Run to the Cross

exaltation of the holy cross

Recently at Mass, I saw what I often see. A mother walked into Mass with a toddler: a little girl with a pink bow on her head and a pretty, floofy dress meant perhaps for a party or dance recital. She did what every child does when they touch foot in a church—she took off and ran down the aisle, fearlessly and unapologetically, straight toward the altar. She was not disrespectful or wild. The girl was just quietly running. She ran and ran, and then unexpectedly, suddenly stopped just at the altar’s edge. She looked up at the massive crucifix hanging from the ceiling in total awe and wonder for a few seconds. Then she turned around and waited for her mother to catch up and lead her to a pew much farther back in the church. The little girl with the pink bow obliged without argument.

Captivated by the Cross

I’ve seen this happen dozens of times, but for some reason, on this day, it truly struck me. Why did this little girl not run wildly onto the altar and play with the flowers or mess up the altar cloths, as I probably would have when I was her age? What made her stop at the altar’s edge? I truly think in that moment she was being called by Christ to His altar to celebrate what was about to happen at Mass with Him.

Why Not Now?

Why don’t I approach the altar with such rigor? What is it about growing up that keeps me from running to Jesus like this little one?

At the core, it is shame. Our sin becomes our captor, shackling our hands and feet in the chains of our own shame. These chains are too heavy and distracting to carry all the way to the front of the Church, too shameful to take to the foot of the Cross.

So we sneak into a pew in the back of the church and hope that Jesus will see us just enough for our Mass attendance to “count,” but not enough for Him to see our sin and wounds and brokenness up close. We keep Him at arm’s length, as if we are fooling Him somehow. As if we can hide from His love.

And then we sneak out before the closing hymn is over so that we don’t have to talk to Jesus a moment longer than we have to. Because Sunday football and food shopping and mowing the lawn and Netflix are waiting.

The Cross is Our Life

I am not condemning. All of these things I have done myself, over and over. But why? Why are we not running to the Cross like this little one?

Often time the procession up to Communion looks more like a funeral march than what it is: a Eucharistic celebration! It is a celebration of this God who took on lowly flesh and decided to dwell among His creation! It is a celebration of the God who gives us His very flesh to transform our weak flesh in this gift of the Eucharist.

If we truly understood that, and if we truly understood the Eucharist, I am completely convinced we would be running up to Communion like that little girl, and peering up at the Crucifix in wonder, and marveling at this gift of Christ’s body coming into ours.

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Let the Children Come to Me

Jesus says in Matthew 19:14: “Let the children come to me, and do not prevent them, for the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to such as these.”

How do we become childlike again? How do we restore the desire to run to the Cross? It begins in the confessional. We must come face to face with our sin and verbally admit to ourselves that we have sinned. We cannot seek this forgiveness just in our heads or in our hearts. Saying the words aloud in the presence of a priest is the only way to remove the chains of sin. That verbal recognition of the sin we have committed is what unlocks those chains.

The little girl with the pink bow gets it. We were all that little girl once. Let us not be afraid to run to the Cross like her. Let us not hide ourselves. We cannot hide from the One who made us. Let us run to Him, in all of our brokenness, and just allow ourselves to be loved.

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Jenna Violi is a Theology teacher and retreat coordinator at a Catholic school in suburban Philadelphia. She spends her free time singing at Mass, writing music, teaching herself guitar, drinking coffee, and looking at pictures of corgis. You can find out more about her here.

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