Cross and Blessing


Seeing the Cross as a Blessing

(Dt 30:15-20; Ps 1; Lk 9:22-25)


Fr. Bertrand Mathieu OMI

The late Fr. Mathieu OMI, a veteran missionary who spoke Dené fluently, was a boxer in his youth, ran a dog team, and ingeniously extracted a caterpillar half-submerged on a frozen lake with a winch and horses, used to repeat to himself, “The cross is a blessing, the cross is a blessing.”

Today’s readings invite us to participate in the sufferings of Christ by seeing the cross as a blessing.

The first reading is all about choosing a good life by being obedient to God’s will. In today’s world, unfortunately, the pattern in life for many is the experience of a lack of love and deep inner pain. Children experience a lack of love in their homes, pick up the unwritten rules of not talking, trusting or feeling, and begin to act out of their pain, not knowing what to do with it. That leads to problems of all kinds, addiction especially, and possibly even incarceration. This may be our contemporary version of what Moses calls a curse. Some would say, “We are not punished for our sins, we are punished by them.”

The choice is ours – choose life, or choose death. Many are choosing death. I once received a call from someone in a northern community, asking for help with their youth whom she claimed are lost. They are, almost by default, choosing death.

The other pattern for our lives is that of a feeling of security within God’s love and the love of others, then obedient faith and loving actions leading to a profound serenity and wellness. This, I believe, is what Moses calls a blessing, and this is God’s will for us.

Rhonda is a faith-filled woman who took under her wing a lost young woman coming from a totally dysfunctional home who had been used and abused in her youth. Her way of handling her inner pain was to cut herself – to inflict an outer pain on herself to distract herself from her intolerable inner pain and anguish of feeling rejected, abandoned and worthless. Rhonda and others were amazed at the transformation in this young lady when her need to be loved was met. She even went through the RCIA process and was received into the church. She had grown up cursed, and now found herself blessed.

The late psychiatrist, Gerald May, in his book Will and Spirit, acknowledges our free will as one of the greatest gifts God has given to us, after life itself. He teaches we can be willing and cooperate with God’s grace, or willful and stubbornly do our own will. Blessing and serenity flow into our lives when we freely choose to aline our will with God’s will for us.

Jesus in the gospel is our model of doing God’s will and only God’s will, to the extent that here he predicts his passion, and invites us to participate in that pattern of passion, death and resurrection. We are to take up our cross daily and follow him. A cross will be some inconvenience or suffering we would rather not face or endure. The challenge of our faith is to see it as a blessing.

When we can accept some suffering, as Jesus did, without bitterness or resentment, with only forgiveness, then our suffering is connected with the suffering of Jesus, takes on profound meaning, becomes redemptive and helps build up the kingdom of God here on earth.

Actually, this redemptive suffering is the key to the secret of the kingdom of God – doing this makes us just like Jesus, and when we act like God, we get to feel like God – peace, joy and serenity.

As Psalm One puts it, we have been planted by God near living waters, and are to bear much fruit. We bear much fruit by keeping the commandments of God to love God, others, ourselves and all of God’s creation, and to accept whatever suffering and inconvenience this process might entail. In this way we are to choose life, and not death.

We enter into a paradox – it is by giving our lives away that we keep them. It is by taking up our cross and following Jesus, that we gain the whole world. Winston Churchill once famously said, “We make a living by what we get; we make a life by what we give away.”

John grew up in a dysfunctional family, rebelled, then got into drugs, alcohol and crime as a youth. He was eventually incarcerated and met Jesus in jail through a chaplain and the bible. That experience turned his life around, and he worked to provide a safe place for men moving from incarceration to treatment for their addictions. He is kept busy hearing Step 5’s of the A.A. program, as well as sponsoring many others on their journey into a new-found sobriety of doing God’s will in their lives. He has turned his life of being cursed into a life that is a blessing for him and others.

The Eucharist involves us in choosing life, as we admit our need for forgiveness, listen to God’s word, and receive the unconditional love and healing of Jesus on the Cross through communion. We are then mandated to go out and live out our faith through obedient love and redemptive suffering that sees all our daily crosses as blessings, as did Fr. Mathieu.


Updated: February 15, 2024 — 2:48 am

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