St Macarius

Bishop of Jerusalem (entered heaven around 335)

Dear Mac,

Be careful not to confuse worship and entertainment.  Just because you sometimes find Mass “boring” and “get nothing out of” receiving Holy Communion doesn’t mean that your private “praise and worship” sessions are more authentic.  They may be more fun for you and your fellow guitar disciples (nothing against, them, mind you), but the path to heaven isn’t paved just with fun. As a matter of fact, our Lord himself admonished us, “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the road broad that leads to destruction, and those who enter through it are many.

How narrow the gate and constricted the road that leads to life. And those who find it are few.”  (Matthew 7:13-14) He also made “bearing our cross” (which is not fun) the one condition of being his disciple: “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.” (Mark 8:34)  I could list passage after passage that will teach the same lesson. Fuzzy feelings don’t always go along with real virtue, or real prayer, or real holiness. And yet, only those realities will give true life to the soul.  Today’s saint gives us an interesting example of this.

Maracrius was one of those rock-solid bishops who defended the true faith when heresy made a bold appearance in the early fourth century.  He was also the mastermind behind the marvelous basilica that Emperor Constantine and his mother, St Helen, had erected on the site of Christ’s crucifixion.  He was actually present when St Helen had that site excavated in her search for the true cross. When they uncovered three crosses (two for the thieves crucified with Jesus, one for Jesus himself), Macarius solved the problem of identifying which cross was which.  He had the three crosses brought to the house of a woman in his congregation who was ill to the point of death. He knelt beside the sick woman and uttered a prayer which Rufinus records in his famous History of the Church: “O God, who through your only-begotten Son has inspired the heart of your handmaid [that would be St Helen] to seek the holy wood upon which our salvation depends, show plainly which cross was identified with the glory of the Lord and which served for the punishment of slaves.  Grant that as soon as the health-giving wood touches this woman who is lying half-dead, she may be recalled to life from the gates of death.” Then he proceeded to touch each cross to her skin. With the first two, nothing happened. With the third, the woman opened her eyes and rose from bed, in the best of health.

Skeptics always dismiss such accounts as fictitious.  I am not a skeptic. Even if you are, however, the truth illustrated by the story still stands: only the cross (i.e. self-denial, fulfilling or accepting God’s will out of love and faith even when it hurts) brings us into contact with God’s eternal life-giving grace, healing us from our deadly disease of selfishness and sin.  So don’t expect fuzzy feelings every time you worship our Lord – after all, shouldn’t you be trying first of all to please him and not yourself?

Your loving uncle, Eddy

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