I was once asked why I always mention St. Charles (or San Carlos) Borromeo in my Masses. St. Charles Borromeo, the Archbishop of Milan, is the patron saint of San Carlos Seminary in Guadalupe, Makati where I graduated. He was a cardinal at the age of 24. His statue at the seminary presents him holding a Bible with his left hand and a crucifix with his right hand, both are pressed close to his heart.

The roles of a prophet are to proclaim the Word of God, which is the Gospel and to proclaim the mystery of the cross in his own life. San Carlos Borromeo was very much a prophet. For him, to preach the Gospel was to suffer the cross and to suffer the cross was to preach the Gospel. Somebody who preaches the Gospel but is not willing and ready to suffer for the Gospel is a bogus preacher. In the same way, somebody who bears sacrifices and endures the cross but who is unable to teach people the truth that beyond the cross is Christ, waiting for us to reward us for our suffering, is likewise a bogus preacher.

San Carlos proclaimed that anyone who wants to teach about God should also be ready to embrace the cross. It was also in this manner that he accepted the cross. Without having to utter a word, San Carlos, by his own life, already preached the Gospel.

I love San Carlos, not because he was a cardinal. I love him because he is a reminder of how we should live as Christians. The role of the prophet is not simply limited to us, priests. The role of being a prophet is open to all of us. We, too, should be holding the Bible and crucifix close to our hearts. As Christians, we are known as followers of the cross. The cross is meaningless without Christ and Christ is also meaningless without the cross. Christ needs the cross to suffer for us. There can be no salvation without the cross, there can be no salvation without Christ. What the world needs is not a Christless cross, not a crossless Christ but Christ upon the Cross.

We start the Mass by making the sign of the cross. We also make it before the reading of the Gospel. The sign of the cross identifies us as Christians, in the same way that the Jews are identified through the star of David, and the communists by the sickle and hammer. Some people make the sign of the cross very devoutly. Others do it as if they were waving off flies from their noses. If we cannot make the sign of the cross properly, how can we make the sign of the cross in our hearts? We should rejoice in the cross.

At the end of the Mass, the sign of the cross we make is no longer to identify us but to bless us. Priests cannot bless without making the sign of the cross. Those who are not willing to take up the cross have no right to be blessed. In every blessing is a cross and in every cross is a blessing.

Let us rejoice and thank God that we carry the cross day by day because the crosses in our life are also our blessings.

Mk. 9:23-27
Only Jesus, Always Jesus

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