THE CHURCH IS THE FRUIT OF THE CROSS OF JESUS
XVI Sunday ordinary time. 22 July 2018
Imagine you started a project or an enterprise with friends. You shared ideas, plans, work, difficulties and achievements. You worked hard together for years, sharing responsibilities and gains for the enjoyment of all. But at a certain moment one or two of the co-workers began to steal money to fill their own pockets and broke the loyalty to the company. You, who first conceived the initiative and the idea of the business, would surely feel disappointed, and with angry words would dismiss those individuals and look for others more competent and more deserving of your trust.
Something like this must have happened with God. He conceived a wonderful idea in creation, wanting to share his life even outside of his being. With a divine imagination he wanted so many and so different things in the universe all related with each other in a marvellous balance and harmony. Then he created human beings to cooperate with this plan in freedom, sharing ideals and responsibilities. We know the story: much disappointment and confusion, divisions, barriers started to appear. Yet God did not change the plan and called human beings to cooperate with Him. Some of them did very well, but others had different concerns and did not align themselves with the mind of God, taking advantage instead of their position and authority. For them the harsh words of prophet Jeremiah sound appropriate: ‘doom for the shepherds who allow the flock of my pasture to be destroyed and scattered’... Not only in the past. These are hard words for any authority that oppresses human beings and disrupts creation even today. Our world is struggling to find a way for peaceful living together, while conflicts are continuously fuelled for the vile interests of a few. And so many innocent people suffer unspeakable horrors. ‘Doom for those shepherds’!
Then the positive side is proposed to us in the Gospel: Jesus and his disciples not sparing any time to give hope to people and to instruct them about how to return to that which God offered from the beginning. I cannot but recall how many people also here in Sierra Leone spent and still spend their time, indeed their entire lives, with the desire to see that beauty and harmony be realised fully. How many fathers, priests and religious are in it, without counting ordinary simple Christians spending themselves for their communities?
But if for the bad shepherds there will be condemnation because they are doomed, we must also keep in mind that peace too has a price and so unity and harmony around us. First the price of the CROSS of Jesus. The Church is the fruit of that sacrifice, of that love that went beyond all limits and compulsions.
If then, the CROSS is what Jesus used, he, the good shepherd foretold by Jeremiah, in order ‘to make of the two one, breaking down barriers’, we Christians too will have to turn our attention to it. The CROSS is, as the saints say, the ‘great book’ where we can learn how to make our witness become fruitful for the good of the Church and also of the whole society.