With all thy getting, get an understanding (Proverbs 4:7)
On his death bed, Pope John XXIII (whose vision convened Vatican II) had stated:
“It’s not the Gospel that has changed, it is just that we can understand it better.”
I find this statement so comforting when I grapple with questions like the meaning and purpose of the Cross – for I am a Doubting Thomas by nature. I could not accept a+ b = c in Algebra without questioning why a or b etc. .. so it is no surprise I had difficulty accepting the statement of faith that Jesus died to save us from our sins: that he gave his life as a ransom for many that so many Christians accept without question.
Sure, I accepted it as a child. But when the age of so called reason hit me, what was black and white became grey, cloudy, and foggy. I realized I could not give a proper explanation if a non-Christian asked me how Christ’s death on the cross saved us from our sins – and why God wanted such a sacrifice from his Son. I found myself fumbling to explain what I did not understand.
- He gave himself as the perfect sacrifice as a ransom for many.
I wondered if was just and fair. Did God really want this sacrifice ?
- We are “saved” by his death.
How exactly can his death ‘save’ us? I sincerely wanted explanations. Could we not have been “saved” another way?
- What is my sin that deserved such a death?
I don’t think I commit any big sins that warrant Jesus dying on the cross for me. Maybe that alone makes me a sinner!
Like the Jews, I too had questions on the scandal of the cross, (1 Cor. 1.18-21) so I dug deep for answers.
- I learned about the Jewish/Old Covenant tradition of sacrificial atonement, the unblemished lamb and the scapegoat tradition linked with the Passover.
- I understood much more the beautiful connection to the Paschal mystery of the New Covenant.
- I realised that the Hebrew people, though saved from death by the cross marked in blood on the lintel of the doorpost (Exodus 12.7), still had to journey to the Promised Land.
- I accept that we too, even though marked by the blood of the Cross of Jesus, still have to undertake our own Exodus from this life to the next.
- I am also now closer to understanding that it was not only by Christ’s death on the Cross that we have been saved but by his whole life and works. His passion and death was a culmination of his life and mission.
I believe we could have been saved even without a death on the Cross if we had accepted Him and His message. But fickle human beings that we are, we may not have accepted his message of ETERNAL LIFE or more importantly, believed in the resurrection from the dead, unless we witnessed it for ourselves. So his very visible death was for those like me -like Thomas -who loudly, arrogantly proclaim that we have to ‘see’ to believe.
The consolation is that He my creator, knows our weaknesses and he gently invites us to probe deeper into Him, to put our distrusting fingers in his wounds as he responded to Thomas … “Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe !! ”
And I also believe that His suffering and ignominious death underscored His fundamental message – the paradox of ‘death for life’:
“Most assuredly I say to you … unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain. He who loves his life will lose it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.” (John 12:23-25)
“If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” (Matthew 16:24-25)
The Cross underscores the message of giving up to your life to find new life with the Father “… for what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and suffers the loss of his own soul?” (Mark..36) and is thus the ultimate and perfect symbol of :
- Standing up for truth and justice – for GOD – even at cost of your life.
- Moving away from the things that separate us from goodness and moving towards the source of all goodness
- Restoring lives created in the image and likeness of God,
- Exchanging a shallow living for eternal abundant life – DIVINE EXCHANGE .
His detractors thought they could quell his message by his death …. yet even his death, Jesus’ message was the paradox of LIFE – for he lives amongst us still:
“Saul Saul .. why do you persecute ME” Acts 9:4
No room for doubt here. He lives amongst his people.
So I found some answers to my question … “Why the Cross? I can’t say that I have found all the answers, but I have found enough to embrace – to wrap my arms around, to cling to that precious Cross.
What then of the answer taught in catechism that “he died to save us from our sins” ?
I would respond it is a doctrinal answer given – the wondrous paschal mystery explained in a brief dogma, until you can find the answer and the meaning of the Cross for yourself.
And when you do, chances are you too will give the same answer … for there are few words that can capture the glorious essence of the saving power of the Cross.
I would like to invite you to share your experience, love and hope in the Cross with other believers to strengthen and help fellow travellers.
Reflections on the Cross of Christ from the early church fathers
• What Happened on the Cross, by John Damascene
• A Few Drops of Blood Renew the Whole World, by Gregory Nazianzen
• What We Behold on the Cross, by Augustine
• Contemplating the Lord’s Passion by Leo the Great
• The Lamb that was Slain by Melito of Sardis
• The Power of the Blood of Christ by John Chrysostom
• By One Death and Resurrection the World Was Saved by Basil
• The Life-giving Cross of Christ by Theodore the Studite
• Let us too glory in the Cross by Augustine
• The Cross of Christ by Leo the Great
• The Body of Christ Gives Life to Those Who Receive It, by Cyril of Alexandria
• The Death of Death by Augustine
Photo credit: The Cross – divinemercychurch.com.
Doubting Thomas – numerous sites; source unknown.
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I hope I do not dismay (or even outrage) any when I state that even though many of my poems contain references to God and even faith, there is no suggestion of a personal God. This is so because although I fervently believe in God as the moving force in our universe, nature if you will. I do not believe in a personal God, one to watches over me. I am not an atheist. I am a pantheist. I see in almost all religions homage paid to God, even if the many faiths call Him by a different name. I see beauty in Christianity when adherents follow the teachings of Jesus, whom I consider one of our earthly saints. I see the Bible with the exception of the teachings of Jesus as a worth-reading (which I have, many times) history of the Jewish people. It also promotes many myths (which may historically be truth) such as the great flood, the human sacrifice, tales also told in ancient Egyptian and Sumerian lore, i.e., the sacrifices of Osiris and Demeter. One cousin asked me, “do you pray?” My answer is of course. I pray that the harmony of all nature bring peace and end suffering. I see God in all things, living or inanimate. I feel a oneness with the universe. It is from there I came and will at the end of my earthly life return. I see God in all humanity, even those looked down such as the homeless or beggars on street corners. Does this mean I do not work to end a politician’s reign if I see that person damaging others and our world. No. I work very diligently to that end. It is one of the tasks of my earthly life. Still, I see God in that person and pray that the harmony of nature will eventually heal him. Cheers, my friend. I appreciate you.
Have been ‘off air’for some time and grabbing a few minutes at my site. Thank you for the long and beautiful explanation of your beliefs. It strikes a few chords. As a Christian, a Catholic, I feel we have strayed a bit from the true teachings of Jesus … the oneness, the love, the coherence and unity that he preached – and have often compartmentalised ourselves, and our beliefs from our practices. I believe Jesus’s prayer … That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us:…….that they may be made perfect in one” (John 17: 21:23) refers to this ONENESS ,, and that as people continue to search they will discover a deeper meaning and wisdom behind the injunction “Love your neighbour as yourself” … for you and your neighbour are ultimately one … in our Creator. Peace and love to you.
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Reblogged this on Truth Troubles.
Thanks for reading and the share …
Very good article, I am going reblog this one for you.
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Glad you liked it. Appreciate the sharing.
Thank you for sharing this wonderful thought which I believe what GOD want me to link this to my devotion reading today the 1st day of Lent after Ash Wednesday yesterday, on the reading of Hebrew 10, this is why I can’t miss morning devotion reading to seek GOD’s guiding and hands and living voice through the reading of His Living Word, The Bible. Thanks be to GOD !
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Sorry I had missed yours and a couple of comments. Thank you for the kind words. Hope you are making good progress in your journey. Was revisiting this post which I found very troubling as it seemed so far from the traditional thoughts but understand now that the Lord speaks to each one as we need to understand Him, irrespective of message to others. Happy and Blessed Easter Triduum to you.
I absolutely love this post! I was searching for a picture of the cross of Jesus, but what I found was even better! Wauw Thankyou! Is it perhaps possible for me to use the picture of your post in a clip I am making?
Am sorry I just saw your message.
Thank you for your comment … You are certainly welcome to use anything from my post … but if using the picture of the cross pls give the credit for that picture to divinemercychurch.com from where I got it.
Best in your project … would love to see it when done.
Thankyou for your reply. Don’t worry hah I know how busy life can be. I managed to get working with Holy Spirit. I didn’t know what to do, but it is finished. You can have a look here
I looked and loved it !! .. You have so much content … I started reading and found your relationship with Our Creator so inspiring. Look forward to being back for more. Is it a joint site ?
BTW .. could not find a follow button to make it easy to keep updated ???
Thankyou so much for encouraging me. It was a project the Lord lead me in. I’ve also included many teachings of a minister on youtube that I follow, who has taught many how close and personal a relationship with Jesus really can be. It really blessed my walk and life a great great bunch.
On the follow button, I have a newsletter signup form at the very bottom of the website. You can use that to receive any new posts I put up (although I have been a bit sluggish in it lately, oh Lord forgive me)
exactly !…I was searching for a picture of the cross and this link to my devotion reading of today. Thanks be to GOD !
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What a helpful blog and such a rich resource. I’ve bookmarked to come back again and again…
happy to hear that Fr. Allen. Look forward to your comments.
” I can’t say that I have found all the answers, but I have found enough to embrace the Cross.”
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Am sorry I had missed some comments ( which I am just picking up in re-reflecting on my reflections and whether I have grown in my journey.) Thank you – albeit many years later – for reading and responding. Blessed Easter to you.
Sharing a thought by Chardin on the cross ” Could it not be precisely for this that the creation was completed in Christian eyes by the passion of Jesus ? On the cross, we are perhaps in danger of seeing only an individual suffering, a single act of expiation. The creative power of that death escapes us. Let us take a broader glance, and we shall see that the cross is the symbol and place of an action whose intensity is beyond expression. Even from the earthly point of view, the crucified Jesus, fully understood, is not rejected or conquered. It is on the contrary he who bears the weight and draws ever higher towards God the universal march of progress. Let us act like him, in order to be in our whole existence united with him”