The Measure of Our Weakness

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Sixth Friday of the Year I
Mark 8:34-9:1

I just came from the altar, having celebrated the Votive Mass of the Most Precious Blood. This particular Votive Mass is profoundly significant here at Santa Croce in Gerusalemme where the the relics of Our Lord's Passion are preserved and venerated. The Wood of the Cross and the Thorns of the Crown were soaked in the Precious Blood of the Lamb. I remembered my dear friend Father Jeff Keyes, C.PP.S. who offered Holy Mass at this same altar just a few weeks ago.

Holding Fast to Christ

Our Lord calls any man who would come after Him to "deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Him" (cf. Mk 8:34). If I love Christ I will choose always to remain with him, to abide close to him. “I found Him whom my soul loves. I held Him and would not let Him go” (Ct 3:4).

Our Lord's call to deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow him is not, first of all, a call to suffer. It is a call to be with Him, to “follow the Lamb wherever He goes” (cf. Rev 14:4). The sequela Christi, the following after Christ is the expression of our desire to be with Him.

To the Father by the Way of the Cross

Today’s gospel presents us with dynamic images; there is movement. Attend to the verbs: “to come after Me,” says Jesus, and again, “follow Me.” If Jesus says, “follow Me,” it is because He is moving on. “I go to the Father” (Jn 14:28).

The Necessity of the Cross

The Christian life is movement. Why then, you may ask, cannot one simply leave the weight of the cross behind? Would that not make the movement forward easier? Why struggle beneath the weight of the cross if its burden slows our steps? If Our Lord says that we are to come after Him without leaving the cross behind, it is because the cross is somehow necessary. It was concerning this very point that the risen Jesus enlightened the disciples on the road to Emmaus: “Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into His glory?” (Lk 24:26).

Why is the carrying of the cross necessary to us? Because the cross, by revealing our weakness, opens us to the grace of Christ. “My grace is sufficient for you,” said Christ to Paul; “for My power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor 12:9). What does that mean if not that the power of Christ is made perfect in bearing the cross? Paul understood. “When I am weak,” he says, “then I am strong” (2 Cor 12:10). “When, beneath the burden of the cross I come to know my weakness and accept it, then I am strong.” Why did Our Lord choose to fall three times beneath the cross, if not to give us in His weakness a mirror of our own and a reason to hope?

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Blessed Marmion and the Way of the Cross

Blessed Abbot Marmion made the Way of the Cross faithfully every single day of the year with the sole exception of Easter Day. I never tire of returning to his meditations on the Way of the Cross in Christ in His Mysteries. A little known fact about Blessed Abbot Marmion is that he waged a life-long battle against depression. Robust in appearance and outwardly jovial, he was obliged to face his hidden weaknesses and accept them. What was the source of his hope? It was, I think, his daily encounter with the suffering Christ in the Way of the Cross.

The Cross: Our Only Hope

In less than six weeks we will be singing the Passiontide Vespers hymn that, in the second to the last verse, raises a mighty cry of triumph: O crux, ave, spes unica — “Hail, O Cross, our only hope!” Christ fills with His grace every weakness, every poverty, every brokenness revealed by our acceptance of the cross. The cross, especially when we stumble and fall beneath its weight, allows us to take the measure of our weakness and so, reveals the immeasurable measure of Christ’s all-sufficient grace.

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The Mother of Sorrows

There is something else too, or rather someone else. There is the Blessed Virgin Mary, the compassionate Mother of Sorrows. She is ever present on the via crucis, never far from one who falls once, three, or one hundred times beneath the cross, for in each one she recognizes her Son. All of the saints devoted to the Passion of Christ encountered the Mother of God on the via crucis. They chose to remain in spirit by her side all the way to Calvary, standing with her at foot of the cross, suffering with her as she received the body of her Jesus in death, weeping with her at the tomb. The tears of the Sorrowful Mother, mingling with the Precious Blood of Christ, fall into the hearts of her children. The Virgin Mary’s tears are seeds of hope sown in a fertile soil to bear fruit for the whole Church.

Grace Measured to Every Weakness

The first sign of a faith made fruitful by love is adhesion to the cross. In holding out the cross, Christ offers grace measured to every weakness and, in that, He offers each of us a hope that will not disappoint.

1 Comments

I would never have guessed that Blessed Marmion struggled with depression. It makes me admire him even more, to know what he had to overcome.

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About Dom Mark

Dom Mark Daniel Kirby is Conventual Prior of Silverstream Priory in Stamullen, County Meath, Ireland. The ecclesial mandate of his Benedictine community is the adoration of the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar in a spirit of reparation, and in intercession for the sanctification of priests.

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