Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Power of the Cross

Reflections on the Readings
Third Sunday in Ordinary Time - January 23, 2011 - Year A 
By Dennis S. Hankins

The Power of the Cross

...Lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.  St. Paul

When is the power of the cross without effect?  When the cross is replaced with bickering, and quarreling, and backbiting.  The cross of Christ is emptied of its meaning and power by alliances that seem to matter more than the cross; emptied of its power by turf guarding, nit picking, and concerns about the splinters in other peoples eyes.  Suspicion and division within the Family of Christ can be healed by the power of the cross.  And united in the power of the cross, embracing the gift of each other, our witness in the world becomes credible and powerful.  Jesus said, "By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another."   

As the Corinthians rallied around their favorite preacher, Paul asked this penetrating question: "Is Christ divided?"  The overarching beauty that attracted me to the Catholic Church was the unity of the faith I saw in her.  The words of the Nicene Creed describes the Church as one, holy, catholic, and apostolic.  For me, those words find their fullest expression and meaning in the Catholic Church.  

I suppose three things should be said at this point.  First, I have many Christian friends and colleagues who are not Catholic.  In fact, I have friends and acquaintances who may not have any religious affiliation.  But for those reading this who are Baptist, Presbyterian, Pentecostal, Methodist, Lutheran, or Catholic, one thing I do know, Paul's question whether Christ is divided, should be our question.  All of us who take the prayers of Jesus seriously, should also reflect deeply and often on this prayer of our Lord:  "Holy Father, keep them in thy name, which thou hast given me, that they may be one, even as we are one." (John 17:11)

Second,  I remember leading an ecumenical National Day of Prayer service in my hometown many years ago.  One of the things I said at that time went something like this:  "What we have in common is greater than how we are different."  Among serious Christians, I bet there is agreement on at least 90 percent of what we all say we believe.  Among committed followers of Jesus, most would agree with the Nicene Creed and the Apostles Creed; the great creeds of Christendom.  Perhaps we should more frequently consider the merits of this quote often associated with St. Augustine: In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity.  Perhaps with a little more of this, our Parishes and Churches could experience more deeply the unifying power of the Cross.

Third, the effect of being in Christ is to know and appreciate each other.  Through the eyes of Christ, we can see each other more clearly.  In the Church at Corinth, ridiculous divisions and separations formed.  Some said, "I belong to Paul." Others proclaimed, "I belong to Apollos."  Or the really big one, "I belong to Cephas. (Peter)" 

How blurry things can get. Have you ever thought about the distance we allow between us? After Mass, try shaking hands with someone you don't know and introduce yourself.  Remember, Christ is lifted up in the celebration of Holy Eucharist.  When this happens, Jesus draws all of us to himself.  Isn't he also drawing us to each other?  Aren't we being made one in Christ as we receive the body and blood of our Lord?  

There is always upon us the calling to build up the body of Christ.  How? Maybe you can make a difference in somebody's life with a warm smile.  Take the time to fellowship before leaving the parking lot.  Drink a cup of coffee and have a donut in the fellowship area and strike up a conversation.  Find ways to build community.  You'll discover that we have a lot in common.

Within the Trinity is the eternal exchange of mutual affection and love.  Nothing has changed within this changeless communion except this:  Jesus, the Word made flesh, now shows the wounds of sacrificial love in his nail pierced hands and feet; a wound remains from the spear thrust into his side.  Around his head is a reminder that he once wore a crown of thorns.  Sacred memories of our redemption are forever imprinted upon his glorified body.  

Let us pray for the day when we can say, "No, Christ is not divided. The power of his Cross prevails."  Amen.

Dennis Hankins is a parishioner at Sacred Heart of Jesus Cathedral, of the Diocese of Knoxville, TN.  Prior to his uniting with the Catholic Church at the Easter Vigil 2006, Dennis served as a priest in the Charismatic Episcopal Church. You can email him at 

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