Signed with the cross

Daily Reading for September 6

What does it mean to bear the cross? The phrase may refer to the practice of actually marking people with the cross. This ancient practice of marking people on the forehead was well known. The prophet Ezekiel put a mark on the foreheads of those who groaned and sighed for the abominations committed in Jerusalem before the slaughter of the idolaters (Ezekiel 9:4), while in Revelation 7:3 the servants of God were sealed on their foreheads before the day of destruction. To be a Christian is to be signed with the mark of the cross, the baptismal mark of incorporation into Christ. To bear the cross in solidarity with Jesus is not to endure some mysterious kind of suffering which is thrust upon us, still less is it a way of describing an interior psychological attitude or orientation. It is a path freely chosen, the social reality of committing oneself in this world to the values of the world to come. This is clearly a call to lose one’s life for the sake of the gospel. It is not a call to imitate Jesus as a figure from the past but to follow the risen and present Jesus of today. Christians do not maintain the memory of a dead Jesus: grieving over the body was prevented by the very large stone which was rolled away from the tomb before the grief could get under way (Mark 16:4). To respond to the cross is to follow, to share; it is to be a disciple. It is to respond with a new and amazing relationship of co-operation with God which is utterly different from the relationship of slave to master. We are sealed not as slaves but as children, as inheritors of the Kingdom of God.

From We Preach Christ Crucified by Kenneth Leech. Copyright © 1994, 2005. Used by permission of Church Publishing Incorporated, New York, NY.

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