Come Down From The Cross
 by Rev. Robert J. Hermley


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Often during the course of His public life Jesus requested of those who were listening to Him, "Come follow Me."  On one occasion He also said, "Come to Me all you who labor and are heavily burdened, and I will refresh you."  Another time He said, "If you want to be my disciple, take up your cross and follow Me."

One day on a hill-top overlooking the city of Jerusalem, He wept bitterly as He saw the people below in the city bewildered, looking for peace, happiness and forgiveness.  He was the one person who knew how to bring peace into their lives, but the Scripture says, they did not have even a moment to look up and give Him a chance to change their lives - and so He stood there and wept!  "O Jerusalem, He said, "How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her young, but you would not come."  Jesus was always inviting His listeners to come follow Him.  There were always some who did; there were always some who didn't.  The harvest was indeed great, but the laborers were few.

Along with the Apostles, we are told, there were also some who followed, who were called disciples.  Most of the disciples were sincere in their love of Christ, but there were a few who followed at a distance.  They were always afraid that Christ might ask too much.  These people loved to watch Christ's miracles, but they were a bit skeptical of His teaching.  His teaching was difficult at times; there was a great deal of sacrifice necessary to follow Him.  His miracles were exciting, however.  These people had watched as Jesus cured the blind Bartimaeus.  They were present when He fed the multitude with the five loaves and two fish.  They witnessed the curing of the deaf man.  They stood in awe when He cured the ten lepers.  They saw the woman cured who had said, "If only I touch the tassel of His cloak, I will be cured."  They witnessed the ensuing miracle because of her faith.  They knew only too well the deep faith of those who lowered the sick man through the roof of the house where Christ was teaching and there was no room to go through the door.  That faith was commendable, but a few of those who followed at a distance were still a bit afraid that if they truly followed Christ as He asked they would have to give up too much - like the man who was rich yet wanted to follow on his own terms.  Christ had asked him, if you would be perfect, sell what you have and give it to the poor, and come follow me; but that man went away sad, because he had many possessions.

Why, why did Jesus have to make it so difficult to follow Him?  Why couldn't He have made it easier?  Why did He insist on taking up a cross?  He should have been glad they wanted to follow Him at all.  Why not let us follow on our terms?  Why couldn't He have changed all those old fashioned rules?

Then one day, He said to all the people who had gathered around Him, "Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you will have no life in you." - "I am the Bread come from heaven -"  The faithful ones immediately accepted His teaching, for wasn't He the Messiah?  More than likely they didn't fully understand His exact meaning, but Christ had said it, and that was enough for the faithful ones.  He would explain it; but Christ had said it and that was the end of it!  They had faith in His every word.

But, this was too much for the weak ones - "This is a hard saying and who can hear it?"  How can anyone give us his flesh to eat and his blood to drink?"  How indeed?  They wondered even though they had witnessed the other miracles - and the Gospel says, they walked with Him no longer."

Obviously saddened, Jesus turned to the Twelve and said, "Will you also go away?"  Peter as spokesman, answered for them all and for all of those who through the centuries would forever accept Christ at His word, "Lord, to whom shall we go?"  You have the words of eternal life.  Here was faith of rock!  If you said it Lord, I believe it.  You have spoken Lord, and that is it!  Christ then rewarded Peter's faith - You are Rock and upon you Rock, I will build My Church, and the gates of hell will never prevail against My Church.  Go Peter, teach My Church.  Teach them to observe all things that I have taught you.  Don't let them change My Commandments, Peter.  Don't let them say they are bringing My Church up to date.  Tell them Peter, to follow Me, or leave Me.  Here are the rules; follow them as I gave them or you are not one of mine.

Christ could have called back those who walked away and said, "You don't understand: let me explain.  Here's what I meant - I meant the Holy Eucharist.  I will change bread and wine into My Body" - but Christ doesn't want our love that way.  He wants unconditional faith; and unconditional trust, like the blind man, like the Centurion who said, "Lord I am not worthy.  Say only the world." - Like the deaf man, like the leper who pleaded, "Lord if you will, You can make me clean."  These people hade the kind of faith Christ demanded for a cure.  He wants us to follow Him not only to the resurrection but also to the Crucifixion, as well.  "Take up Your Cross."

To guide us after His resurrection, He has left behind on earth His church.  He has promised that He will be with us through the Church all days even to the end of the world.  He will speak all truth through His Church, through His representative the Pope.  When there is a doubt about the proper way to follow Christ, look to Rome; look to Peter's successor.  Pope John Paul II, Christ's Vicar on earth will point out the clear way to follow.  When the Church through Christ's Vicar asks us to follow Christ in a particular fashion, let us not reply.  "This is a hard saying, and who can hear it."  Let us rather realize that the Church speaks for Christ and Christ has the words of eternal life,  To whom, other than Church, shall we go?  Certainly not to far out theologians, certainly not to wolves in sheep's clothing.  Surely not to modern false prophets.

The world today, in general, is not listening to the words of Christ, "Come follow Me."  The world seeks rather an easy church, a watered-down faith.  It wants Christ, but a Christ without a Cross - but it forgets that Christ doesn't come that way.

Today, even at this moment, we have exactly the same choice as the people who stood watching beneath the balcony of Pontius Pilate.  That choice is Christ or Barabbas - the Catholic Church or godless humanism - God or materialism.

If one wants to follow Christ, he must follow all of Christ's teaching.  One cannot follow only the doctrines he likes.  He must also realize that when the Pope speaks, Christ speaks.  It cannot be any other way.  You cannot serve God and mammon.

The modern world is saying in effect to Christ, "Come down from the Cross" - You are too high to follow.  It is difficult for us to give up our comfort.  We want to serve You, Christ but we want to choose the Commandments which will make life easier for us.  Why can't You make a religion which will make life easier for us.  Why can't You make a religion which is not so difficult.  We want to be our own boss.  We don't want a Church that tells us what we can and cannot do.  We are old enough to decide for ourselves.  Even some of Your priests have become modern and tell us in their sermons and classes that the Church should come up to date.  A great many of the nuns teach the same thing.  Most of them don't even wear a habit.  Come down from the Cross of sacrifice and change Your Commandments so that we can have You and worldly pleasure.  Then we will follow You.

The truly faithful, however, know that Christ will not come down.  Christ obeyed His Father's will even to the death on the Cross - and he insisted again and again, "If you would be My disciple, take up your cross and follow Me" . . . "Enter by the narrow gate."  That means that we cannot take all our sinful baggage and selfishness through the narrow gate that leads to God.  And St. Paul tells us, "Your body is not your own; you were purchased at a great price."

Being a sincere and devout Catholic means obeying all God's Commandments even in the twenty-first century.  You cannot say, "I am personally against this sin but I will not force my opinion on others."  Sin is not an opinion; sin is a turning away from God's commands.  We don't take polls to decide what sin is.  God's Commandments tell us right from wrong.  Catholic doctrine comes from God and it is a take it or leave it doctrine.  It is no smorgasbord - no pick or choose.

So dear reader decide well, God's will or Yours.  He will never come down from the Cross.  Christ made a decision once, too, when the going got tough.  That decision is well known from the Scripture - "Not My will but Thine be done."