“NON ENIM IUDICAVI SCIRE ME ALIQUID INTER VOS NISI ISEUM CHRISTUM ET HUNC CRUCIFIXUM.” – PAULUS
“For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you, except Jesus Christ and Him Crucified.” –St. Paul, 1 Corinthians 2:2
A Musing on Remembering Christ Crucified
A few months ago, I was at a conference where the speaker at breakfast was a former Pentagon official. He began his speech by telling us what his typical days at the Pentagon were like, one day in particular. He said he had drank several Cokes that morning, and had told his coworkers he needed to step out for a moment, and walked down the hallway to the restrooms.
“Had I known in that moment, that was the last time I would’ve spoken to my coworkers, I would’ve said something different,” he told us.
He exited the restrooms and was beginning to walk back toward his office, which laid on the outer-most ring of the Pentagon (with a window looking out toward Virginia) when the plane hit the building.
He went on to describe how he survived those next few seconds, minutes, hours – the third degree burns on his body, the weakness in his muscles and lungs, the feeling of being on the edge of life, and the encouragement and comfort he felt when the hospital chaplain read the Psalms to him.
He had survived the terrorist attack at the Pentagon on September 11. His trip to the restroom, and various other circumstances, ultimately had saved his life, but the coworkers who had remained in the office where he’d worked had all died in the attack.
His memory of his coworkers and that day live on in his memory and on his body, as his burns are still visible, and still painful. He said every day, with every speech he gave, he remembered 9/11 and his coworkers and the others who died. He could never forget. It was thanks to God that he was alive, he told us, and he gave thanks for that every day.
Today, he shares his story with others, and continues to spread Christ’s message through his ministry. But, he understands that he lives thanks to Another.
St. Paul understood this, too. After persecuting the early Christians, and seeing a vision of Christ himself on his way to Damascus, he understood that he was living on “borrowed time.”
Just as the 9/11 Pentagon survivor saw that he was alive (physically) thanks to Christ and His Mercy, St. Paul recognized that he was alive (spiritually) thanks to Christ and His Cross.
We, as sinners, recognize the saving merits of Christ’s passion, as without them, we would have a chance to be with Him in Heaven when we die.
O My Dying Jesus, I kiss devoutly the Cross on which Thou didst die for love of me. I have merited by my sins to die a miserable death; but Thy death is my hope. Ah, by the merits of Thy death, give me the grace to die, embracing Thy Feet, and burning with love for Thee. (The 12th Station, St. Alphonsus Ligouri’s Stations of the Cross)
St. Paul mentions the saving graces of Christ’s Cross throughout his letters, but in 1 Corinthians, he marks that his ministry is centered on the remembrance of that Sacrifice which won our freedom from death.
“For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you, except Jesus Christ and Him Crucified.”
For the 9/11 survivor – in every speech he gave, every move of his burned body, every prayer he uttered – he remembers that he was saved from death that day, and remembers and prays for those who died.
St. Paul – in every teaching, every sermon, every shared meal and prayer – remembered the important work he had been commissioned through his ministry. He remembered Christ’s Mercy and Love – which He demonstrated through His Passion, Death, and Resurrection.
In those moments of his ministry, St. Paul walked a spiritual pilgrimage through Jerusalem to Calvary with Christ. The Crucified Lord was beside St. Paul, helping him draw others to the foot of the Cross, to remember the Sacrifice that took place there.
And, so do we, too. We remember. We commemorate the Crucified Lord with every Mass and, during Lent most especially, we make that spiritual pilgrimage through Jerusalem to Calvary by praying the Stations of the Cross.
So, let us continue to do so. May the Crucified Lord be in our thoughts, words, and actions during every moment of our day – especially those moments when we are actively ministering to others, as St. Paul did. Let us walk with Him to Calvary and commemorate His Sacrifice for us.
The Prayer to Jesus Christ Crucified
My good and dear Jesus, I kneel before you, asking you most earnestly to engrave upon my heart a deep and lively faith, hope, and charity, with true repentance for my sins, and a firm resolve to make amends. As I reflect upon your five wounds, and dwell upon them with deep compassion and grief, I recall, good Jesus, the words the prophet David spoke long ago concerning yourself: “They have pierced my hands and my feet; they have counted all my bones!”
Lord, we also offer a special prayer for those who died on September 11, 2001. May their souls, and all the souls of the faithfully departed, through the Mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen. +CHS