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“May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ…” 

How I wish this was truer in my life. 

How I wish my heart was on fire with that same passion that animated       St. Paul, the passion that impelled him, that drove him to give himself entirely to preaching Jesus Christ.

Earlier in the same letter, he writes, “I have been crucified with Christ; yet I live, no longer I, but Christ lives in me.” (Galatians 2:20)

In his beautiful letter to the Philippians he writes, “For to me, life is Christ.” (Philippians 1:21)

I wish I was humble enough to only boast in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, to see my life conformed more and more to that of Jesus, to be fully alive in Christ.

How foolish I can be. How self-important and prideful I can act. How often I take credit for words, actions and accomplishments so that I can puff up my pride rather than give glory to God.

What a waste grasping to something that does not last.

“But whatever gains I had, these I have come to consider a loss because of Christ. More than that, I even consider everything as a loss because of the supreme good of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord,” writes St. Paul. “For his sake I have accepted the loss of all things and I consider them so much rubbish that I may gain Christ and be found in him.”

I do not want to make this homily to be about me, but rather what Christ calls me to be, calls us to be, that is—to be alive in him.

St. Paul’s words must have just astounded the Galatians, the early Christians and most especially those who had no religion at all. The cross was a symbol of pain, execution, horror, humiliation and intense suffering. Why would anyone boast of the cross?

St. Paul knew this and that’s why he wrote, “May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

St. Paul wasn’t talking about any cross. It was Jesus Christ who died on the cross that gave him reason to boast. It was Jesus Christ who gave his life to free us from sin, to do for us what we could not do for ourselves so that we might realize what he wrote last week: “For freedom Christ set us free; so stand firm and do not submit again to the yoke of slavery.”

Only Christ Jesus through his death on the cross can save us and gain for us eternal life. Only Jesus Christ can gain for us eternal happiness and that which truly satisfies our deepest yearnings, God himself.

Everything else falls short. Every accomplishment passes away. All the money we’ve made, all the degrees we have, all the trophies we’ve put on shelves will mean nothing when we take our last breath. Only Jesus will ultimately matter.

My sisters and brothers, look at Jesus on the cross. Gaze upon him. Look at him this day with new eyes. Look upon him as you would look into the eyes of one you deeply love—your spouse, your children, your parents.

Look intently and see deeply. See love—total, unconditional, nothing-held-back, arms outstretched love.

Take a moment now and, looking at him on the cross, ask him to show you what keeps you from him, what you boast about and place your trust in. Ask him to show you what you cling to and what clings to you that keeps you unfree, unable to be his disciple more fully and more freely.

Please pray out loud with me, repeating each.

Jesus, may I never boast except in your cross. May I see in your cross the love that sets me truly free, that reveals to me who I truly am, the Father’s beloved.

Jesus, as I gaze upon you, may my heart be set free to love as you love, to abandon myself into your Father’s embrace and to allow the power of the Holy Spirit to fall anew on me.

Jesus, send me forth with your power, relying on you alone, to do your will and make known your kingdom. 

Amen.