Richard S. Vosko

Musings on religion, art and architecture

Homily – 23 June 2013 – Shoes and the Cross


Ordinary 12C – June 23, 2013 – Shoes and the Cross

Zechariah  12:10-11,13:1, Psalm  63:2,  3-6,  8-9; Galatians  3:26-29; Luke  9:18-24

Please take a moment to look at your shoes, sandals, sneaks. Could you ever imagine not having any shoes? Not even owning one pair?  You may be familiar with Blake Mykoskie the entrepreneur who founded TOMS (short for “tomorrow’s shoes”). I heard Mykoskie give a motivational address at a convention of architects last week.  

After trying four different business adventures Mykoskie took some time off and visited impoverished areas in Argentina. There he learned that children could not go to school unless they wore shoes. This meant barefooted children in households that could not afford shoes would not get an education much less play safely in their neighborhoods. 

Blake decided to do something about it and came up with an idea: how about designing low cost shoes and give away one pair for every pair purchased from the company? Since then 10 million pairs of shoes have been given away to children in Argentina and elsewhere. More recently, for every pair of TOMS eyeglasses purchased one pair will be given to someone who cannot afford glasses. Also, there are resources to pay for cataract operations.

I found myself thinking about Mykoskie’s story while trying to make some sense of today’s gospel. What does this line mean? “If anyone wishes to come after me, he/she must deny himself/herself and take up the cross and follow me.” Perhaps there is a connection between shoes and the cross.

Following in the footsteps of Jesus of Nazareth requires effort. It is not easy. He was an unusual Jewish layman who walked humbly and lived simply. He had no ambitions of becoming a king or starting a religion. For Jesus the cross was a cruel punishment for challenging corrupt religious leaders, breaking cultural boundaries and promoting new laws and lifestyles. It was a death penalty.

For contemporary Christians the idea of taking up a cross is strange. Christians do wonderful things but who really wants to die for even a noble idea? Developing a personal relationship with a loving, forgiving, wonder working Jesus is more palatable, easier. So what does the cross mean for us in the 21st century? Is it just a reminder of what Jesus endured? How can we embrace it?

The cross for us is a standard, a sign. It represents the sufferings and inequities, the dirty feet in an impoverished world — bare feet that deny opportunities to advance. But, the cross, we believe, has a dual identity. An empty cross means that evil, suffering, death can be eradicated. The cross can be a new pair of shoes that takes people to places of opportunity, where a person’s dignity and rights are honored. It is a crossroads that can lead people to new directions.

Traditionally, we Catholics fixate on the crucifix. We say the death of Jesus saved us. However, the empty cross presents us with with another challenge. As we heard in the reading from the letter to the Galatians, united by our faith, our baptism, the cross invites us to work together to transcend all barriers of nationality, race, social standing, and gender. [1]

We try hard to practice this message in this parish. You have heard about “St Vincent’s on a Mission” — it is the theme of our parish-wide weekend of service — September 28-29, 2013.  This year each one of us will be invited to get involved in a new ministry. In doing we hope to make a difference not only in our church but also in our local communities.

To claim that Jesus of Nazareth and his Spirit are the revelations of God to be imitated is not to be thought of as an easy pathway to heaven. Rather, it is a bold acclamation that we are ready and willing to take up the mission of Jesus of Nazareth that is still unfinished. Author Michael Benedikt suggests God is the good we do. [2]

Putting shoes on bare footed children living in places where there are few opportunities to advance is one example of how humans are capable of doing good for others. 

Blake Mykoskie never once mentioned religion or faith during his talk. He did tell the story of two brothers in Argentina. The older one had shoes and went to school. The younger one did not. The older brother decided to share his shoes so his kid brother could go to school. They took turns going to classes every other day. That is one good example of what it means to take up the cross and follow Jesus of Nazareth. I do not know about you, but, every time I put on a pair of shoes or sneakers, I will think of the cross.


1 Reginald H. Fuller. Preaching the Lectionary:The Word of God for the Church Today ((Revised Edition), Collegeville: The Liturgical Press. 1984 pp. 478-480

2 Michael Benedikt, God is The Good We Do. Theology of Theopraxy (New York: Botting Books) 2007



Author: Richard S. Vosko

Richard S. Vosko, Ph.D., Hon. AIA, is an internationally known sacred space planner. He is a presbyter in the Diocese of Albany who enjoys the classroom as much as the pulpit. On Sundays he presides at worship at St. Vincent de Paul Parish, Albany, NY. For more information on Vosko’s background, his projects, publications and speaking engagements please go to his website. For his homilies and occasional musings about religion, art and architecture go to his blog. Comments, questions and suggestions are always welcomed there.

3 thoughts on “Homily – 23 June 2013 – Shoes and the Cross

  1. This homily touched my Heart .I wish I knew what was needed I would goive to a family


  2. There’s a large program, called Hope for A Family, run by Catholic laypeople. You get matched up with a child or elderly person (your choice) in a poor country (again, your choice), correspond about 4 times a year (translation provided) and send $30 a month ($1 a day, can be automatically deducted from your checking account monthly).

    It’s amazing how far this money is stretched to lift up everyone in the family, and makes the sponsored person feel loved and affirmed. Shoes, medicine, clothes, food, school tuition, books, etc. Also, socialization, religious instruction, holiday and birthday celebrations, learning to work together to improve their economic and social status

    See the website for the Christian Foundation for Children and Aging.


  3. great homily thank you Father


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