Cross Conclusions

St. Gaspar often told the early Missionaries of the Precious Blood that they must study the Cross. He took a cross with him whenever he went to preach. He proudly wore a cross on his cassock, so that all who saw him could look upon it.

Prior to Vatican II, when one focused on the cross, the message was often delivered I such a way as to make one feel guilty for sending Jesus to his death. It was our sins that led to his sacrifice. As the spirituality of the Precious Blood developed, the focus has changed. It is not about what we have done as much as it is about what Christ has done for us. Rather than feeling guilty when we look upon the cross, we ought to feel thankful and in awe of what Christ did in order that we might be reconciled with God and grow in holiness.

The cross is a sign of mercy, not condemnation, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him” (John 3:16-17).

Artist throughout history have known this when they have embellished the cross with precious metals and gemstones. They have turned the cross from something ugly, something to turn away from, into a thing of beauty in order that we might remember what the cross is really all about. Instead of being a sign of death, the cross has become a sign of life, a revelation of the glory of God at work in our world.

Sometimes, when celebrating Good Friday, I am tempted to sing an Alleluia, because we have been saved by the wood of the cross. The world has changed because of what Christ did for us. Salvation came about when he hung his head and died. Mercy was revealed to us all from the cross of Christ. We venerate the cross, not because of the suffering that took place there, but because of the salvation that came about that day on that place.

When we face the cross in our lives, the cross of Christ becomes a sign of hope, for we know that the cross is not the end of the story. We know that the cross is a stop on the way to eternal glory with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. There are times when we’d like to flee from the cross, when the burden seems too much to bear. Yet when we reflect on the cross of Jesus Christ, when we remember that his cross did not ultimately end in defeat, then we can face our crosses because he faced his and emerged triumphant from the tomb. In Jesus Christ, the cross has become our sign of victory.

Some theologians are so convinced that the cross is the central act of our redemption that they say they say that the resurrection was not necessary for our salvation. The resurrection, however, was necessary for us to know that we were saved on the cross.

I once attended a retreat given for the priests of the diocese of Orlando. The guest speaker told us that he had visited several churches in the diocese on his way to the hotel where we were gathering. They were all rather new constructions and rather than crosses several of them had images of the resurrected Christ in them. Then he said that we needed to have crosses or crucifixes, not resurrected Christs in our places of worship. First, he said that we know what a crucifixion looked like in the Roman Empire at the time of Jesus. We also have absolutely no idea what Jesus looked like once raised from the dead. We know that because in every resurrection story in the gospels those who knew him best did not at first recognize him. Secondly, he told us we needed crosses because when things are going well it really doesn’t matter what image hangs on the wall before us. However, when things are not going well, it is essential that the image before us remind us that God knows what it is to suffer, and that if God was present that day on Calvary, God is present here and now no matter how bad our here and now might be. I don’t remember anything else that presenter said during that retreat, but I do remember how he challenged us to remember the power of the cross.

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