In his first homily after his election, Pope Francis said: ‘When we walk without the Cross, when we build without the Cross, and when we profess Christ without the Cross, we are not disciples of the Lord.’ This might seem a stark message from a pope who radiates so much joy wherever he goes. But, according to Pope Francis, ‘the Cross of Christ contains all the love of God, his immeasurable mercy.’ (Way of the Cross at the World Youth Day, 2013).
Sometimes we feel we want to run away from the crosses we face in life: sickness, loneliness, depression, bereavement. At times like these, we can feel isolated or abandoned. But the Psalm tells us that ‘the Lord is close to the broken-hearted’ (Ps 34: 18), and to see that closeness, we need simply to look at the Cross. On the Cross Jesus opens his arms to welcome the poor and the suffering, giving strength and comfort to the weary.
St Paul of the Cross founded the Passionist community to remind people of the Passion of Jesus which he described as ‘the greatest and most overwhelming work of God’s love’. The Cross teaches us that God’s love is shown not just in words but in deeds and that if we are to walk with the Cross, build with the Cross and profess Christ with the Cross, then our discipleship must also express itself in deeds of love.
It was Jesus on the Cross who moved St Charles of Mount Argus to spend thirty years ministering to the sick and suffering, the poor and abandoned in Dublin and all over Ireland. His healing blessing cured many of their illnesses and his simple preaching of the message of the Cross brought hope to those whose lives he touched.
As Passionists we recognise that ‘the Passion of Christ and the sufferings of his Mystical Body form one mystery of salvation’ (Passionist Constitutions, 65). Through our preaching, retreat ministry, parishes and chaplaincies, we seek to help God’s people to remember the love that flows from the Cross.