For a nonbeliever, the cross is just two pieces of wood put together to form a “T.” Or they see the cross as an instrument of torture and death used in the ancient world. The cross was a symbol and an instrument of death and destruction effectively used during the Roman era, but the Church does not worship an empty symbol. Just as in the early Church, we worship what the sign of the cross represents: redemption and new life. The redemption and new life are brought about through the passion, death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. They cannot be separated from one another, for from death comes new life. That is the law of nature. As people of faith, we know this as the natural law which is guided by God’s creation. It was not an empty sacrifice, it was an act of love on the part of God. The cross does not merely symbolize the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, it becomes the means by which we are saved. That truth is behind every cross we look at; this is the reason so many people, even those who may call themselves Christian, want to hide the cross away. 

The power of the cross brings salvation and the receiving of salvation calls us to service. After all, that is what Jesus does for us all and we are called to embrace the cross and serve humanity in the very same way Jesus serves us: by laying down our lives for Christ and our neighbor. Discipleship requires courage and commitment. If we are going to be able to answer Jesus’ call to humble service, we must approach the cross of Jesus Christ with humility and have the courage of faith to lay our lives down on the cross.

In the Gospel for the Twenty-Ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time from Mark 10:35-45, James and John, the Sons of Zebedee request from Jesus their share of the glory; they did not have the cross before them, nor did they understand that the call of true discipleship requires courage and commitment. They could not even begin to understand what Jesus meant as he gave the final of his three-passion prediction.  

Let us look at the first request from two Apostles, James, and John. “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.” He replied, “What do you wish me to do for you?” They answered him, “Grant that we may sit one at your right and the other at your left.” (Mark 10:36-37) They are blinded by the immediacy of fleeting glory. Jesus in his final passion prediction invites them to look at the cross and beyond to understand the meaning of eternal glory. We see this in Jesus’ response to their demand. Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking. Can you drink the cup that I drink or be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?” They said to him, “We can.” (Mark 10:38-39) They agreed to look at the cross and beyond. Jesus’ passion would become their passion. Jesus said to them, “The cup that I drink, you will drink, and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized.” (Mark 10:40)

The other 10 disciples also wanted their share of glory and Jesus gave each of them who were willing to embrace the cross their share of glory. For true glory is found in the cross and not in the emptiness of this world which leads to spiritual death. We have been baptized with the baptism which Jesus was baptized. Do we understand what our share of glory requires of us? It requires courage and commitment, and courage and commitment means surrendering ourselves to the mercy of Christ: “Lord, let your mercy be on us, as we place our trust in you. (Psalm 33) 

The First Reading is from the suffering servant song from the Prophet Isaiah 53:10-11: “The Lord was pleased to crush him in infirmity. If he gives his life as an offering for sin, he shall see his descendants in a long life.” As the first reading from Isaiah reminds us that Jesus is the suffering servant who offers himself as a sacrifice, the Second Reading from the Letter to the Hebrews reminds us that Jesus Christ is also the high priest who offers the sacrifice at the altar of the Lord. “Since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast to our confession.” (Heb. 4:14-16) Let us not look beyond the cross and miss the glory of our savior who was crucified for our sins. The true glory of the cross is the promise of the Kingdom which awaits us all.