OUR THEME FOR 2014 (Part 40): THE GOSPEL OF THE CROSS

FROM THE SERVANT GENERAL
 
OUR THEME FOR 2014
(Part 40)
 
THE GOSPEL OF THE CROSS

May 20, 2014

Today’s readings:
Acts 14:19-28
Psalm 145:10-21
John 14:27-31

We are called to be saints, martyrs and warriors. These are the three necessary aspects of being a true Christian. Responding to the call and striving to become these then empowers us to witness. We can then see the effectiveness of our work of evangelization, just as the early disciples experienced, as “they had proclaimed the good news to that city and made a considerable number of disciples” (Acts 14:21a). There will be a rich harvest.

Now the thread that weaves through the aspects of being saints, martyrs and warriors is the cross. It is suffering and pain. The cross purifies us and brings us to sanctification. The cross accompanies us as we witness to Jesus, face the opposition and oppression of the world, and are persecuted and even martyred. The cross is the banner under which we march against a powerful enemy, ending up often being bruised and bloodied in battle.

Here is the basic reality: “It is necessary for us to undergo many hardships to enter the kingdom of God.” (Acts 14:22b). Notice that this was the exhortation of Paul and the other disciples, by which “they strengthened the spirits of the disciples and exhorted them to persevere in the faith” (Acts 14:22a). This is how Paul encouraged others. He did not proclaim the gospel of prosperity, but rather that of the cross!

The prosperity gospel will bring us to the world. The gospel of the cross will bring us to the Lord. The more we encounter hardships and trials in trying to live out the fullness of our faith, then the more that God will be there for us. “The Lord supports all who are falling and raises up all who are bowed down.” (Ps 145:14).

As we struggle with the call to holiness and being saints, all the more we seek God, we long for God, we strive to enter more deeply into God’s presence, we desire to embrace God with our whole strength. Here is the truth: “The Lord is near to all who call upon him, to all who call upon him in truth.” (Ps 145:18). But we need to realize the truth of our call. It is a call to embrace his cross.

As we struggle with the call to be witnesses and being martyrs, as we face opposition and oppression, all the more we cling to God, we cry out to God in our anguish and pain, we seek God’s protection and consolation. Here is the truth: “He fulfills the desire of those who fear him; he hears their cry and saves them.” (Ps 145:19). But we need to fear the Lord, to be in awe of Him, and to know that in God, especially in the cross of Jesus, is our salvation.

As we struggle with the call to mission and being warriors, all the more we trust in God, we know that God leads us in battle, we stand on the reality that God is our protector and shield, we know that God has already won the victory and we share in that victory. While Satan is the strong man, Jesus is the stronger man. Jesus assures us: “the ruler of the world is coming. He has no power over me” (Jn 14:30b). Here is the truth: “The Lord watches over all who love him, but all the wicked he destroys.” (Ps 145:20). But we need to really love God, giving Him our all, and trusting that He wants only the best for us, even as that includes the cross.

We are to be saints, martyrs and warriors. This call is very challenging and difficult. But Jesus tells us, “Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid.” (Jn 14:27c). We are to be at peace and to be always joyful. We have the peace of Christ. “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.” (Jn 14:27a). This is not the peace of the world. “Not as the world gives do I give it to you.” (Jn 14:27b). The world sees peace in terms of a cessation of hostilities. But that is not true peace, not the shalom that is a gift of salvation. The peace of Christ in fact involves continued wielding of the sword, a continuing engagement in spiritual warfare. Thus there is always the cross.

We are called to the New Evangelization. Still lounging comfortably and sipping your pina colada at the Country Club? “Get up, let us go.” (Jn 14:31b).

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