At the Foot of the Cross

Homily offered by Father Matthew C. Dallman, Obl.S.B., for the Parish of Tazewell County on the Last Sunday after Trinity (Christ the King), 2019.

We ask in our Collect today that the peoples of the earth, divided and enslaved by sin, may be freed and brought together under Christ’s most gracious rule. Rightly understood, this Collect expresses concisely the Christian understanding of the fallen world and why we Christians are in the world with an apostolic mission. To a sinful world we are to bring a way of life centered on the glory of the Cross; a way of life empowered by our knowledge of Christ both crucified and resurrected. The knowledge of Truth—that is to say the knowledge of Christ Crucified and Resurrected—is knowledge that is lived out; is knowledge that is embodied and enacted; is knowledge that must, if it is true knowledge of Truth Himself, be expressed through a general attitude or disposition toward all the world, and as the premise of all our relationships in the world with God’s creatures, especially our relationships with the human ones. It is this ennobled way of life that is the true meaning of “Christ’s most gracious rule”—Christ’s most gracious way of life; Christ’s most sacred humanity.

The world is full of disorder and disharmony, our Collect rightly declares. The image of God that remains in all people is obscured because their likeness of Him is defaced by sin, by evil doings in the phrase from Jeremiah. The flock has been scattered. Instead of surrender to the way of life anchored in Truth Himself, separation from that way of life—and this separation is sin properly understood—is what causes a life of darkness: a life of spiritual darkness that cannot see the uncreated Light Who reconciles all creatures to Himself and Who leads us not into temptation but out of the darkness of evil and toward salvation.

And so God became Man in order to attend to the world full of evil doings. And the way He attended to it was to die on a Cross. Heaven was no longer far away or unreachable. With God on a Cross, dying for our sins, to remove our sins, to remove our separation from the true way of life, heaven was no longer far away or unreachable: heaven is found by being at the foot of the Cross. Our King is found when we are at the foot of the Cross and behold Him, when we look up and behold His kingly power. Our kind is found when we are at the foot of the Cross and look up and behold that the righteous branch of David loves us from the Cross and loves us to the end. Being at the foot of the Cross demands our stillness—of mind, of thought. There is no other way to be at the foot of the Cross but to be still, for in being still, then and only then can we truly behold the loving Jesus on the Cross out of His inestimable love for us—only when we are still can we know God.

This is why all of the epistles of Saint Paul are really about being at the foot of the Cross beholding Christ suffering for us—all of his letters are about Christ’s free choice to suffer for us, and the glory that comes of this unfathomable action. The image of the invisible God, in whom all things are created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, all things being created through Him and for Him—He Who is before all things and in Whom all things hold together: He who is the head of the Body, the Church; the beginning, and in Whom is the fullness of God—the image of the invisible God is Christ in extreme humility. The image of the invisible God is our Lord treated like a criminal. The image of the invisible God—Whose Name is “The Lord is our righteousness”—meaning, “The Lord is our right relationship with God”—is Jesus scoffed at, spat upon, and mocked Who said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” From His extreme humility comes His extraordinary forgiveness, that this is what Saint Paul and all the apostles teach as the source of strength, endurance, and joyful patience.

Brothers and sisters, let us in all this be stirred up. God’s thoughts are always thoughts of peace and not affliction, despite the sinful ways of the world, sinful ways that killed our Lord. Only the heavenly peace of Christ overcomes death, and overcomes sin. And in our King, this is accomplished.