The Cross is a Kind of Tuning Fork Signaling the True Faith

A Cross, not a cushion – Some argue that religion, faith, is a man made fiction, meant to soothe our difficult life with stories about ultimate victory in a heaven somewhere. I believe is was Karl Marx who thought of religion as an opiate of the masses in that it blunted the difficult reality of life in the same way that opium dulled the minds of drug users. But a charge like this cannot apply to the true Christian and Catholic Faith. There are consolations, to be sure, from faith. Yet at the center of the true faith is a cross, not a cushion and this is an important corrective to those who think of religion merely as something to soothe us.

The cross also goes a long way to speak to the Divine origin of our Holy Faith. If the faith were an invention of man what is the cross doing there? I don’t just mean Jesus’ cross, I mean ours. Jesus did not just carry his own cross, he told us we’d have to carry ours. And this teaching on the cross is not just an incidental sidebar, the cross is absolutely central. Now it seems to me that if our Holy Faith were man-made, there would not be a cross as the central tenant, but rather a pillow, a giant fluffy pillow.

Man made religion would exult pleasure, prosperity, consolation, affirmation and so forth. But true religion, God’s Holy Faith, holds up the cross, the cross of repentance, self-denial, self-discipline, sacrifice, living for others, and so on. This hardly seems to be something that we human beings would devise, given as we are to selfishness. And what’s even more amazing, and surely something no human being would think up on his own, is that the cross truly brings life. It is in losing our life that we find it and gain it (cf Matt 6:25). No human wisdom is this….it must be from God!

The Cross is like a tuning fork – It’s what you use to be sure that the preacher is “in tune” with the true faith of God or to discover that he is just preaching a false version of the faith, one not of God. There are false preachers out there today and one way to tell that they are false is that they seldom or never mention the cross. They talk about prosperity and blessings, rewards and gain. Nothing intrinsically wrong with those to be sure. But do they mention the cross? Do they mention self-denial, self-discipline, repentance and the fact that we are all called to share in the sufferings of Christ? If they do not, they are not of God. Beware the preachers of the “prosperity gospel.” Beware of a cross-less Christianity. There is joy in faith to be sure, but there must also be the cross. God does not only affirm, He also disciplines, matures and quickens the Christian, always with love.

St. Augustine rebuked the false shepherds of his day in these words:

“The Apostle says, ‘All who desire to live a holy life in Christ will suffer persecution.’ But you say instead…’All things will be yours in abundance!’ Is this the way you build up the believer? Take note of what you are doing and where you are placing him. You have built him on sand. [But] The rains will come….! [Rather,] put him on the rock. Let him be in Christ. Let him consider Scripture which says to him: God chastises every son who he acknowledges. Let him prepare to be chastised or else not seek to be acknowledged as a son. (sermo 46:10-11)

The video below from a very strange little comedy called “Dogma.” The scene here depicts a mixed up bishop who wants to refashion the Catholic Faith and make it a more “pleasant affair.” It’s a pretty silly scene but there is a serious point: The cross is like a tuning fork. Without the “A 440” of the Cross the whole symphony is out of tune. With that in mind, watch this video of a false teacher (comically portrayed) who wants to substitute a pillow for the cross, a false Jesus for the real one a false teacher who exults affirmation in the place of transformation.

10 Replies to “The Cross is a Kind of Tuning Fork Signaling the True Faith”

  1. Thank you Monsignor Pope. This adds a lot of clarity and contrast and helps in understanding. Peace to you.

  2. Hi Msgr Charles,

    whenever we mention about what god has done in our lifes or when we share about gods love, always we ends up in telling only about the better half, about the wonderfull blessing and the prosperity that we enjoy rather than about the cross or the pain that we had to under go to reach there. how can we make a change in this attitude. ?

  3. In so much of history there has been a strong influence by those who communicate, in various and often cunning, ways that we are not worthy of the type of challenges which lead us to our full growth. Helping one’s child, or a student/apprentice/etc. has often included too much help that showed a result that the neophyte could have come upon themselves (with minimal guidance) and, thereby, learned more about how to learn.
    To pick up our cross and follow in the path of God the Word who became God the Son is a great opportunity to break loose from these “too nice” blockages called teaching that seem to come close to a definition of evil. We are all worthy of accepting the potential that God has provided us with, and don’t need to hide from it by falling for the oppression of tyranny nor the oppression of being a tyrant who has been taught to silence the wake up calls he/she needs to hear.
    Thank you for this wonderful and beneficially uncomfortable post. A tuning fork and, I’m inspired by the article to say, a compass, a polarity indicator and more, a tape measure and more again.

  4. George Carlin is a funny man and certainly knows how to make people laugh. It is unfortunate that he will choose any topic to express his jokes, even a holy religious belief. It is especially disheartening that the crude language he applies in all his comedy is carried into even his diatribe on faith in God. But Mr. Carlin is only doing what he does for the fee he gets for stand-up comedy, and apparently he will do anything for that.

    What is most disconcerting to me is the audiences, which are sometimes measured in thousands. They applaud and belly-laugh at these jokes, and in so doing they endorse his message and ratify what he presents as his belief. Do they really believe these things themselves, or are they so indifferent to the insult of his comedy, perhaps even personally to them, that it bounces off without so much as a passing twinge of conscience?

    All comedy requires exaggeration. Also, clever ridicule of institutions for their high intellectual standings in a world full of base and imperfect reality is surely a winning performance for any stand-up comic. Let’s hope that people just take this for what it really is, crude comedy, nothing more. Let’s hope that people are intelligent enough to look beyond the George Carlins of the world and understand what the reality of life is truly all about, i.e. salvation. Life is allotted a few years, our soul is allotted eternity, so where should our priority be placed?

  5. That St. Augustine quote really shows that there is nothing new under the sun.

  6. The Apostle Paul’s “Theology of the Cross”. Pope Benedict’s General Audience, October 29, 2008(an excerpt):

    “For St Paul the Cross has a fundamental primacy in the history of humanity; it represents the focal point of his theology because to say “Cross” is to say salvation as grace given to every creature. The topic of the Cross of Christ becomes an essential and primary element of the Apostle’s preaching.The Apostle says so with an impressive force that it is good to hear directly from his words: “for the word of the Cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God… it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles” (1 Cor 1: 18-23). “

  7. Why is the blog so difficult to find these days? I always got to it from the link on the “Be Connected” page and now the link is missing.

  8. Joel Osteen is speaking tonight at Quicken Loans Arena in downtown Cleveland, OH ($10 per seat). While he certainly is a dynamic speaker, he strikes me more in keeping with a motivational-type speaker rather than as a pastor. It seems to me that his message falls more in line with what Msgr. has described–a man-made religion which exults prosperity, consolation and affirmation. No wonder these “mega-church” preachers pack in the crowds. Warm-fuzzies and Starbucks in the lobby.

  9. My guess is that George Carlin was an angry man. I think what angered him most was deceit and willful ignorance. I sympathize. Could he have chosen kinder ways of getting his point across? Probably; but it’s likely he wouldn’t have gotten most people to take any notice. Comedians do what they do for the shock value. I don’t condone it because it causes scandal. But I’ve been known to cause scandal myself with an unguarded or sarcastic comment. As for the cross; the more “mature” I become, I find that most everyone I know or encounter wants nothing at all to do with a cross; Christ’s or theirs. And when confronted with their own cross(es) people retreat to their pre-programmed, default positions in the fantasy (and virtual) worlds which they’ve been given from the mainly unseen forces of this world, both natural and supernatural. There is truly nothing new under the sun but the majority of people really don’t think that is true. They think they are living in cutting edge times. Man, in and of himself, can never change. That’s why all of life comes down to each, individual soul; nothing less, nothing more. And that’s why the forces of this world rage against the cross; because the cross tells each soul that it is of paramount importance to God.

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