The Scandal of the Cross

I’d like you to take a moment and look at the crucifix here in the Church. We are all familiar with this sign of our faith; it is one of the most critical moments in our salvation history, Jesus hung on the cross and died for our sins. The crucifix is such a large part of our life it becomes just like many of the other Christian symbols that we see. We may place it around our necks, in our cars, or around the house. The crucifix becomes a part of our day to day life so much so that we may not even notice it that often despite us seeing it many times a day. However, for those who followed Jesus, his apostles, and the large crowds that followed him the crucifix was something we would turn our eyes away from, that scared you, and you would never wish your worst enemy to go through the pain and suffering involved with a crucifixion.

The readings speak about the wicked seeking to destroy the righteous man. The book of Wisdom gives us the word on the lips of evil men being bothered by the actions and the words of the holy man. These men plot to put the righteous man to a shameful death and to test to see if God will care for him as he said he would. Similar words are spoken on the lips of those at the crucifixion, “let us wait to see if Elijah comes to save him.” Wisdom is a prophecy of what is going to happen to our Lord, Jesus spoke directly against the wicked, the Pharisees and the scribes, and these Jewish leaders plotted to put Jesus the holy one of God to death.

The words of the Psalm speak in similar language; the haughty have risen against me, ruthless men seek my life, echoing the same promise from God. Behold God is my helper; the Lord sustains my life. Finally, in the Gospel Jesus speaks directly about what is going to happen to him. “The Son of Man is to be handed over to men, and they will kill him, and three days after his death the Son of Man will rise.”

Again, I invite us to gaze at the crucifix and try to place ourselves in the mind of the apostles. You came to believe that Jesus was the Messiah, the Christ who would restore Jerusalem. Some who followed Jesus even though he would overthrow the ruling class and restore the exiled to the promise land. Than Jesus for the second time says that he will be handed over to those he opposed. It makes perfect sense that those who heard him could not make sense of what Jesus had predicted, and would see his death as a failure.

I think of the many evil things that happen not only in our world but sometimes in the Church as well. It’s common for us to respond, “God why would you let these things happen, why would you let this evil come about?” Recently I was driving back from Baton Rouge and I turned on the radio and heard about the shooting at a mall in Florida. It hurt me and it’s one of those moment’s that makes us ask God. “Why would you let such a senseless violence happen like that, couldn’t you convert the heart of this man so he would never seek to kill so many people?”

I wonder if some of those thoughts were going through the Lord’s apostles those who came to believe in him as they gazed upon our Lord on the crucifix. “God how could you let your son go through this shameful death.” We even begin to think about the things that our Lord did for the world, the things the Lord did for those around him. We could ask, Why do you call for Jesus to be crucified, what evil did he ever do? Jesus healed the sick; he gave sight to the blind, he made the deaf hear and the mute speak, why would you call for his death when he has done so much good? Our Lord willingly gave himself to his greatest enemies. It was natural for the apostles to be confused and not to understand what was going on when he said I will be killed and on the third day rise again. “Why Lord? Why would you let your enemies the high priests and the scribes put you to a shameful death?”

One last time I invite you to gaze at the crucifix, in our own lives, we may experience something that brings pain and suffering. We may see some things happen in our world, even in our Church that makes us cry out to God “why would you ever let this happen.” However, as we face these challenges these difficulties I think we should look at the crucifix. Jesus took a tool of great suffering and death and turned it into our salvation. If we can unite ourselves to his cross, he too can transform what-ever we face into our salvation and our holiness. The crucifix doesn’t just remind us of what our Lord did for us, it can be a help in our own lives when we face great suffering, pain, or the great evils. The next time we hear about a great evil happening in the world, or maybe we are struggling with an illness, some type of suffering or pain, find a crucifix and remind yourself of what our Lord did for us. That may not reduce the pain, it may not get rid of the suffering or reverse the great evil that occurred, but it will help us to grow in deeper intimacy with Jesus! He died on the cross for us, he face suffering and evil for us. He relates deeply to us in our pain and suffering. May we unite ourselves to our Lord and his cross, because by it he has redeemed our lives and the world.

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