In a reflection on the Cross last Lent Pope Francis said: “God placed all the weight of our sins on the Cross of Jesus, all the injustices perpetrated by every Cain against his brother, all the bitterness of the betrayal of Judas and Peter, all the vanity of tyrants, all the arrogance of false friends. It was a heavy Cross, like the night of abandoned people, as heavy as the death of loved ones, heavy because it carried all the ugliness of evil”.
The mystery of the Cross and the mystery of humanity are once again held in sharp recognition as we celebrate the Exultation of the Holy Cross this Sunday. The cross has always proven to be such a conundrum for us. From the time of Jesus Himself we have pondered the strange circumstances that brought Him to the cruelty and ignominy of the cross and what His death by such torture means for us.
Contemporary society has such a mixed relationship with suffering. As the secularism of our day gradually dehumanizes men and women, we see more mutilations and degradations of people in the arts and in real life. In such a situation as ours the cross has become an ornament or a bauble, an accessory or a piece of costume jewelry. Death and destruction have a dehumanizing effect and leave us content with being subhuman.
The Cross of Christ does just the opposite. In the Cross of Christ humanity is lifted up from depravity and cruelty. By His Cross, Christ overturned the events of the Garden of Eden. Satan deceived humanity in the Garden, seducing our first parents into believing that they could not trust God. In the shadow of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, God promised a Savior, One who would correct the vision of humanity and restore a true image of God. The tree of death becomes the Tree of Life on Calvary. Jesus, not Satan, speaks from the Cross. The language is not one of deception, but one of stark reality: in the midst of suffering—abominable, unimaginable suffering, God is with us and God loves us.
One would think that in the middle of a Garden, one would only see beauty and peace and love. That is what God intended. The Devil’s envy and jealousy made us doubtful, and caused us to reject what God intended for us. God, however, did not abandon us to our weakness. God took our weakness and used it to show us His strength and His love. The Cross teaches us that in the midst of all human suffering and all the trials and tribulations that have come upon us by our belief in the lies of the Evil One, God is with us. He triumphs—Love triumphs. The world has been saved and we have a bright future.
Pope Francis offers us a final word: “The one tree has wrought so much evil, the other tree has brought us to salvation, to health. This is the course of the humanity’s story: a journey to find Jesus Christ the Redeemer, who gives His life for love. God, in fact, has not sent the Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. This tree of the Cross saves us, all of us, from the consequences of that other tree, where self-sufficiency, arrogance, the pride of us wanting to know all things according to our own mentality, according to our own criteria, and also according to that presumption of being and becoming the only judges of the world. This is the story of mankind: from one tree to the other.”
We adore You, O Christ, and we praise You; because by Your Holy Cross You have redeemed the world!
Come and experience the love of Christ at Sunday Mass!