Bishop's Column

The Cross, the Kingdom and the Christian Life

If you’re walking the Camino de Santiago de Compostela, in Spain, you can see the cross long before you get to it.

At the top of the Camino’s highest hill is an iron cross, the Cruz de Ferro, surmounted on a wooden pole. At the foot of the cross is a mountain of rocks -- tens of thousands of small stones piled atop one another.

For hundreds of years, pilgrims walking the Camino have carried small stones along the way, brought from the places where their journeys began. Upon reaching the Cruz de Ferro, the pilgrims toss the stones onto the ancient pile and continue on their journey.

The tradition began in the first centuries of the Camino, nearly one thousand years ago. Walking pilgrims brought stones from their homes, which were built into the magnificent Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela. The small contributions of thousands of Christians built one of the world’s most beautiful Churches.

We are the living stones that comprise the Church, the Body of Christ on earth. Saint Peter reminds us, "like living stones, you are being built into a spiritual house" (1 Peter 2:5). The foundation of the Church is Jesus Christ; he is our cornerstone. But the Church is made up of families and communities who give their lives to build up the body of Christ—to proclaim the Gospel, to evangelize, and to build a culture of life.

I had the opportunity to walk a portion of the Camino de Santiago de Compostela this past summer. I spent time on that journey praying for the families and the communities that constitute the Church. I prayed that all of us might commit ourselves to becoming holy and living stones, making the Gospel present to the world that is in desperate need. I prayed that, like the Cathedral built by pilgrims’ stones, we might reflect the great beauty and grandeur of God’s love.

On November 20th, I was installed as the ninth Bishop of the Diocese of Lincoln. It is an honor to serve the Church of southern Nebraska as your bishop. It is also a great challenge. The responsibility of a shepherd is the salvation of his people, and I do not take that lightly. I know I have big shoes to fill. I will depend on your prayers as I begin my ministry. But I will also depend on our real collaboration for the sake of the Gospel.

The lesson of the Cathedral of Santiago de Compestela is that while Christ is the cornerstone, he chooses to depend on the living stones around him to build up and fortify the Church. As your new bishop, I depend on your generous, creative, and active work for the sake of the Gospel. The mission of the Church is the salvation of souls—and I cannot undertake that work alone. Nor should I. Instead, each of us—in our families, our workplaces, our parishes, and our communities should work together to build up the body of Christ. Together we should clearly and compellingly proclaim the truth of Jesus Christ and his Church.

This month’s election was a barometer of American culture. We are, sadly, living in a nearly post-Christian era. Far too many Americans have never personally encountered Jesus Christ, or been formed by him. Far too many Americans are trapped in the "dictatorship of relativism." They do not allow their faith to form and inform the decisions of their lives.

This is the reason why Blessed John Paul II called for a "new evangelization" of the Christian world. This is the reason why Pope Benedict has declared a Year of Faith. The world needs Christ. The world needs the beauty of the Church. The world needs to experience the love of Christ poured out from the cross and manifested in our lives.

The love of Jesus Christ—poured out from the cross—is the power which turns death into life, which renews the world, and draws us eternally into God’s own life. The Cruz de Ferro stands above the Camino as the sign of Jesus’ triumphant victory—and the foundation for his reign as Christ the King; the feast we celebrate this Sunday on November 25th. The love of the cross establishes Christ’s eternal Kingdom.

We are sharers in that Kingdom. We, the living stones who build up the Body of Christ, make that Kingdom visibly present on earth. The cross is the victory over all sin and all death. In joy, and in triumph, let us love one another in truth, giving our lives to proclaim the goodness, the mercy, and the victory of Christ the King.

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