In Memory of Robin Williams

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“How splendid the cross of Christ! It brings life, not death; light, not darkness; Paradise, not its loss.”
Author Unknown

Today we celebrate the feast of “The Exaltation of the Holy Cross.” The cross is today the universal image of Christian belief. Countless generations of artists have turned it into a thing of beauty to be carried in processions or worn as jewelry. But, to the eyes of the first Christians, it had no beauty. It stood outside too many city walls, decorated only with decaying corpses, as a threat to anyone who defied Rome’s authority—including Christians who refused to sacrifice to Roman gods. But the story of the cross is of more than merely historical interest. It is the story of the “tree of life,” the instrument of our salvation, on which the Son of God died so that we might be set free from the domination of sin and death and hell – it is the means by which mankind regains access again to the Garden of Eden. In today’s Gospel, John tells us “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.” The wood of the cross was the instrument of this love that has set us free and made life and joy and peace possible. In our present-day culture, some people have a tendency to think of salvation as a psychological experience. “Spirituality,” they think takes place in the mind – it’s all about feelings and beliefs and inspirations. But as we gaze upon the cross it reminds us that salvation is intensely material. As much as it is about faith, it’s also about wood and nails and blood and bones and water and bread and wine. The cross is also about our lives, for if we really wish to follow Christ, he has told us – you must deny yourself, take up your cross and follow Me. But, there are times when that cross can seem so heavy: The story is told about a young man who was at the end of his rope, seeing no way out, he dropped to his knees in prayer. “Lord, I can’t go on,” he said. “I have too heavy a cross to bear.” The Lord replied, “My son, if you can’t bear its weight, just place your cross inside this room. Then, open that other door and pick out any cross you wish.” The man was filled with relief and said, “Thank you Lord,” and he did as he was told. Upon entering the other room, he saw many crosses; some so large the tops were not visible. Then, he spotted a tiny cross leaning against a far wall. “I’d like that one, Lord,” he whispered. The Lord replied, “My son that is the cross you just brought in.”
When life’s problems seem overwhelming, it helps to look around and see what other people are coping with, you may consider yourself far more fortunate than you imagined. We may see a young mother, a cancer victim who is fighting for her next breath as she knows she will be leaving a young child and loving husband behind. (In memory of Rachael Sweet.) We may see people who earn more in a day than we could possibly earn in a year? We see them and wish we were in their shoes? But we don’t really know the burden they are carrying within, even when they may appear to be comical and full of laughter on the outside, they may actually be crying terribly within. However well-off they appear to be, secret hurts may be tearing them apart. We don’t see hearts crying out in loneliness amidst all the external blessings the world believes them to possess. As we enjoy the beauty and color of this fall, let us kneel at the foot of the cross and thank God every day, even for our cross.

Sylvia Bates