There’s a good-sized sign that hangs on the wall of the cubicle The Soulful Catholic was assigned to in downtown Phoenix. For over a year now, I’ve walked past this inherited placard every day, but I never actually touched it until last week.
That’s when my hand bumped into the 11-by-27-inch display as I was hefting a box full of evangelization goodies. It seemed to clang.
“Whoa!” I thought to myself. “I always thought this thing was made out of wood. It’s actually metal!
The words emblazoned on the sign are a fortifying reminder: “In this world you will have trouble BUT TAKE COURAGE. I have CONQUERED the world.”
Don’t I know it! Don’t we all! This life can dish out troubles in a heartbeat and that’s why it’s absolutely crucial to stay grounded in God’s Word and the sacraments.
The Bible passage on the sign in my little abode, taken from John 16:33, reminds us that God has already won the battle that’s raging around us in the world. By His death on the cross, Jesus Christ defeated sin and death and evil.
So, when these things rear their ugly heads in our midst, we turn to the crucifix and gaze at the image of the Messiah who came to redeem us by His blood, even while we were stuck in our sins.
Last week as I knelt in the confessional, the priest asked me to look up at the crucifix I hadn’t realized was hanging over me way up high on the wall.
“Look at that crucifix,” he told me. “The Blood that redeemed you and me flows down from the cross and over you. When you walk out of this confessional, you leave those sins right here at the foot of the cross. You don’t ruminate on any of this. It’s over. Done. Gone.”
What a relief! And what an amazing gift of love! To experience God’s tenderness and forgiveness in such a personal way transforms us and brings deep healing. It’s not something you experience from afar or virtually. It’s hands-on and in-person — the Person of Jesus Christ!
And that made me think back to the sign in my workspace and the day I accidently knocked into it. On that afternoon, I decided to take the sign down from the wall and examine it more closely. And guess what? It actually IS made from wood, not metal.
I felt God whisper to me in that moment that it’s the same thing with Him. People often see Him from far away and don’t take the time to get to know Him. God, when seen from afar, may seem to be simply an academic concept or a distant power. The truth is that He invites us to something so much more intimate. He asks us to know Him, to touch Him, to hear His voice and encounter Him personally. Every day.
The myriad ways God seeks to be known in our lives have been described for centuries, but they remain just that — mere descriptions unless you and I decide to invite Jesus into our life moment by moment, to take that cross that redeemed us into our own hands and examine it for ourselves. In short, to get to know God and His tremendous, undeserved and overwhelming gift of love and to grow in that knowledge each day.
We open our Bibles and we read of these truths, and though them, God breathes His wisdom and peace into us, strengthening us and giving us courage.
And then He invites us to experience His mercy and grace in the confessional. He shares His very life and self with us in the Eucharist. He allows us to serve Him in the poor and in the people we interact with each day.
He uses all this and more to empower us to embrace our own cross courageously. We hold it with love and tears and trust, knowing that we’re not carrying it on our own strength, but with His.
When we stumble and fall, He is there to pick us up and start again.
He is holding out His hand to us now. The question is, will we take it?
Today is the day and now is the moment to know Him better. He is worthy of our trust and never abandons us, even when our troubles seem insurmountable. And that should give us courage.