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Faith without the cross is not a faith that can save

Archbishop Wenski's message at opening vespers of priests' convocation

Archbishop Thomas Wenski preached this message during evening prayer on the first day of the archdiocesan priests’ convocation, Sept. 14, 2021. The convocation is taking place in Miami, Sept. 14-16.

Here we are, our first convocation in two years! Perhaps it is fitting that we begin today on the feast of the exaltation of the Holy Cross. We preach Christ crucified — a stumbling block to Jews and an absurdity to Gentiles.

Faith without the cross is not the faith of Jesus Christ, a faith without the cross is not a faith that can save. Of course, the Christ that is the answer to the longings of the human heart — the Christ that can save, the Christ that is found in the Gospels — is much different from the image of Christ that prevails in our culture today. The “popular” image of Jesus today is of a Jesus who demands nothing, who never scolds, who accepts everyone and everything — a Jesus who no longer does anything but affirm us.

Pope Benedict, when he was still Cardinal Ratzinger, said: “The Jesus that makes everything okay for everybody is a phantom, a dream, and not a real figure.” The Jesus we meet in the Gospel — who is the same yesterday, today and forever — is demanding and bold. And therefore, he is not always convenient for us in his boldness and in his demands. And the Church, if she is to be the effective presence of Christ in the world today, cannot be ashamed or afraid of the very real demands of discipleship that Jesus boldly makes on those who would be his followers.

Yet, the Church is, as Pope Francis has said, a “field hospital” tending to those wounded in the battlefields of life with the healing balm of God's grace and mercy. The “medicine” of the Gospel is denied to no one. That's why, in the Church, we seek healing: but we ask God to forgive our sins — and not to bless them.

Again, we preach Christ crucified. If we present Jesus Christ as he truly is — the power of God and the wisdom of God — our people can experience him as an answer that is convincing and they can accept his message, even when it is demanding and bears the mark of the Cross.

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