Fr. McHugh: The Center of Christianity is the Cross of Christ

Author: Fr. Patrick J McHugh

There is only one way to move from evil to good and that is by a passage through what we can only call: fire. This is the strange word Sacred Scripture takes to use. St. Peter told the first Christians, "Do not be surprised, beloved, that a trial by fire is occurring in your midst. It is a test for you, but it should not catch you off guard. Rejoice instead, in the measure that you share Christ's sufferings. When His glory is revealed, you will rejoice exultantly" (1 Pt 4:11).

The thief on Calvary had to know the agony of crucifixion before he recognized Jesus the Savior. The Prodigal Son was reduced to feeding pigs and eating their food before he "came to himself". Peter who once cried out, "Even though all should leave Thee, yet not I," had to pass through the shattering exp m .erience of the Lord turning and looking: "... and Peter remembered ...".

He came to the spiritual splendor that God had in mind for him in this way: by passage through spiritual fire. "Fire" is the word Sacred Scripture takes to use.

There is a chasm between Christianity that is real and Christianity that is contaminated with the contagion of its time. Christianity that is decayed never speaks of the Cross except to scream against it, "Come down from that cross and then we will believe."

Do not assume that because people are prominent or articulate or famous or well-thought of in religion, that because they appear on Lecture Forums, lead Programs, Congresses, Seminars, write syndicated columns, that because they are so active, they have insight into the ways of God. They may. They may not. There is one test of authenticity: it is the Cross. Do they believe that the world is saved by the Cross and Passion of Jesus Christ?

That is the test. It is not enough to profess the formula, "For our sake He was crucified under Pontius Pilate, He suffered, died and was buried." If we do not see the Passion of the Lord as central to our lives we are not seeing the real universe--the universe that Faith reveals. We may be famous, prominent, articulate, active but if we do not see the Cross at the center of Christianity we see everything out of focus.

The crisis that is battering the Church is here. Many speak of Jesus Christ but they know nothing of His Cross and Passion. They think they are talking about Christianity but they are not. They are preaching a tribal religion that uses Christian words, a form of humanism, a glorified ideology, bits and pieces they have gathered from the rubble of Faith. They do not really believe in Jesus Christ because they do not look to His Cross. When they reject His suffering and death they reject Him.

What the New Testament proclaims is at times explicit and set out in clear words: "We preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews, and, an absurdity to gentiles. But, to those who are called, Jews and gentiles alike, Christ, the power of God and the wisdom of God."

Excerpted from Rev. Patrick J. McHugh, In Season, Out of Season: Meditations on the Sunday Gospels and Second Readings, Liturgical Cycle C, Twentieth Sunday In Ordinary Time: Second Reading, Hebrews 12: 1-4.