Friday, March 12, 2010

The Sign of the Cross

The Sign of the Cross – A Reflection

Today I attended Holy Mass at a lovely Church in Yonkers, New York. As I walked into the Church, I proceeded down the center isle towards the baptismal font. I placed my fingers into the cool water and proceeded to bless myself with the sign of the cross, praying “In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.”

Catholics have practiced this gesture for generations. My grammar school teachers, the Franciscan Missionary Sisters, taught me as a very young child how to pray the Sign of the Cross. Every day, before morning class, we began with the Sign. At the end of class, we prayed the Sign. The practice was drilled into me and my classmates at such an early age; it has become a good habit.

This holy gesture proclaims that we are members of a Christian community of believers, predominately Catholic, members of the Body of Christ. Today, after receiving Eucharist at Holy Mass, I walked back to my pew, knelt down, and watched my community of believers receiving our Lord, each following with the sign of the cross. The scene was emotional. It affirmed my belief, the Church is my home; these men and women here are my brothers and sisters.

The Three Persons of the Trinity live in relationship with each other. The Sign of the Cross reminds us of this relationship. As we bless ourselves, we praise God in all his Glory; we thank him for his outpouring of love for us on the cross, and we enter the very mystery of the Trinity.

Within the Trinity there is interconnection and interdependence. So too in our own community. Catholics are connected by common beliefs, such as the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist, a belief that Mary, the Virgin Mother of God, was born without sin and was assumed into heaven. We recognize each other by our love of neighbor, displayed by corporal and spiritual acts of mercy, by our compassion and empathy. Edith Stein, also known as St. Teresa Benedict of the Cross, said about empathy “I felt that those who understood the Cross of Christ should take it upon themselves on everybody's behalf.” Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta is an extraordinary example of compassion. She embraced the cross, serving Jesus in the poorest of the poor. And St. Gianna Beretta Molla, who was canonized in 2004 for living an exemplary Christian life, offered her own human life so that her child would live. Interdependence in our community is displayed by the sharing of good example and the encouragement which strengthens faith even in the midst of tragedy. Together we discover our God given gifts and help build up the Body of Christ.

The Cross is the sign of Christ’s victory over death. His willingness to accept suffering offers you and me the possibility of Heaven. Let us thank God for our Catholic faith, and let us end this reflection as we end all things,

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.

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