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Loving the cross is genuine sign of hope

By Fr. ROY CIMAGALA, roycimagala@gmail.com
March 4, 2016

WE need to learn to regard the cross as good news, not bad news. It should evoke joy, not sadness and fear. That’s because the cross, when it comes to us and if embraced with faith and love for God, becomes a genuine sign that we have a living hope in our salvation and in our future eternal glory.

The cross is the wood that turns the tree of death in Paradise into a tree of life in Calvary. It’s where Christ, our savior, assumes all the sins of man, from those of Adam and Eve to those of the last man who is not yet born, and dies to them only to rise and conquer them completely, leaving us a way to return to where we came from – God, our Father and Creator.

We have to see the whole picture about the cross to know how good and indispensable it is in our life. But given our wounded human condition that can only consider a part of the whole truth, we need to have some assurance that indeed the cross is our way to redemption.

For this, we can turn to that episode in the gospel where Christ was transfigured together with Moses and Elijah in the presence of Peter, James and John. Christ’s transfiguration should be inseparable from any consideration we make of the cross, since the cross without the transfiguration, and later the resurrection, can only mean total failure and pure and meaningless suffering.

St. Leo the Great gives us the basis for considering Christ’s transfiguration. “The great reason for this transfiguration,” he said, “was to remove the scandal of the cross from the hearts of his disciples, and to prevent the humiliation of his voluntary suffering from disturbing the faith of those who had witnessed the surpassing glory that lay concealed.”

Yes, we have to embrace and love the cross in whatever form it comes to us, but let’s also link it always with Christ’s transfiguration and resurrection. In that way, we can manage to have hope in whatever suffering we may encounter in life. In fact, loving the cross can and should only mean we have hope based on our faith in Christ who does not deceive us nor can he be deceived.

We would be convinced that all the pain and suffering and everything else that goes into the making of a cross already have acquired a positive value. They purify us, they strengthen and mature us. The cross then becomes attractive to us and, given our wounded nature here on earth, an essential ingredient in our life. It is our way of making up for our mistakes, of atoning and repairing for our sins and those of others.

The cross heals what is sick and wounded, resurrects what is dead, forgives what is sinful. There is no evil in man and in the world that cannot be handled properly by the cross. Yes, that’s how the cross is powerful if Christ is on it, and we with him.

That’s why we should not feel at all hopeless when we find ourselves in a deep mess, often created by our own selves, our own foolishness. On the contrary, we should invigorate our hope when some mess that leads to unavoidable suffering comes. There’s always hope, and embracing the cross is a genuine sign of that hope.

We therefore need to do some major adjusting in the way we regard pain and suffering in our life. We have to lose the fear of the cross. Rather we should be welcoming to it, cultivating a pro-active attitude to it rather than mere passive and reactive one.

In today’s youth lingo, let’s tell God, “Lord, give me suffering ‘pa more.’” Only when we lose that fear of the cross can we already begin to have that heavenly joy and peace while here on earth, our vale of tears. We would already have a taste of the divine while still wrapped by our wounded humanity.

We should therefore see the bigger picture with regard to the cross. We should quickly attribute to the cross the meaning that our Christian faith gives. We have to go beyond considering the cross strictly in our own human estimations, our own ideologies, where cross can only mean punishment. These cannot fathom the full reality of the cross.

We should more actively and more widely proclaim the whole truth about the cross, and liberate ourselves from a very constricted understanding and distorted appreciation of it. The cross actually leads us to our true and ultimate freedom!

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