March 29, 2015


Then they crucified him …. – Mark 15: 24


   During these latter days of Lent, I suggest we ponder anew what we take so lightly; that we discover a sense of scandal & outrage that the primary symbol of our faith is a cross. We must come to terms with the reality that the cross is not a pendant, not a decoration. It is the sign of a radical way of living that demands making choices. When we make the sign of the Cross, we declare our radical stance to the world. We state that we are willing to die to self – probably the most difficult thing any human being can be asked to do.

   In Robert Bolt’s Play, A Man for All Seasons, Henry VIII is trying persuade his chancellor, Thomas More, to agree with his decision to divorce his first wife & marry Anne Boleyn. Henry says: “You must consider, Thomas, that I stand in peril of my soul. It was no marriage; she was my brother’s widow.” More responds, “Your Grace, I’m not fit to meddle in these matters. To me it seems a matter for the Holy See.” Henry interrupts:

Thomas, Thomas, does a man need a pope to tell him when he’s sinned? It was a sin, Thomas; I admit it. I repent. And God has punished me; I have no son …. Son after son she’s borne me, Thomas, all dead at birth, or dead within the month; I never saw the hand of God so clear in anything…. I have a daughter, she’s my good child, a well-set child, but I have no son. It is my bounden duty to put away the Queen, & all the popes back to St. Peter shall not come between me & my duty!


Then he adds these powerful words: “How is it that you cannot see? Everyone else does.” More answers quietly, “Why, then, does your Grace need my poor support?” Here comes Henry’s answer, in effect a challenge to Thomas More to take up the Cross:

Because you are honest. What’s more to the purpose, you’re known to be honest…. Look, there are those like Norfolk who follow me because I wear the crown, & there are those like Master Cromwell who follow me because they are jackals with sharp teeth & I am their lion, & there is a mass that follows me because it follows anything that moves – and then there is you.


More can reject the Cross & live with fame & riches for the rest of his life, or he can defy the king & face certain death. More embraces the cross. He becomes one of those weird people whose leader died on a cross.

   Jesus died on the Cross & we are asked to embrace it. So look at it for what it is. Don’t sanitize it. Realize how bizarre you & I are to center our lives around a cross. But for those who can believe, it is not a stumbling block but the way of salvation. The Cross is not a pendant or a decoration. It is not pretty. It is a challenge – for Thomas More, for you & for me. Are we up to it?  AMEN!