I am writing this on the feast day of the Conversion of St Paul. The liturgy keeps repeating the phrase “Go out to all the world and tell the Good News”.
Just this month the Columban website has a great video that shows children how to make the Sign of the Cross.
It is made up of two parts. The gesture and the words. It is a very basic prayer in the best sense of the word. It engages our body by requiring that we use the right movements. It also demands that we get our head and our tongues around the right words.
It is also made up of two parts in the sense that this simple prayer points to the two biggest mysteries of our faith. The gesture reminds us of the Death and Resurrection of Jesus and the words remind us of our belief in the Three-in-One God.
While children can learn how to make the Sign of the Cross it is as adults that we absorb more of the meaning of the Prayer as we contemplate the mysteries associated with it.
The wonder of this prayer is that the gesture and the words invite us to see how God is involved in the Death and Resurrection of Jesus. Why was Jesus killed? It was because of people being jealous; people hanging on to power; people telling lies; fear and all the same sorts of reasons that people are killed today. He was smart enough to see what was likely to happen to him, so what did he do? The Three-in-One God had seen that the people they had created out of love had gone astray in many ways. Fortunately “God loved the world so much that he sent his only Son.” (Jn 3:16).
So Jesus’ response to the life-threatening situation that was building up around him in those final weeks was to continue to reach out in love. Like a parent who continues to love the child or the teenager who is going astray, Jesus did not harden his heart. Even on the Cross he said “Father forgive them for they do not know what they are doing”.
We all know the next wonderful step. Three days later Jesus is risen from the dead. The power of the love of God had overcome death and let loose the power of the Resurrection for all humankind. The Sign of the Cross, this simple gesture and prayer, invites us to see how this cosmic struggle of good and evil has been played out and is being played out today.
When we see the terrible consequences of war and violence today, how do we respond? It is deeply disturbing. We feel anger. We may want revenge. We cry out for justice and feel compassionate towards all the victims that we see suffering on our TV screens. Maybe we ask, “Where is God in all this?” As Pope Francis said recently, “Our God has feelings too.” What does God feel when these things are happening in our world? A key saying of Jesus is “Whatever you do to the least of my children that you do unto me” (Mt 25:40). So in the child suffering in Yemen we can see the suffering Jesus. In the victims of domestic violence we can see the suffering Jesus.
For some people they will not see Jesus. All that they can see is the pain or maybe even an enemy. However, as we contemplate the Sign of the Cross we can start to become more aware of the truth of God’s presence in our world. We start to see that our God is suffering with those who are suffering. Through the power of that same love, that brought Jesus to new life, we are all being healed and transformed. We do not reach this level of awareness easily or quickly, but this short prayer always points us in the right direction.
Fr Trevor Trotter
Listen to "From the Director -The sign of the Cross"
- Read more from The Far East, April 2019