We Are Not Ashamed of the Cross
by Rev. Jerry J. Pokorsky
Reprinted with permission of "The Arlington Catholic Herald"
To Sunday Gospel Reflections Index
John wrote to show that Christ was
the Messiah, the Divine Son of God.
On the first day of the week, Mary of Magdala came to the tomb early in the morning, while it was still dark, and saw the stone removed from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and told them, "They have taken the Lord from the tomb, and we don't know where they put him." So Peter and the other disciple went out and came to the tomb. They both ran, but the other disciple ran faster than Peter and arrived at the tomb first; he bent down and saw the burial cloths there, but did not go in. When Simon Peter arrived after him, he went into the tomb and saw the burial cloths there, and the cloth that had covered his, not with the burial cloths but rolled up in a separate place. Then the other disciple also went in, the one who had arrived at the tomb first, and he saw and believed. For they did not yet understand the scripture that he had to rise from the dead.
After 40 days of preparation – penance, fasting and the countless confessions, many good folks who have made they way back to the church after a long interlude – we celebrate the risen Christ. The sanctuary, no longer barren, is filled with the festive color of flowers in full bloom. He is risen. But remaining always prominent in the sanctuary is that cross – uncovered, a permanent fixture. There is an eternal freshness in the wounds of Christ.
Although He is risen, the way of the cross remains the only path to the Resurrection. We are not ashamed of the cross. The cross and the Resurrection are inseparable.
Too often we think the Passion of Christ is finished. Several years ago, a major Christian denomination removed the cross from an Easter evangelization campaign. A clergyman bizarrely explained that the cross had “too much cultural baggage” associated with it. So the cross was replaced with an exclamation. A simple word, “Surprise” followed by a joyous exclamation point. But without the cross there can be no Resurrection.
In the Book of Revelation we read the words of St. John: “Then I saw standing in the very middle of the throne, a lamb with the marks of slaughter on it.” In heaven everyone sees the marks of slaughter on the glorified body of Christ. St. John uses another word for “lamb” in Revelation. The word he uses means “pet lamb”; one belonging to the family. Christ came among us as our own. And we are not ashamed of His wounds, wounds we have inflicted upon Him. Because He is risen.
What consolation can we give to someone dying of cancer? To a bereaving widow? To the victim of war? What is the answer to the problem of evil? Of man’s inhumanity to man? Of suffering? There is no answer we can grasp by reason. The Book of Job comes close. Satan is sometimes the cause of the ills of so many good people. But God protects Job where it really counts: You may touch the body of Job, He instructs Satan, but not his soul. And so it happens that Job loses his crops, his children and suffers bodily afflictions.
Satan has several unwitting accomplices in his temptations. Satan wants Job’s body and soul. Mrs. Job demands that her husband “Curse God and die.” The friends of Job give every possible explanation, except the right one. And job cries out to God, “Why was I born? Why did I ever see the light of day?” God does not answer the questions; He responds with His own questions: “Where were you at the foundation of the world? Where were you when I created the heavens and the earth?” And Job understood that the questions of God were more satisfying than the answers of men; the human mind cannot apprehend the mystery of suffering.
There would be no answer to the problem of evil until the good Lord Himself would come down from heaven. The Lord Himself would answer our questions: Lord, do you know anything about pain? About the accident wards of hospitals? About prisons? The gulag? The concentration camps? We are compelled to ask, Lord, just what do you know about human suffering?
The risen Lord who still carries the wounds of the cross on His glorified body is sinless. Yet He took on the responsibility of all the sins of man. In Gethsemane He was fully conscious of the horror of these sins. He died a thousand times over in that Garden, anticipating the suffering of the crucifixion. Still He died in unspeakable agony. Jesus on the cross, the innocent lamb, looked into the past. The sin of Adam was there. So was the sin of Cain; the abomination of Sodom and Gomorrah; the persistent sins of infidelity on the part of the chosen people. And they were all dragged to the cross in the consciousness of Christ.
But Christ also looked into the future. He saw the sins of the 20th century: the concentration camps, the wars, the slaughter of unborn babies. He saw our sins, He saw the crimes we commit in our hearts. And for these sins He also suffered. But these are the sins He also has overcome through His mighty resurrection. We are not ashamed of the cross: We do not – even in the Easter season – cover up His wounds.
His wounds can be found throughout the world – wherever man suffers; wherever man dies. But we are not ashamed of the cross; we will never be ashamed of the cross. They can kill the body, but if we remain always in the risen Christ, they cannot kill the soul. For He is risen. He has overcome sin. He has overcome suffering. He has overcome death. Now and for all time.
To Sunday Gospel Reflections Index