In Christ are hope for the poor, healing for the sick and forgiveness for the sinner
Several years ago I had the privilege of standing in a pulpit sculpted from stone in the early 16th century. A Spanish inscription, dated 1520, reads, “Here the holy Gospel had its beginning in this new world.” It was a rare opportunity to reflect on the hundreds of thousands of people who have heard the Gospel preached from that pulpit in the past 500 years.
The pulpit is found in the cathedral of Tlaxcala, a small town about 70 miles east of Mexico City. Tlaxcala was part of the very first diocese established in Mexico, and its cathedral holds special prominence in Church history. It is fascinating to realize that the Gospel preached 500 years ago from the pulpit in that cathedral is still being handed on, generation after generation.
Back in 1520, Europeans considered uncharted territory across the Atlantic the “New World,” and Mexico was “New Spain.” Missionaries accompanied the early explorers bearing the word of God and the sacraments of the Church, because they knew it was Christ who would truly make all things and all people “new.” The pulpit in Tlaxcala is important because it represents their pioneering missionary spirit, but even more because it represents the power of the word of God.
16th century Tlaxcala, Mexico, pulpit. Photo: Fr. Gaurav Shroff/CC via Flickr
Good news for our salvation
During Holy Week, we Catholics remember the cross of Jesus — his suffering, his courage, his sacrifice, his generosity, his compassion, his mercy, his innocence, his death, his “new commandment” — his love. It is not that he was merely a good man or even an extraordinarily great man worthy of imitation. He was and is the Son of God, sent by the Father for our salvation. He is the Word of God, spoken with the breath of the Holy Spirit. He is the innocent one, who took on the sins of the guilty because it was not within our power to forgive or save ourselves. He is the beginning of the new creation, the one in whom everything and everyone begins again, afresh, anew.
St. Augustine once said, “The cross was not only the instrument of Christ’s suffering but also the pulpit of his teachings.” On the cross, Jesus spoke only a few words, but the message he proclaimed brought fulfillment and clarity to everything he had said and done to that point. Stripped of everything and painfully paralyzed by the nails of his cross, he could not preach and minister as had been his custom. But what he proclaimed from the cross was good news for our salvation: “Trust my Father. Give everything to him. He will destroy the power of death in you.”
Cardinal Miloslav Vlk, archbishop emeritus of Prague, Czech Republic, once spoke about the years during which he was stripped of his priestly ministry by the Communist regime, forced to take a job as a laborer, and not allowed to associate publicly with other priests. He was confused, broken, lonely and full of doubt. Gathering in secret with a group of brother priests each week, he began to realize that what had seemed such a desperate hardship actually gave him profound insight into the priesthood.
He wrote, “It was an immense joy to discover that Jesus arrived at the climax of his priesthood when, nailed to the cross, he could not walk, perform miracles, nor preach, but — abandoned — suffered in silence. Nevertheless it is in this way that he has saved us. I understood and found in him my deepest identity, which filled me with joy and peace.”
We are raised on high with Jesus
As the early Christians reflected on the cross, they realized that the promises of the ages came to fulfillment in Jesus Christ: hope for the poor, healing for the sick, forgiveness for the sinner, release from confinement, peace among people, reconciliation with God.
His message spoke eloquently because it was the message of humble abandonment, of giving of self, to the Father. In Jesus, we see the saving power of his heavenly Father clearly, without the slightest blur or blemish, because he trusted in his Father utterly and completely, without reserve. God raised him on high, and with him, all of us.
Creation is new in Jesus Christ, the new Adam through whom the Father has started afresh, re-creating the world and us just as we were meant to be from the beginning.
A new world, a new creation, a new heaven, a new earth, a new humanity, a new heart, a new spirit, a new commandment, a new woman, a new man — all because of Jesus. This Easter, at our pulpits and baptismal fonts we will proclaim to future generations: “Here the holy Gospel made new God’s sons and daughters, through the saving word, the cleansing water, the consecrating chrism, and the body and blood of the Lord. Here we, too, are born again.”
Send your prayer intentions to Archbishop Sartain’s Prayer List, Archdiocese of Seattle, 710 Ninth Ave., Seattle, WA 98104.
NORTHWEST CATHOLIC - April 2014