The other day I ran across an article about an obscure Spanish saint, Rafael Araiz Baron, a Trappist who lived in the early part of the twentieth century. By profession he was an architect , an was drawn to monastic life. Illness kept him from taking solemn vows, but he lived as an oblate in the infirmary. The article spoke of his intense love of the cross, in particular that this is the tool of our salvation.
One of the more pronounced reflections of Rafael is that in the suffering of Christ those who suffer are lifted up with Jesus, and discover final healing and peace. In one of his letters he writes: To savor the Cross ... to live sick, unknown, abandoned by all - only you .. and on the Cross. How sweet the bitterness, the loneliness, the grief, the pain, wolfed down and swallowed in silence, without help. How sweet the tears shed next to your cross. Ah! If I knew how to tell the world where true happiness is! ... To love it one must suffer.
In today's daily readings James and John try to figure out a way to sit in the places of honor next to Jesus, in the glory of heaven. Jesus reminds them that to follow in his footsteps, one has to be willing to follow him all the way to the cross. We try to make these words nice and even sugar coat them a bit. There is that relationship we have with God, through Jesus Christ, in which we are necessarily 'number 3.' We are challenged in our faith to take the position of foot washer.
On a day to day basis we are at least somewhat aware of the many folks who live next to the cross. Those with chronic disease, addictions, the poor, elderly, single parents, widows, people in war torn nations, and oppressed. As St. Rafael suggests their lives are full of the hurt, anguish, and loneliness of the cross. Jesus' own Cross brings salvation to men and women, but also helps us understand the need of salvation in our lives. Moreso the true and only love that is necessary in our life is the love of Christ.
Aware of the broken body of Christ, we might become more aware of the brokenness of the Body of Christ throughout the world. The Cross teaches us what 'things' really matter in life. We too infused with the Holy Spirit are challenged to stand out against Sin and Evil. The Church talks about the Preferential Option for the Poor. In continuing His mission and ministry we sit in the gunk and yuck, holding each others hands.
St. Rafael recognizes that Jesus, and the mystery we celebrate, offers us courage and strength as we caress the Cross. Jesus stands with us guarding us beneath the shadow of his wings.