The Gospel Truth

A Sign of Contradiction | December 1, 2010

On a trip to Florida last April, I went to the Salvador Dali Museum in St. Petersburg.

I was hoping to see his painting of the crucifixion that served as the cover of Bishop Fulton J. Sheen’s The Life of Christ.

The 1951 painting is entitled Christ of St. John of the Cross because it is based on a drawing of the crucifixion by a 16th century Friar of the same name.

Dali’s painting provides a unique overhead view of Jesus as He hangs on the cross.

A bird's-eye view

In a culture that offers us empty crosses as trendy ornaments instead of religious symbols, it is uplifting to see such a profound and reverential depiction of the crucifixion.

I think Dali’s God’s-eye view helps us to see more clearly the importance of the cross.

While St. Paul said in 1 Corinthians, (15:17) if Christ has not been raised, your faith is in vain, Bishop Sheen reminds us there could be no Easter without first a Good Friday.

As one of the many paradoxes inherent in the Gospel teachings, the cross is a sign of contradiction.

While it is an overt device of punishment and torture, it is also the instrument Jesus used to liberate the world from the chains of sin.

Jesus’ death also had to be a public execution before the salvific powers of His Resurrection could be unleashed.  For Jesus to have died of natural or accidental causes would have had less meaning.

He had to suffer the sting of rejection of both the secular and religious authorities of His community for the true glory of His sacrifice to have been realized.

However its most important message of the cross is love–sacrificial love!   Jesus said the world would know His disciples by the way you love each other. (John 13:35)

He defined this ultimate love in terms of His sacrifice on the cross.   John (15:13) says no one has greater love than to lay down his life for another.

Jesus’ crucifixion personified this statement and served as a means to inspire His disciples to follow in His sanguinary footsteps.  Catholic priests recreate His sacrifice every day in Masses on altars around the world.

The cross has another message for us today.  Matthew tells us (16:24) whoever wishes to follow me must deny himself and pick up his cross.

Personal crosses come in all different sizes and weights.

Cancer victims, people in wheel chairs, married people with unfaithful spouses, troubled or dying children have very heavy crosses to carry.

For most of us the cross is usually the daily tasks of work and raising a family that must be met with the same humble resignation as the more serious crosses.

Everyone has a cross to carry

There is an even deeper message attached to the cross.   One of the little regarded figures of the accounts of the crucifixion was Simon of Cyrene.

The film, The Passion of the Christ vividly portrays this giant of a man as he struggled with Christ under the tremendous weight of the cross.

Though he had been coerced into helping Jesus carry His cross, Christ’s struggle filled him with such compassion and love that he seized the moment and helped Him complete His historic journey to Calvary.

At this moment Simon became a symbol for all of us, not just to carry our own crosses, but also help others carry theirs.

This cannot be planned.

It must flow naturally from our reverence for the cross and Jesus’ commandment to love our neighbor.

Author’s note: This is an article I submitted to the St. Louis Review last May. For whatever reason–I was never informed–it did not past muster with the new editor.

So I am passing it along to all of you with the hope that you will enjoy it and pass it on to those, especially Catholics , who read the Review and give them the benefit of a real thought piece.

Also while on the subject of the cross, Christopher Manion of then Wanderer had an interesting aside on the cross that would make a fitting conclusion for the above piece.

In writing about the marriage of convenience between Catholic bishops and Democrats in the late 19th century, he is calling for a divorce.  He believes that they have been in bed together long enough.

He believes that in these troubled times,they have an unprecedented opportunity to restore their independence and the supremacy of the Gospel to any partisan political ideology.

They merely need to say:


We call all parties, all Catholics, all human beings  to rally,not to a political agenda but to the cross!



  1. Thank you BB. Your article fits our recognition of Advent…..the St.Louis Review editor must be from another planet….and banned my communications. I deleted this new secular paper.

    Comment by Jim Vondras — December 1, 2010 @ 2:19 pm

  2. The line between the loyal Roman Catholics and the weak half-baked Catholics is beginning to manifest itself. Great article and the liberal paper was wrong to deny its publication. Rec’d your Card today and hope your handwriting improves so next year I can read your message. May you and Judy have a blessed Christmas. Our 65th wedding anniversary is Dec 29th–talk about carrying a cross–marriage ain’t easy but it has its rewards. If lived well, eternal life is a promise. God bless you. Pax

    Comment by Mary B — December 3, 2010 @ 4:02 am

    • Don’t hold your breath about my hw—it’s an occupational hazard. BB

      Comment by bbprof — December 8, 2010 @ 3:55 am

  3. Very powerful and positive thoughts, this article has given me much as I prepare a message for the ascension

    Comment by halloswald — May 13, 2015 @ 1:13 pm

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About author

After graduating from Holy Cross, Bill Borst earned an MA in Asian History from St. John's University and a Ph.D in American History from St. Louis University. (1972) A former New Yorker, he taught for many years in the St. Louis area, while also hosting a weekly radio show on WGNU from 1984-2006. He currently is a regular substitute for conservative Phyllis Schlafly on KSIV radio. (1320) He is the author of two books on social history, "Liberalism: Fatal Consequences," and "The Scorpion and the Frog: A Natural Conspiracy." He just retired as the Features editor of the Mindszenty Foundation Monthly Report. In his 11 years from 2003-2013 he wrote nearly 130 essays on Catholic culture and world affairs. Many in St. Louis also know him as the "Baseball Professor," because of a course that he offered at Maryville College from 1973-74. It was arguably the first fully-accredited baseball history course in the Midwest.The author of several short books on the old St. Louis Browns, he started the St. Louis Browns Historical Society in 1984. In 2009 his first two plays were produced on the local stage. "The Last Memory of an Ol' Brownie Fan," ran six performances at the Sound Stage in Crestwood and "A Perfect Choice" ran for two performances at the Rigali Center Theater in Shrewsberry. His third play, "A Moment of Grace," ran six performances at DeSmet High School in January of 2011with First Run Theater in January of 2011. He is currently working on a 4th play, "A Family Way," which is a comedy about a happy dysfunctional family. He can reached at







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