Meditations by Msgr. Liptak


Msgr. Liptakweekly gospel meditations



The Sign of the Cross

Deuteronomy 4:32-34, 39-40; Romans 8:14-17; Matthew 28:16-20.




Aim: to explain (1) the Sign of the Cross; (2) to understand it as a traditional and public sign of' our belief in the Holy Trinity.


Today is Trinity Sunday, a liturgical opportunity for reflecting on the doctrine that in the one God there are three Persons, distinct but equal, whom we invoke, as the Bible bids us (today's Gospel, for example) as: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Every time we make the Sign of the Cross we affirm our belief in this doctrine, one of the four basic truths of our faith. (The others are (1) God exists; (2) God rewards and punishes; and (3) the Second Person of the Trinity, God the Son, became man, died for us, and rose from the dead to redeem us and draw us into the very life of the Trinity forever.)

The words of the of the Cross are words taken directly from today's Gospel, in which Jesus sends forth his Apostles to preach and baptize everywhere until the end of time. The action accompanying these words ----tracing the hand from the forehead, to the breast, thence to the left and right shoulders--reminds us that it is through the Cross of Jesus---the Son of God made man--that the life of the Trinity is opened to us, and that the Cross is the only means by which we can follow Christ our Savior and Lord to enter into the eternal life of the Trinity.

Because of the Cross of Calvary we can possess the Spirit ot adoption, by which we can really call God "Father," as St. Paul states in today's Second Reading. We can only be heirs with Christ if we are willing to suffer with him, for his sake.

The early Christians had dramatic experience of this truth. For them making the Sign of the Cross meant signaling their willingness-and readiness-to go to a dungeon, to torture, even to death. Countless martyrs have surrendered their lives in flames or by the sword after making the Sign of the Cross. In the Tower of London, for one historic example, the pilgrim can still see the Sign of the Cross scratched into the stone walls by Catholics condemned there to suffer or die for the Faith; a reminder of endless Signs of the Cross made by martyrs down through the ages on their persons.

In pondering the Sign of the Cross, sometimes the words are minimized. This tendency is unfortunate. On God's side, signs are expressions of his love for us, as today's First Reading says. On our side, signs must also be manifestations of love--of love fixed in the heart. Otherwise they are mute, meaningless, sterile.

Thus, when we make the Sign of the Cross, our hearts must be in what we do. Which means, first, that we must be aware of what we are doing and saying. What we are doing is recollecting the Cross of Calvary, on which Jesus our Savior, the Son of God Incarnate, died that we might have life through him with the Triune God forever. What we are saying is that we believe that in God there are Three Persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

To relegate this sacred sign to a superstitious symbol is, it goes without saying, sacrilegious. To make the Sign of the Cross halfheartedly is to make no true sign at all; under such circumstances, it expresses nothing. To rush through the Sign of the Cross mechanically, as if it were something simply to be done with, is to forget that its real meaning is derived from three hours of agony on Calvary.


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