Christ died on the Cross. But did he fail? Was he truly who he said he was? Jesus Christ laid down his life freely. He had said about his life: “I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it up again” (Jn 10:18). This is what he did, as promised, on the third day. His “failure” is only apparent. On the Cross Jesus triumphs over sin and its wages: death.
The Cross is the true measure of the world. This is what Blessed Newman teaches us in a sermon thus titled in his Parochial and Plain Sermons. Men think that business, politics or entertainment is what matters most in the world. He writes: The Cross “has given a meaning to the various, shifting course, the trials, the temptations, the sufferings, of his earthly state. It has brought together and made consistent all that seemed discordant and aimless. It has taught us how to live, how to use this world, what to expect, what to desire, what to hope. It is the tone into which all the strains of this world’s music are ultimately to be resolved.”
The gravity of sin, its effects and Christ’s Redemption correct the superficial view of life that we have of the world. Like all the saints, Newman invites us to look at Christ and consider with sorrow our faults. By sin ‘we have struck the face of God with our hands’ (Meditation and Devotions). We must relearn the gravity of deliberate sin.
With immense love, Jesus, who is perfect God and perfect man, atones for our sins. With his love he makes up for our disobedience and lack of love. His death was atonement but the essence of its satisfaction was his total adoration and obedience to the Father. “Christ bears our sins and sorrows. What wipes out Adam’s disobedience is not a punishment laid on Christ’s shoulders thereby satisfying God’s anger, but a moral act of infinite value performed by Christ who, as head of mankind and in solidarity with his brothers and sisters, renders God a homage of total adoration, thereby wiping out Adam’s disobedience (Fernando Ocariz et al., The Mystery of Christ).
In the face of suffering and pain we are never alone. We should turn to Christ for strength and peace. Recently at the site of great devastation in the Philippines, Pope Francis invited the faithful to look at Jesus on the Cross and to understand that he stands with them.
In addition to repentance for his sins the Christian understands that he should unite to Christ’s sufferings so as to co-redeem with him. St. Josemaría Escrivá liked to think that Christ on the Cross looks at us and makes a loving reproach: “I suffering, and you… a coward. I loving you, and you forgetting me” (The Way of the Cross).
Embracing suffering with Christ is not what a Christian does when all fails; it is foremost an act of adoration and obedience in union with Christ. It is a deeper look at the world and a belief in the power of his Resurrection.
Here on earth, in the expectation of the future resurrection, the suffering of the Cross brings with it spiritual joy. “That Cross will lead us to mourning, repentance, humiliation, prayer, fasting; we shall sorrow for our sins, we shall sorrow with Christ’s sufferings; but all this sorrow will only issue, nay, will be undergone in a happiness far greater than the enjoyment which the world gives (…).
Newman advises us to look to the future with hope in Christ: “And thus, too, all that is bright and beautiful, even on the surface of this world, though it has no substance, and may not suitably be enjoyed for its own sake, yet is a figure and promise of that true joy which issues out of the Atonement. It is a promise beforehand of what is to be: it is a shadow, raising hope because the substance is to follow, but not to be rashly taken instead of the substance.”
He concludes his sermon: “They alone can truly feast, who have first fasted; they alone are able to use the world, who have learned not to abuse it; they alone inherit it, who take it as a shadow of the world to come, and who for that world to come relinquish it.”
How then should we look at the Cross and suffering in this life? And with what love and gratitude should we come before the Cross of Christ?