Don't take the Cross for granted; it's what sets you free!

Young people make the sign of the cross on their foreheads during the closing Mass of the National Prayer Vigil for Life Jan. 18 at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington. (CNS photo/Bob Roller)

Creating a feast day card for one of the Sisters, one of my students suddenly paused after writing a block letter "t" and processed aloud, “t must be God’s favorite letter.” After a moment of trying to figure out what he meant, I realized he was reasoning based on the letter’s shape: ‘t’ forms a Cross.

Part of me paused as the full import of that statement began to hit me. The Cross — the place where Jesus, God Himself, suffered unimaginable tortures for our sake — this my student was claiming to be God’s favorite.

A priest recently told me in confession that as He carried the Cross to Calvary, Jesus had joy because of what lay at the end of the journey. What lay at the end of the Way of the Cross was not only horrific crucifixion and death but also glorious resurrection and salvation won for us. On the way to Calvary and upon the Cross, Jesus was thinking of each one of us — of you and me individually — and His deep sorrow over our sins, which led Him there, was met by His deep joy that He was saving us and setting us free.

Through baptism and confirmation, we ourselves have been sealed with the Sign of the Cross. This sign shows that we have been set apart for God, chosen and claimed by Him. We are His beloved sons and daughters, and the Trinity has come to dwell within us through the merits of Christ’s Cross, applied by Him to each of us through the sacraments. The Cross is the sign of Christ’s victory — a victory which becomes our own!

And yet how often we take the Cross for granted! We grow accustomed to seeing crucifixes in our churches and homes and often allow ourselves to become numb to the reality of Our Lord’s Passion as we “sanitize” His sufferings. We make the Sign of the Cross speedily and sloppily, rather than as a prayer reminding us of how we have been set free by the Cross at our baptisms and of how the Trinity dwells in us through love. Sometimes we even rush through the words, saying only, “Father, Son, Holy Spirit,” instead of taking the time to say the powerful and beautiful full prayer, “In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” When we take the Cross for granted in these ways, we fail to recognize both the tragic reality of our sins and the glorious reality of our salvation.

The next time you begin a prayer with this profound sign of God’s saving love for us, pray it intentionally. Think about the truths of our faith you are proclaiming. You have been claimed by Christ. You have been chosen as His own. With His “favorite” Sign — the sign of His victory — He has marked you as His favored one. You are His beloved forever!

Sr. Mary Martha Becnel is a member of the Ann Arbor-based Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist.


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