THE ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH

Her Doctrine and Morals

The Finding of the Holy Cross

3 May 2020

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Dear Friend,

The Gospel reading for today tells us about Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews who came to Jesus by night. A footnote from Haydock's Bible Commentary on this passage says: "Nicodemus was at this time weak in faith, and therefore did not wish to endanger himself by coming to Our Savior in open day when the enemies of Christ could see him. For many (as the Evangelist informs us in chap. 12, v 42) of the chief men also believed in Him; but because of the Pharisees they did not confess, that they might not be cast out of the Synagogue."

There are perhaps many who see the cross of Jesus from afar but are hesitant to draw near or to look too closely. They are in fear of what the world will think, do, or say. Many have memorized enough of the Catechism to present themselves as Catholics. They go through the outward motions, but never truly approach Jesus in the open. It is enjoyable to be able to discuss the Faith on an intellectual level or from a distance, as it were, but Jesus shows us that this is not sufficient.

We must go in search of Him, we must seek if we are to find, we are to knock if we wish to have the Faith opened up to us. St. Helena never would have found the Cross if she did not go looking for it. We have heard that God helps those who help themselves. It is true we must do what has been placed in our power to do, and then trust in God. Far too many people want to do nothing and remain hopeful that somehow God will reward their fear of the world, their indifference, or even laziness.

Jesus instructs Nicodemus that he must be born again. Not a physical birth from his mother, but rather, a spiritual birth in the Holy Ghost. We are not to enter again into our mother's womb, but we are to enter into the womb of our Holy Mother the Church in the Sacrament of Baptism. With Holy Baptism, we receive the Holy Ghost. We denounce the devils and the world and espouse God and the Faith. We are no longer looking from afar or from outside, but are now on the inside. We are committed and with this commitment, the Holy Ghost shows us the beauty and intimacy of the Holy Cross.

There are, as it were, three stages or progressions which we follow in our actions. First, we are presented with an idea (good or bad). Second, we experience pleasure (or pain) associated with the idea. Third we commit ourselves for or against the idea and the pleasure with an act of our will through consent. In the case of evil ideas, the cause of sin is not in the idea or temptation, nor completely in the pleasure or pain it brings, but the sin is principally in the consent of the will to the thought or desire. The same is true on the positive side. Our merit is not in the idea, or in the pleasure we derive from the idea, but rather in the consent of our will or the conformity of our will to the good thought or desire.

We often consider ourselves good Christians because we entertain the ideas of the Faith. This is not enough. If we advance and experience joy or pleasure in the Faith, we think that we are already pleasing to God, but truly, at this stage, we have done nothing. We have been passive observers or passive participants in the Faith. What is lacking in so many is the final step of commitment with a true consent and conformity of our wills with the Faith.

We have heard Jesus tell us that we must deny ourselves, take up our daily crosses and follow Him. The thought is put before everyone, but this is not enough. Some advance farther and experience the joy or pleasure that comes from self-denial and embracing their daily crosses. Much of this pleasure is material and not quite spiritual. Many non-believers have experienced the joys of practicing humility and self-denial, but they do not have the spiritual benefits of this. The merit and benefit become ours when we make the deliberate act of our wills -- giving not only our consent to the thought of denying ourselves and carrying our daily crosses but also in actually conforming our wills to this thought.

With the act of our wills, we accept the guidance of the Holy Ghost, then we truly find the Cross and therefore we truly find Jesus. Only those under the guidance of the Holy Ghost ever get to know the Son of God or ever appreciate the Cross and the Sacrifice Jesus made for us. To receive the Holy Ghost we must enter the Church in Holy Baptism, being born again — freed from sin and filled with grace.

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