Date: Sunday, April 10, 2022
During Lent a woman after morning Mass told me of her experiences as a catechist of first graders. She was teaching the sign of the cross and boy stood in the back of the class with his arms outstretched. She asked him to sign the cross with the rest of the class. He exclaimed: “I am the sign of the cross.” Wisdom from the mouth of a child. The Gospel accounts of Jesus’ passion (arrest, trial, and crucifixion) are so compelling, if we allow them to enter our minds and hearts, will transport us to that place even to the point of sharing the emotions of the people involved in Jesus’ horrific execution. The “cross” is a sign or symbol of the deeper meaning of the suffering and death of Jesus and, at the same time, points to his resurrection.
Listening to the Lucan Passion Narrative, we discern that even during the last hours of his life, Jesus practices what he preaches. He prays that God’s will be done; he heals the severed ear of the servant of the high priest; he comforts women as he carries the cross; he asks his Father to forgive those responsible for his death; and he personally forgives the rebel criminal crucified next to him, “Today you will be with me in Paradise.”
At the very end, St. Luke tells us that Jesus cries out in a loud voice, “Father into your hands I commend my spirit.” When he says this, Jesus breathes his last. In turn, God the Father sends/gives us the Spirit of Jesus. We are entrusted with the ministry of reconciliation. Pope Francis, when he consecrated Ukraine and Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, stressed that we can not neglect reconciliation, but rediscover it as the sacrament of joy. “… our shame for our sins becomes the occasion for an experience of the warm embrace of the Father, the gentle strength of Jesus who heals us, and the ‘maternal tenderness’ of the Holy Spirit. That is the heart of confession.”
When we make the “sign of the cross” we are recalling the redemptive death of Jesus on the cross and, when we say the words, “In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit,” we are expressing our faith in the mystery of Divine Mercy, the Trinity, God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We can only dare to say, “Amen.”