We have just passed the midway point in Lent and we are slowly but inexorably moving to the moment of decision. That decision is to ask of myself am I going to stand with Christ to be faithful to him and to be raised up with him on the cross or am I going to walk away. The readings of today’s mass exhort us to walk away from infidelity, compromise and Lukewarmness. Am I going to look for deep identity with Christ literally to be joined up with his cross? Unless we do that according to the word of God we are going to prefer instead the works of darkness and those who do the deeds of evil.
It’s almost as though we are being offered clarification and simplicity. The decision that has been presented to us is are we going to choose to go with Christ or to turn our back upon him. Such is the drama of the gospel, of Christian living and most significantly at this time that of holy week and good Friday. As we look upon our life and our decision-making are we going to let the choices that we make whether it be about moral life, how we spend our money, our relations with our family and all the relationships that we enter into be infused by the cross of Jesus.
There is a seminal moment in what are known as the spiritual exercises of Saint Ignatius Loyola when the retreatant it’s asked to make a decision as to which standard they will standby. There is the standard of Christ or that of Satan. Will we fall into the arms of Christ or the arms of compromise, deceit, evil and darkness.
This week we celebrate our patronal feast of Saint Patrick This Wednesday. Very much as part of its long Irish history this church celebrated a seminal moment at the time of the formation of the Irish free State in 1922. The regiment of the Connaught Rangers later down their colours here given the fact that Irish regiments could no longer be part of the British Army. These were the soldiers that the iron Duke, the Duke of Wellington said where his bravest and best. Indeed one could say that catholic emancipation in 1829 would not have happened if it hadn’t been for the Duke of Wellington and his experience of his Irish militia. A strange thing for a fierce Irish Protestant! The colours of a regiment of the line or a standard for a Roman legion where intensely powerful as symbols and as a personification of the fighting spirit of that group of men. The colours or a standard would instil loyalty, bravery, courage and honour and would have a significant bearing upon life and death decisions. For a soldier they meant much.
Our colours or standard is of course the cross of Jesus held high. As it is lifted above us it calls us to give ourselves in love and obedience, to bow down and choose and to know that through the cross we will be saved. It is through This that we are joined to the cross and that according to the gospel today we come out into the light and be given a place in heaven.
All the events of this time see Jesus walking towards Jerusalem proclaiming that he has to be lifted high on a cross. We are invited to join ourselves to him so that we can come out into the light. You don’t need to see a sensational film at the cinema or to read a blood curdling novel to believe that Satan and evil are real and exist. Satan does not want us to identify with the cross nor to be joined to it in love and mercy and bow before it in humility. Indeed we can say clearly That these forces of darkness cannot bear the sight of the cross.
This is our choice in these days for saint Paul tells us we are created in Christ to live the good life which means the life of holiness and virtue. That will only happen when the cross becomes our standard and our regimental colours. That is the way of life and love which ultimately takes us to heaven.