“Christ's cross, embraced with love, never leads to sadness, but to joy, to the joy of having been saved and of doing a little of what he did on the day of his death.”
Yesterday I was blessed to have lunch with a great young priest whom I connected with through work a while back. Fr. Matt grew up in the area, but ministers in the Midwest, and was back East for a week’s vacation with his family. As I pulled into his parent’s driveway, he asked if I wanted to meet his folks and I said absolutely. Earlier in the week, when I mentioned meeting Fr. Matt, my colleague Eileen, who coincidently lives in their parish, told me of a day, long ago, when she was coming out of the church, anxious about something going on in her life. Fr. Matt’s father, George, whom she didn’t know at the time, stopped her, gave her a small wooden cross, and with a big smile said, “Here, it looks like you could use this.” She still has the cross all these years later and I was anxious to make the connection. As I recounted the story to George and his wife, what I could tell was his normally big smile just got wider. He went out the front door and came back around through the house, taking my hand and putting two beautiful olive wood crosses in my palm. “The first one of these I ever gave was to my wife when she was upset,” George said gently. “I told her to squeeze it like she was squeezing Jesus’ hand.” I was aware of the soreness in my right hand as I wrapped my fingers around the cross. George went on to tell me how he carries around a box of them in his car so he’s always prepared. “Here’s one for you and here’s one for the person you don’t know yet who needs it.”
As I drove home grateful to know what to cling to during the night, I couldn’t help but think of George and his witness. George doesn’t simply react to moments where he can bring God’s peace, he looks for them. Each and every day he prepares for and he assumes that he will meet someone who needs to know of God’s love. What’s stopping me from doing the same? Isn’t the cross we share with Christ, a cross we can’t help but share with the world? While I may only have one more cross to give, the visual reminder to seek out those who are looking to grab a hold of Christ’s hand was a gift that will keep on giving.