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Carrying the Cross at the School of the Americas

November 14, 2010

November 14, 2010

Jamie Zwijack, Class of 2011, shared her reflections on the Sunday Gospel readings in light of the upcoming School of the Americas vigil at Fort Benning, Georgia:

Today’s Gospel presents a challenge to us. It presents to us a call to act. But more than that, it calls us to act now. Today’s story from Luke tells of the prediction that Jesus makes about the eventual destruction of the temple in Jerusalem. And His followers, of course, want to know when this is going to happen. They want to prepare. But the message of the Gospel urges us not to prepare for what is going to happen in the future, but rather to act on what is happening now.

I’d like to ask everyone to look to the back of the chapel. Here we see the image of Jesus on the cross. For us as Christians, that cross, and what it represents for us, is the reason that we are all here, sitting in Mass right now. That image serves as a reminder of the gift that we have all been given. Christ carried the cross for us and gave his life so that our sins might be forgiven, so that we might have eternal life with God in Heaven. Christ gave of himself in order to give us this ultimate gift. He carried that cross for us. How might we repay that gift?

Now I’d like to ask everyone to look to the center of the chapel. Placed at the altar, we see white crosses that will be carried in procession during the vigil next weekend. These crosses have one very important thing in common with our cross hanging in the back of the chapel. What they have in common is the fact that they aren’t empty. Our cross has the image of Christ and these crosses have the names of individuals who have died at the hands of the graduates of the School of the Americas.

In a week from today, a small group from our Dominican community will join thousands of others at the gates of Ft. Benning, in Columbus, Georgia, in an effort to close the School of the Americas. The gathering is not a protest, however, but a vigil – a funeral procession towards the gates of Ft. Benning to remember those whose lives have been taken from them as a result of the school. As a litany of the names of the deceased is read, these white crosses will be raised into the air accompanied by the response, “Presente”. Present. We are here, here for those who can no longer answer.

Two years ago, at this vigil, a friend and I were walking next to each other, carrying our crosses. As we took those slow steps towards the gates of Ft. Benning, someone made their way through the masses of people and grabbed a hold of my friend’s arm. We turned to see a woman with tears streaming down her face. She pointed up at my friend’s cross and, her voice almost a whisper, told us thank you because the name on my friend’s cross was the name of her friend. And then she disappeared back in the masses of people.

Those of you who are traveling to Georgia next weekend will carry these crosses. But you won’t simply be walking with crosses. These crosses hold a special importance. These crosses aren’t empty. You will be walking with those people that your crosses represent. In taking part in the gathering at the gates of Ft. Benning, you will be carrying the cross for those who can’t carry it for themselves. By speaking out against the School of the Americas, you will be the voice for the voiceless, for those who can’t speak out for themselves against the injustice of the school.

Christ carried the cross for us. And he continues to carry our crosses when we cannot bear them alone. As Christians, we are taught to live in the example of Christ. So that means that we, too, have a cross to bear. Just as Christ did this for us, we do this for others. Whether it is the cross of someone who has died at the hands of the graduates of the School of the Americas, or the cross of another we come across in our lives. This is a big responsibility that we take on. But we don’t tackle this struggle alone; when we carry another’s cross, we do so with Christ. We do so with one another. So, as we walk together with Christ, we are a support for the weak and a voice for the voiceless. And as Jesus tells us in the Gospel of Luke, we are called to do this every day. We are called to do this now.

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