Conviction to one’s ideals – Kim Davis, spent 5 days in jail, opposition to SSM; Sister Megan Rice an 85-year-old nun helped vandalized a uranium storage bunker at a federal facility & served 2 years in prison. But I am thinking of a man whose feast day is August 28, whose cross came to him in a very different way.
St. Moses the Black or Abba Moses of Ethiopia, was born around 330. He began his life as a servant or slave to a wealthy Egyptian landowner. After stealing from him, he was thrown out of the household.
Moses who was a large and formidable man, after his dismissal, gathered around him others and they became a band of bandits in the countryside. One day as he was fleeing the authorities, he took refuge among monks in Sketes, a desert monastic community outside of Alexandria.
In time, inspired by their faith, Moses converted to Christianity and renounced his former ways of violence and licentiousness. He was at times mistreated because of his race but his perseverance changed the hearts of the community. Legend has it that four robbers once assaulted his monastery. Moses stood his ground, and with his bare hands, he unarmed and tied up the would-be thieves. He brought them to the other monks and asked their advice. Moses suggested that it would not be very Christian to repay violence with violence, and they were released. The bandits were so moved by the compassion of the monks that they too joined the monastery.
On another occasion, Moses was summoned to a council to pass judgment on a brother who had committed a fault. Moses refused. Urged by the priests to join the council, Moses grabbed a leaking basket of sand and carried it into the meeting. Perplexed by this, the brothers asked him what he was doing. He replied that he carried behind him, manifold sins, which he cannot see and and yet he was being asked to judge his brother. The brothers were moved by this gesture and forgave the man straightaway.
Tradition holds that in 405, he was warned of those who intended to attack his monastery. Moses sent away all to safety but six or seven of the monks and insisted to those who stayed that they not respond to any attack with violence. “Those who live by the sword die by the sword,” he reminded his brothers. He and the monks welcomed the marauders. All of the monks, including Moses, were killed.
An early church historian (Sozomen) wrote that “no one else ever made such a change from evil to excellence.” Abba Moses is a shining example of the power of the gospel to transform lives in the cross and has become for some the patron saint of nonviolence. His life inspires me as I take up my cross. May we all take up our cross in the way God calls to each of us. Let me end with a prayerful reflection by Malcolm Boyd:
They say that everyone has a cross to bear, Jesus. And you once said, "Take up your cross and follow me." What do these things mean? I think they mean that every person ultimately has to face up to reality -- face one's own calling, destiny, nature and responsibilities.
In your own life, Jesus, you faced reality directly and unequivocally. You incarnated the truth as you believed it. You didn't pander to any easy or obvious popularity. You attacked the hypocrisies of the human power structure head on. You rejected the status quo in favor of obedience to the Kingdom of God. And when it came to taking the consequences, you didn't shy away from torture and execution.
The way of the cross was your understanding of your mission and your faithfulness to it.
The way of the cross seems to be, for every individual Christian, the reality that dictates style of life, defines mission, and brings a person into communion with you.
Help me to bear my cross on the way of the cross, Jesus. Amen.