thorns, then don’t say that you love me.”

Mary shared that intimate and silent cross in Nazareth and also in Calvary, in the saving love of her son.

Read the Spanish version of this column.

Northwest Catholic - March 2018

Bishop Eusebio Elizondo

Eusebio Elizondo, M.Sp.S., is auxiliary bishop of Seattle and vicar for Hispanic ministry.

Eusebio Elizondo, M.Sp.S., es obispo auxiliar de Seattle y vicario para el ministerio hispano.

Website: www.seattlearchdiocese.org/Archdiocese/auxiliaries.aspx
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