Our Gospel reading at Mass today is the familiar story in Matthew of Peter’s confession of faith that Jesus in the Messiah, only seconds later to be rebuked by Jesus for not realizing that this requires the Cross.
“Get behind me, Satan. You are thinking as men think, not God!”
Yes, to know Jesus is to embrace the cross. There is no other way. Jesus silences those who say they know him but try to dissuade him or others from accepting the cross. Over and over again in the Gospels, especially in Luke, Jesus rebukes evil spirits and silences them for although they know who he is, they refuse to accept the cross; they want to take another route.
There is no other.
This is not a reason for despair, or even sadness. It is, in fact, the source of our joy and our hope. The cross is the sign of love…. great love.
Today is the memorial of Teresa Benedicta of the Cross. She knew well in her life that to accept Jesus is to embrace the cross. She once wrote that it (the Cross) is the destiny of all Christians. She lived it out in her life.
Teresa Benedicta of the Cross was born Edith Stein in 1891, born on the Day of Atonement in the Jewish calendar. She was born into a Jewish family, the youngest of eleven children. Her father died when she was two years old, and thus her mother had to fend for the kids as well as tend the family timber business.
At age 14, Edith lost her faith and ceased praying. She was extremely bright, attending universities studying history and philosophy. She was a student of the great philosopher Edmund Husserl who taught a form of phenomenology. Edith obtained her doctorate and was able to obtain a professorship at a German university.
One day she entered the cathedral in Cologne and noticed a woman entering the empty church with a shopping basket. The woman knelt down and prayed silently. Edith had never seen anything like that in synagogues or Protestant churchs. It was the beginning of her conversion to Catholicism.
She eventually was baptized and confirmed in 1922. She began writing books and treatises. She wanted to enter the Carmelite order, and eventually was permitted to do so in the mid-1930s taking the name Teresa Benedicta da Cruce. To escape Nazism after her profession as a Carmelite nun, she was sent to Holland, but Nazism caught up with her. On this date in 1942, because of her Jewish roots, she was gassed at Aushwitz.
Teresa Benedicta of the Cross embraced the cross.
May I suggest that all of us who bear the name Christian wear the cross around our necks every day? If you are unable or unwilling to wear it exposed to the world, then wear it under your shirt or blouse, close to your heart.
Embrace the Cross!