Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
The Passion According to John makes its unique point: the cross wasn’t simply an instrument of suffering and death; the cross was the throne of our King’s glory. Yet, the God-man who died on this throne did so in a most gruesome way--asphyxiation. Hanging with arms outstretched on a cross, one’s lungs could never fill enough or empty enough to sustain life. Anyone crucified lasted only as long as that person could repeatedly inch up by one’s feet, fighting against gravity, in order to fill the lungs with gulps of air. The cruel mercy of breaking the legs of the crucified guaranteed death to the most long-suffering victims.
Christians the world over remind one another today that our God died in his human nature on a cross. Christians also remind one another that we are called to see suffering and death and to look through human anguish to life. So that this vision can be our ever-new vision, Jesus’ cross is our lens. How can we better appreciate Jesus’ cross? venerate it? and carry it? A contemporary writer offers a helpful image.
Annie Dillard has written about American
Indians who used to carve long grooves along the wooden shafts of their arrows. They called the grooves ‘lightning marks,’ because they resembled the curved fissures lightning slices down the trunks of trees. The function of lightning marks is this: if the arrow fails to kill the game, blood from a deep wound will channel along the lightning mark, streak down the arrow shaft, and splatter to the ground, laying a trail dripped on broadleaves, on stones, that the barefoot and trembling archer can follow into whatever deep or rare wilderness it leads.Lightning marks of other kinds are all around us. Lives scarred by suffering and death scar us and cut us deeply. Hearts and bodies get broken. We break hearts and sometimes contribute to breaking bodies. Blood is literally poured out in so many places near and far. The cries of the poor and oppressed, and our affirmation of them in deed as well as prayer, call beyond anguish and despair.
This call beyond ourselves received clear voice from the cross. Can we not say then the cross of Jesus is the lightning mark of God? Might this be a word you and I seek? Carrying the cross we see ourselves anew: we realize each of us is “the barefoot and trembling archer,” who follows the trail through life’s wilderness to find the very heart of God. Jesus’ cross graces us with the divine spirit and pioneering love. God’s pioneering love dots the trails of our lives and trains us and forms us as God’s scouts.
Trained scouts see what other folk cannot. The cross of Messiah Jesus trains us and makes us God’s scouts for the sake of the world. Each dot, each drop of blood says, “God loves forever”: God reaches into and beyond the grave as well as each valley of death which prevents us from adopting the attitude of Christ,/1/ which is “forgetful of self in...generous and ready service of all the abandoned”/2/.
That is often difficult for us to do consistently. We need Jesus because of his attitude, and he desires to need us to promote divine justice and steadfast love everywhere we find ourselves.
This cross of Jesus’ death, which was the throne of his glory because God raised Jesus to absolutely new life, helps the lightening mark of God’s love shine brilliantly in our world. God ever desires to save our world by the cross of Jesus, God’s son and our brother. To those who give themselves to Jesus, Jesus transforms into living lightening marks for the sake of the world. It is a “trembling” task, yet Jesus counts on our willingness each day to bring our world out of the “wilderness” of anguish and lead it into the bright hope of more humane and godly life.
Ask Jesus to help you stay close to him and his cross. Ask Jesus to help you see the cross as he does: the “lightening mark” of God’s pioneering love for which Jesus has chosen us as his trained scouts for the sake of our world.
/1/ Philippians 2. 5: the Greek word often translated as mind connotes feeling and emotion in addition to intellectual activity, therefore, attitude translates the Greek word well.
/2/ Society of Jesus, General Congregation 32, Decree 12.4 (Poverty), 
I received the Dillard quote in the past and saved it. I cannot locate the citation.
The detail from the church in Barcelona, Sagrada Familia, The Judgment, is a photo by Son of Groucho.It is used under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 License. So also is the Crucifixion.