Why do we celebrate the Holy Cross? In ancient Rome, the cross was a symbol of shame, the instrument of capital punishment. It would be like our celebrating the exaltation of the electric chair. It sounds crazy when you think of it in that way, doesn't it? And yet, the instrument of torture and death, becomes for the Christian the reminder that Christ not only overcame death, but, in doing so, glorified the very instrument used to kill Him. Cardinal Jean Danielou, theologian and historian, reminds us of the reality of the cross we carry. It is a "feeling of being torn asunder...this inability of our heart to carry within itself simultaneously love of the most holy Trinity and love of a world alienated from the Trinity" which is "precisely the death agony" of Jesus, "an agony he calls on us to share." Yes, we are called to love a world that hates God.
This week brings specific reminders of that agonizing conflict as we reflect on the vicious hatred that resulted in the 9/11/2011 atrocity and Wednesday's murderous attack on embassies in Libya and Egypt. How does the Christian react to such evil?
Surely, we are called to forgive our enemies who "know not what they do." But that doesn't require us to be doormats for Christ. How did Pope Pius V respond to the danger of the Muslim Ottoman empire threatening the Christian west in the 16th century? He called on warriors to prevent expansion of their evil. If you read the history of Lepanto and what led up to it, you will never again buy into the bogus rhetoric about Islam being a "religion of peace." In one of their early victories, the Turks promised those manning the fortress of Famagusta on Cypress, which held out against a long siege, that if they surrendered they could leave island freely. Instead the Ottomans slaughtered them without mercy and flayed alive their commander, Marco Antonio Bragadin before dragging him through the streets. (Sound familiar? This is the same imperialist religion that seeks world domination today.
The weakness reflected by the Obama administration in the face of acts of war against our nation further endangers us. Will we only wake up when a dozen 9/11s take place in our cities? We need to pray and fast for peace, yes, but also hold our ground. Remember that every one of our embassies is a piece of American territory in a foreign land. An attack on an embassy which should be a guaranteed safe zone, is an act of war. That the local government failed to protect our people is inexcusable. That Obama should apologize for our freedom of speech and thank Libya's president for his concern is appalling. The buck stops with a country's leader and Libya's president has a lot of answering to do for what happened. And Obama is accountable for his disgraceful response to a national crisis. But, hey, he had campaigning to do in Las Vegas. You can't expect a man like him to fill that empty chair in the oval office.