Monday, June 22, 2009

The Cross of Christ - A Sign

Today's events are very disturbing. North Korea may already have a nuclear bomb, Iran is trying to build one. Both are enemies of the free world. The situation today is not so different from events in the 1960's i.e. the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Cold War. The Trappist monk, Thomas Merton, was quite concerned with the proliferation of nuclear weapons and wrote about it frequently. Back in 2001, on Holy Saturday, I was asked to offer a short reflection at my home parish. I chose to speak about "The Bomb" and the "Cross of Christ." Here is the reflection...

Holy Saturday April 14, 2001

In the early morning hours of August 6, 1945, a B-29 bomber named Enola Gay took off from the island of Tinian and headed north by northwest toward Japan. The bomber's primary target was the city of Hiroshima, located on the deltas of southwestern Honshu Island facing the Inland Sea. Hiroshima had a civilian population of almost 300,000 and was an important military center, containing about 43,000 soldiers. At approximately 8:15 a.m. Hiroshima time the Enola Gay released "Little Boy," its 9,700-pound uranium bomb, over the city. The Bomb dropped over Hiroshima, Japan killed about 100,000 people. On August 9, 1945 another bomb was dropped over Nagasaki, Japan killing approximately 36,000 people. Many eyewitnesses undressed that night to find their clothing designs tattooed to their skin.

The Cistercian Monk Thomas Merton aka Fr. Louis, said we should be “Thankful for the BOMB as a sign.” What does he mean? How can we be thankful for something that has caused so much death, destruction and human misery? Merton said that “The Bomb” is a REVELATION.

Who designed it, who built it, who tested it, and who used it? We did. Was it a necessary evil? Maybe, maybe not. For sure, this frightful human creation reveals all human iniquity. For any good to come out of it, we must be able to understand it as revelation, discern its meaning, and grasp its significance. Only then can we begin to know who we are, that we need conversion.

And what do Christians know to be the greatest tragedy in all of history? The Crucifixion of Our Lord, Jesus Christ. Now we must ask ourselves, “How could any good come out of anything as dreadful as death by Crucifixion”?

Maria Valtora, an Italian writer, and considered by many to be a mystic, wrote this about the Crucifixion of Christ:

Two executioners sit on His chest to hold Him fast. A third one takes His right arm, holding Him with one hand on the first part of His forearm and the other on the tips of His fingers. The fourth one, who already has in his hand the long sharp-pointed quadrangular nail, ending with a round flat head as big as a large coin of bygone days, watches whether the hole already made in the wood corresponds to the joint of the wrist. It does. The executioner places three point of the nail on the wrist; he raises the hammer and gives the first stroke. Jesus, who had closed His eyes, utters a cry and has a contraction because of sharp pain. He opens His eyes, flooded with tears. The nail penetrates tearing muscles, veins, and nerves, shattering bones.

Like the Bomb, the Crucifixion of Our Lord Jesus Christ is also a REVELATION. Through Christ’s passion, God has given sinners, you, and me, the ability to conquer Death and receive the gift of eternal life. The question is, how do we respond to this offer of Eternal life?

We must look deep into our hearts, pray for the guidance of The Holy Spirit. Then we will recognize our sinfulness. Once we recognize our sins, we can die to our sins. After conversion, our own tombs will be empty, and we will be restored to new life.

The Cross of Christ is the sign of God’s all-embracing love and is the fountain from which every grace flows. Today, let us all be thankful for it as a sign.

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