Triumph of the Holy Cross

(instituted in 629)

Dear Tricia,

Complaints, complaints, complaints.  All you do is complain. You are the biggest and most voluble complainer I know.  And I’d like to tell you right now that I’ve had it. I am no longer going to tolerate your complaints.  For a while I thought you would get over it, so I put up with it. But that didn’t work. So now I guess I just have to tell you the secret.  Few people know it (that’s why it’s a secret), but complaints can be an excellent, magnificent tool for spiritual growth. It all has to do with today’s feast day.

Originally this celebration was linked to St Helen’s miraculous fourth-century finding of the cross on which Jesus had been crucified.  The Emperor Constantine constructed magnificent Basilicas on the hill of Calvary and over the Holy Sepulchre (where Christ was buried) to honor the cross of Christ.  When the Persian armies conquered Palestine around the year 600, they carried off the pieces of the True Cross, which had been housed in the basilicas. The Emperor Heraclius recovered them in 614, on September 14th.  Ever since, the Church has commemorated the event, and taken advantage of it not only to venerate the actual pieces of wood, but also to praise Christ for the sacrifice he offered upon that wood, a sacrifice that reunited God and man forever, a sacrifice that reveals the path to holiness.  Here’s how.

Growth in holiness (and the happiness that holiness engenders) requires the Cross, because holiness comes from friendship with Christ, and the Cross is the condition of nearness to Christ, as He himself told us: “If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” (Luke 9:23)  What is the Cross? It’s contradiction. It’s any time your duties, your conscience, the inspirations of the Holy Spirit, or the circumstances of your life contradict your natural preferences and likes. When that happens, what you OUGHT to do is not what you FEEL like doing. In that moment, you have a chance to show God that you love him, by choosing to do his will instead of your own, thereby following in the footsteps of our Lord’s Passion, in which he redeemed the world by obeying God’s will even though it was mortally painful for him.

One of the biggest problems Christians have is their undeveloped capacity to identify the crosses that God sends them each day.  And when you don’t identify them, you can’t take them up, and if you don’t take them up, you can’t use them to grow in holiness and extend Christ’s redemption into your life and the lives of those around you.

This is where complaining comes in.  You see, every time you complain, it’s because you are experiencing contradiction: something in your experience is contradicting your natural preference.  Behind every complaint there is a cross. So what you need to do is learn Complaint Judo. Whenever you find yourself complaining, turn the very discomfort or frustration that is causing the complaint into a prayer.  Complain to God, then renew your trust in him and ask for the strength to accept and fulfill his will no matter what, just as Christ did. Thus, every complaint, which by nature expresses and aggravates your self-centeredness, will become a vehicle for embracing your daily crosses and growing in your friendship with Christ.  Simple formula for sure growth in holiness.

So since you won’t stop complaining, at least put your complaints to good use; learn Complaint Judo.

Your loving uncle, Eddy

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