Whenever I walk into a church, my eyes are always drawn toward the crucifix on the altar. The image of Jesus is there to remind us of many things—among them that he died for our sins, that we cannot save ourselves, and that he has given us new life.
But I must confess it didn’t mean all that much to me when I was growing up. Mind you, I was a good Catholic boy. I served in the choir and as an altar boy, and I was a member of a group of young people that served the poor.
All this was good, but I can see now that my faith was more noble than spiritual. I went to Mass because it was the right thing to do, because it pleased my parents, and because I thought it would help my golf game. Also, I didn’t want to go to hell. My faith had little to do with Jesus saving me, with his desire to have a relationship with me, or with the need for his grace in my day.
But all this changed at a prayer meeting in May of 1971. That night, I was profoundly touched by the Holy Spirit, and I gave my life to Jesus. I have never been the same since. The most wonderful thing that the Spirit showed me that night was that Jesus was a real person and that he died on the cross for my sins. That cross, which had been so familiar to me, took on a whole new meaning.
Thirty-Eight Years and Counting. Over the next few months, I read everything I could find about the Lord. I learned that at baptism my old life died with Christ, and I became a new creation—even though I was just a baby. I learned that the “new Joe” was raised with Jesus and given the potential to live a holy life—and I wanted this more than anything else. Now, thirty-eight years later, my number one goal is still to live a holy life and serve the Lord. And it all starts at the cross.
In this special Lenten issue we focus on the glory and the power of the cross. I hope it helps you deepen your life with the Lord in three specific ways. First, I hope you can make Paul’s words your own: “May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world” (Galatians 6:14). Second, I hope you can see how the sufferings of life, as Pope John Paul II once said, may be “experiences of evil” but can also be opportunities to grow closer to Jesus. And third, I hope you can begin to take hold of the power in the cross of Christ, power that can transform the way you think and act.
As we begin this season of Lent, may we all know God’s blessing over our lives and our families. May the cross become our greatest treasure!