The measure of the World
· John Henry Newman’s reflection ·
Four years before his conversion, on Palm Sunday, 9 April 1841, John Henry Newman preached on “The Cross of Christ, the Measure of the World”. The content of this homily explains the charm of the essential mystery of the Christian faith.
In this sermon, Newman starts from the fact that thinking men question themselves regarding the meaning and the right interpretation of the events of the world, of the course of history and of the events of their own lives. They search, in short, for a “key” to the understanding of the world. What is the right key, the Christian interpretation of the world? Newman answers that it is “the Crucifixion of the Son of God. It is the death of the Eternal Word of God made flesh, which is our great lesson how to think and how to speak of this world. His Cross has put its due value upon everything which we see.” Newman applies this key in a concrete way to various dimensions of human life. He begins with the human search for power, prestige and pleasure when he states, “Go to the court of princes. See the treasure and skill of all nations brought together to honour a child of man. Observe the prostration of the many before the few. Consider the form and ceremonial, the pomp, the state, the circumstance; and the vainglory. Do you wish to know the worth of it all? Look at the Cross of Christ.”
The preacher, drawing attention to the jealousy, envy and selfishness in the political, economic and social world, declares: “See nation jealous of nation, trade rivalling trade, armies and fleets matched against each other. Survey the various ranks of the community, its parties and their contests, the strivings of the ambitious, the intrigues of the crafty. What is the end of all this turmoil? The grave. What is the measure? The Cross.”
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