Last Sunday the Church celebrated an important feast, “The Triumph of the Cross”. The cross is a very powerful symbol. It speaks to us not just of vulnerability and human suffering but it is also a sign of hope…

Fr Paddy Byrne has a weekly column in the Carlow Nationalist.
This column appeared on 19 September 2008

Last Sunday the Church celebrated an important feast, called “The Triumph of the Cross”. As followers of Christ we are called at different times, in our lives, to pick up our crosses and follow him.  Jesus, Our Lord and Saviour, embraced the cross of pain and humiliation, in order to identify with perhaps the most wounded and rejected in all our communities.

The cross is a very powerful symbol. It speaks to us not just of vulnerability and human suffering but more importantly it is also a sign of hope, resurrection, compassion and deep love. As Christ died in the humble surrounds of prisoners and a scatter of frightened followers, his prayer was one of forgiveness, compassion and indeed empathy with the most bruised and broken, his prayer, and “Today you will be with me in paradise”. For this reason the Cross is a radical symbol of liberation, freedom and justice. The cross should make us uncomfortable when we consider the many injustices and inequalities that are part and parcel of the experience of modern living.

As we journey through life, the cross is certainly unavoidable. The cross of ill health, that many in our community have to live with, brings with it discomfort, uncertainty and often fear. The broken and bruised Christ dying on the cross speaks loudly to all our sick brothers and sisters, his words of gentleness and love, brings to those who hear his voice a sense of courage, a hope and peace that God is with us and we are not alone. The cross of bereavement is a painful and difficult burden for many to carry.

The pain of loss and the emptiness that comes to visit us when someone we love dies, brings us to a lonely and somber place, Jesus on the cross offers great light to all who are bereaved. His dying words promise new life and resurrection in a spirit of great empathy and compassion to all people

“There are many rooms in my father’s house; I am going now to prepare a place for you so that where I am you too may be,”

Many in our society feel the heavy cross of judgments and prejudice placed upon their shoulders. Last week I read on this very paper, a member of a town Council, suggested the use of guns and violence in response to the travelling community’s presence in the parish of Bagenalstown where I live and minister. Christ on the cross befriends first those who are ridiculed and hated. The Cross challenges us to love at all times, for this reason the cross is truly radical.

When I reflect about the cross, I am quickly reminded of my friend Des who died recently. Des was a powerful man of faith and love, who carried the cross of terminal cancer with a great determination to get well again. His cancer immobilized his active life and for the last number of weeks before his death he was confined to his bed. His eyes remained fully alive despite his great pain and suffering. Some days previous to his death we prayed to Jesus on the cross as we concluded our prayer Des spoke his final words to me,

“God is good and worthy to be praised”.