18th Friday in Ordinary Time
Feast of St. Edith Stein (Sr. Benedicta of the Cross)
Deuteronomy 4: 32 – 40; Ps 77; Matthew 16: 24 – 28
Jesus could not be clearer: “Whoever wishes to come after Me, must deny himself, take up his cross and follow Me…whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.” St. Paul will put it other terms: “To live is Christ.” However expressed, however worded, this is a radical demand – in Greek “deny, take up, follow” are imperatives, commands that challenge us in faith to our depths.
In hearing these words – which we have heard more than once – do we truly, really try by God’s grace to live or just something we give a nod to and take with a huge grain of salt? Jesus is absolute in His teaching – “whoever wishes to come after ME” – there is no other way, it is the Lord’s way – the One we call our Lord, my Lord.
Today we are celebrating the feast of St. Edith Stein; her life – like all our lives is a mystery of call and response. From observant Jew to agnostic to Catholic to teacher to cloistered Discalced Carmelite nun, she became Sister Teresa Benedicta of the Cross. “Of the Cross” was much, much more than a pious title. It was her way of living her Baptism, her vows. Her book “Science of the Cross” was not theory, rather her call, her passion.
A quote from her writings: “In order to be an image of God, the spirit must turn to what is eternal, hold it in spirit, keep it in memory and by loving it, embrace it in the will.” What she wrote, she lived to the very end and the end came brutally on August 9, 1942 in an Auschwitz gas chamber with her sister, Rosa and with hundreds of her people, all victims of the Nazis. Like her Lord, St. Edith was faithful to the end.
May her example be our encouragement that to follow Christ by denying self, by taking up our cross is possible by God’s grace and, in reality, the only way to truly live in faith all our days to the end.