Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Triumph of the Cross

“For the sake of the joy that lay before Him He endured the cross, despising its shame, and has taken His seat at the right of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12: 2b

Today in the Catholic Church we celebrate the Feast of the Exultation of the Holy Cross. I have heard of people (both within the Church and outside of it) who are confused by this focus on the cross of Christ. Why focus on His death when we can focus on His resurrection and the victory over death that came at that moment?

Let’s first realize that before the death of Jesus on the cross the majority of people crucified by the Romans were criminals. The cross was an instrument of torture and death, but also an instrument of shame. When the Romans crucified someone, not only did they want it to be as painful as possible, but they also wanted to strip the condemned of their dignity at the same time.  And yet Jesus allowed Himself to be offered in such a fashion for you and me. Why?

I think we all face “crosses” of one kind or another each day. It might be a family member we have trouble getting along with, or a friend who betrays us. It could be a sickness or injury, loss of work, bad grades, or something like the water in your well running dry so you can’t flush the toilet or do the laundry. Or maybe someone you love has died or is dying right at this very moment. Sometimes these crosses are caused by others, sometimes they are caused by our own sin, and sometimes they are just a consequence of living in a broken, fallen world. Obviously some crosses are bigger than others, but at the moment we have to carry them, they all seem heavy to some degree.

However, the reality is that the God we love and serve went before us and He carried His own cross. And the weight of His cross was the sins of every human ever created, from Adam and Eve’s Original Sin down to the sins you and I have committed today. And I think we learn a couple things from this: 1) Jesus loves us more than we could ever fathom. Only Christianity worships a God who sacrificed Himself so that we could be with Him and 2) He knows EXACTLY what it feels like to carry a cross. This means that no matter what cross you are carrying right now, Jesus is with you and He is helping you. You are not alone. The triumph of the cross most certainly lies in the fact that Jesus conquered death forever, but it also shows us that our crosses can have meaning and triumph in our lives and the lives of others as well. By uniting our suffering with the suffering of Jesus, we turn our shame into triumph, just as Jesus did. May we never grow weary in carrying our crosses.

Dear Jesus, thank you for the cross I may be carrying today. Help me to unite my suffering with Yours to join in the salvation of the world. Give me the grace to see the joy that lies at end of the cross and to follow You each and every day. Amen.

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