Brothers and sisters, Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the Gospel, and not with the wisdom of human eloquence, so that the cross of Christ might not be emptied of its meaning.
This opening line from today’s reading from St. Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians is like a mission statement for the Passionist Family. The cross to some looks like failure and folly. To others it is an expression of the outpouring of God’s love for us. I know, that sounds like foolishness, as Paul suggests. For as ubiquitous the cross is – with or without a corpus – we would be justified in wondering if the cross has been “emptied of its meaning.”
Today would have been my youngest brother’s 56th birthday. But he died tragically at the age of 22. For the past 33 years, I have had to wrestle with the idea of “redemptive suffering.” Where is the wisdom of God in the folly of a senseless murder? How can good come from bad, life from death?
Yet, it has! I believe I am a more compassionate human being for having shared personally in the Passion of Christ. My brother’s death forced on me difficult questions about how I was going to live my life. The horror and sadness of that loss in our family endures. But we also realize that we are more closely bonded through our brother’s death. Did he have to die then? Of course not. Were we offended when some suggested that maybe God wanted him more than we did? Absolutely. Is there life that come from his death? We have to believe.
The Passionist Family can keep alive the memory of Christ’s Passion by taking a quiet, prayerful but hard look at the crucifix. Ponder it. See it for what it is, true suffering. But then see it for what it can be, a call to be the hands, eyes, heart, and words of Christ to the crucified and marginalized today.