Friday Focus: Cross Purposes
As we have explored in previous gospels this year, Jesus is all man and all God. This week the human Jesus comes face to face with human mortality. In time it is a situation we will all face…hopefully at a very advanced age, surrounded by loved ones and eased into a gentle passage. That’s not what confronts Jesus. He knows that his death is imminent. It will be brutal and tortuously protracted. He will be betrayed and abandoned, humiliated and ridiculed. In his agony he will be made a laughing stock. Naturally, Jesus, our human brother, is tormented by this impending ordeal. He reflects that: Now my soul is troubled. And what should I say – ‘Father, save me from this hour’?
Through it all he remains faithful to the will of the Father. He knows who sent him and why. At age twelve he told Mary and Joseph that he: must be about my Father’s business. On the banks of the Jordan, as he begins his public life the Father affirms: You are my Son, the Beloved, with you I am well pleased. In his early miracles even the unclean spirit cries out: you are the Holy One of God. In successive sermons and miracles and spectacularly at the Transfiguration, Jesus clearly knows his purpose. And in the gospels of the last few weeks he’s been filling in more of the blanks for us. He is the temple that will be torn down and rebuilt in three days. He is God’s love incarnate sent that we: may not perish but may have eternal life.
And now the cross beckons. He knows that he will be lifted up in sacrifice. But he sees past the torment. He knows he will be cut down like a grain of wheat. But he can also see the bountiful harvest of his sacrifice…successive generations of Christians following his call, living in his love. Clearly we were not baptized into the body of Christ to let it wither.
Like Jesus, we too must come face to face with the Father’s purpose for us. How does it fit with our ideas, our plans, our priorities? More fundamentally, do we even have a purpose and direction? Or are we just more or less advanced, task-oriented primates, grazing our way through life, seeking pleasure, avoiding pain? What we do defines what we are. Christians follow Christ. If that is what we are, then it must also be what we do. In Acts Paul shares with us this perspective on understanding and acting on God’s purpose for us: My life is worth nothing unless I use it for doing ...the work of telling others the Good News of God’s wonderful kindness and love.
None of us has the inspired gift to preach as Paul did. But our lives can do the preaching for us. Live today with that purpose. Leave everyone you see with more love for having seen you. Take every opportunity to be kind, to be courteous, to be caring. Don’t be too busy to listen. Don’t be too hurried to help. Don’t be too timid to proclaim him. If you don’t have an opportunity, make one. Make this day a continuous prayer to the glory of God.
Jesus was not lifted up on the cross, for us to skate selfishly into heaven. Our salvation is not all take and no give. We are not just the beneficiaries of Christ’s passion; we are the ongoing instruments of his sacred mission. The purpose that brought Jesus to the cross is our purpose now. Like Jesus we know who sent us and why. His love is our legacy and our reason for being.
God love you!