To boast is not triumphalism

Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time.

Dear sisters and brothers in Christ,

The second reading for this Sunday is taken from the Letter of St. Paul to the Galatians. As we know, one of the central themes of this Epistle is the issue of the incorporation of the Gentiles to the Church. The Apostle answers several questions that arose on account of a controversy within that Christian community. Is it necessary to be Jewish to become Christian? Those gentiles who embrace the faith of the Church, do they have to become Jewish before they are Christian? Is circumcision necessary before Baptism?

The answer of the Church, which St. Paul transmits to the Galatians, is very clear. Incorporation to the Church takes place through Baptism. Gentiles are united to the people of God through the reception of the sacrament. In Christ, Jews and Gentiles form the single people of God. Gentiles are grafted onto Israel to form one people in Jesus Christ. Baptism unites us with Christ so that, as St. Paul himself will tell the Galatians, there are no longer Jews or Greeks, slaves or free, male or female, the only thing that matters is Baptism through which we have died with Christ to rise with Him.

In that body there are different members, different functions, but the body is one. All of us, who have been baptized, already participate of the life of Christ, regardless of any other consideration. Obviously, it is not that Baptism eliminates the differences that exist among people, but through Baptism we are constituted as the people of God, coheirs of the promise, incorporated to the Mystical Body of Christ which is the Catholic Church. A people with diverse ministries, different functions, different persons, where there are saints and sinners, yet it is essentially one.

The will of the Lord to integrate all peoples in one single Church made up of a visible, historical, hierarchical structure under Peter is clearly manifested in the Gospels. The Lord Himself asserts that just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, when He is lifted up He will draw all to Himself. Indeed, he does, because by his death he draws all peoples to Him to make of all humanity a single people of God redeemed by His blood, one and only one consecrated nation.

That is the reason why St. Paul will only boast in the cross of Christ, because it is there that he finds the love of God for us in all its radicality. It is precisely the passionate love of God who leads Him to create us, to give us the gift of human nature, a gift we share with Christ and every other human being. In that love, we also find the source of our incomparable dignity. God empties Himself of absolutely everything to reach the limit of nothingness, to rescue us in a kind of pincer movement.

The cross reveals the universality of the love of God who desires that all be saved.

On the cross, every ministry of the Church acquires meaning too. As Pope Francis told the cardinals the day after his election, without the cross of Christ, the Church ceases to be herself and becomes a pious NGO.

To contemplate the cross leads us to love, frees us of any temptation of worldliness and triumphalism, because in it we realize that the victory of God does not come through an ostentation of power, human calculations, surrender before the world or negotiation, but through radical self-giving in love. The cross is a school of passionate love. The cross teaches us that to do good even to the point of self-sacrifice is the most exalted form of love.

To contemplate the cross, without embellishment, in all its crudeness helps us to embrace the crosses we may encounter in our journey whether as people of God or individually.

To boast about the cross is the exact opposite of triumphalism. It is not bragging about anything, or falling in the spiritual worldliness that regards the Church as a mere source of temporal power, a purely sociological reality that ought to be ruled by worldly criteria of success; but to realize that the passion, death and resurrection of Christ continue in us through our Baptism. Therefore, to be united with Christ, especially with Christ crucified, is the road to true happiness. The martyrs, St. Paul included, understood this full well.

In every age, there have been and there will be those who think that they can live Christianity without the cross, but the proclamation of Christ will always be a sign of contradiction. Discipleship demands absolute availability, to be ready to die to our passions and to sin, accepting the vulnerability of true love which does not wish to possess, but to give themselves up for the sake of the beloved. Thus, the warning of the Lord to his disciples in the Gospel passage for this Sunday. The disciples of Christ do not conform themselves to the world, rather they strive to conform their lives to His, so that the world may reflect His face. To identify ourselves with Christ implies setting aside human calculations, becoming vulnerable, emptying ourselves and embracing the cross in its multiple manifestations in our lives, aware that in order to reign with Christ we have to be united with Jesus Christ who governs the entire universe with outstretched arm. His throne is the wood of the cross.

Fr. Roberto M. Cid