By Fr. Roy Cimagala
TO profess a Christianity with Christ but without the cross is unthinkable. Christ and the cross are inseparable. And that’s simply because it is through the cross that our redemption, our second creation was achieved and continues to be achieved.
We have to be ready for this truth of our faith, because our humanity that may not yet be totally inspired by faith, trembles at the thought of the cross, which is understandable. There is always some fear of the cross.
But the cross is unavoidable as well as indispensable, at least in our earthly sojourn. We can say that the only state we can be freed of the cross would be in heaven, where everything will be bliss and no trace of tears and suffering would be found.
And yet, the marks of the cross may still be with us in that beatific state, just as Christ still bore the marks of his crucifixion after he resurrected. But, of course, we also have to remind ourselves that Christ is also inseparable with his resurrection, his and our ultimate victory. Christ’s cross cannot be separated from his resurrection.
We have to understand Christ´s cross as the symbol of all our sinfulness, the abuse of our freedom, that Christ took as his own, and by dying to it following the will of his Father, Christ converts it into a vehicle of our redemption, of the completion or perfection of our creation.
St. Peter expressed this truth so beautifully in his first letter. “He himself bore our sins in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness, for by his wounds you were healed.” (2,24)
We should never be afraid of the cross, whatever form it takes—physical pain, illness, calamities, moral anguish, etc. But we should make sure that we bear our cross with Christ, not without him. The cross without Christ is meaningless, just as Christ without the cross is also meaningless.
It is Christ’s cross that hits the very root and germ of human evil and malice, and cures it. It is what gives proper grounding, protection and direction to our freedom which can go in any which way. It is what provides the remedy and cure once that freedom is abused or misused.
We have to remember that it is our freedom that can make us either God-like, as we are supposed to be, or like the devil. It is what makes us either a saint or a sinner, blessed or cursed. We should really take good care of our freedom.
Our freedom needs the cross of Christ, since it is the cross of Christ that would really make us free. This is a truth of faith worth reiterating often in our mind and heart until it becomes a working principle in our life.
Without Christ’s cross, there’s no other way but to be intoxicated by the many allurements our freedom can create. This happened with Adam and Eve, and continues to happen to us if we are not with Christ’s cross. We should be properly guarded.
The redemptive power of Christ’s cross is somehow expressed in the following liturgical prayer, a Eucharistic preface, which says: “You decreed that man should be saved through the wood of the cross. The tree of man’s defeat became his tree of victory. Where life was lost, there life has been restored through Christ our Lord.”
These words, if allowed to sink deep in our consciousness, would remove the fear of the cross of Christ. We would welcome that cross, since it will be our means of our own purification, maturation in human and spiritual aspects, and our ultimate redemption.
When we are made to suffer the cross, we would have the golden opportunity to be very united with the redemptive suffering Christ. St. Paul expresses this truth very well. “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake,” he said, “and in my flesh I do my share on behalf of His body, which is the church, in filling up what is lacking
in Christ’s afflictions.” (Col 1,24)
That’s why we have to broaden our understanding of the cross to conform our mind and heart to how Christ regards the cross. He had been looking forward to it. Yes, there was some kind of drama, since his humanity also had to react to the undeniable bitterness of the cross, but he went through it all with calmness.
Let’s hope and pray that we can manage to acquire this Christian spirit of the cross.