Let us look at the Cross again and say, “That’s Jesus—Son of God and Son of Mary. He is the Christ of God—and I did that to Him.” The Cross announces and displays what my sin does to love and innocence. Tearing, shredding, piercing, defiling. The Cross reveals the portrait and sculpture and result of my sin.
Let us look at the Cross again and see God’s stubbornness, His unshakeable will to love and save me. No matter how much hatred and malice I heap upon him, beyond the scorn of my indifference and lukewarmness, despite the brazenness of my ingratitude, the Cross proves that God will not give up on me. The Cross shows that no matter how low I go, no matter how far I have fallen, the roots of the Cross go even deeper. The Cross shows that God is willing to reach underneath me. His suffering and death prove that Jesus would rather go through Hell for me than go to Heaven without me. The Cross proves that God can take the very worst that the world and I can offer and arise victorious.
That’s what we can see when we look at the Cross.
What shall we do in the presence of our crucified Lord?
Let us be shocked—shocked to know that I—with my sin—I have murdered love.
Let us remember—remember that the Cross and the Resurrection of Christ always go together as one event.
The story of the Cross and Resurrection of Christ shows that my sin has murdered love and that love has overcome sin.
Let us cry—cry tears of sorrow and tears of joy. It is right that we cry before our crucified Lord, for as the poet Christina Rossetti wrote, “Am I stone, and not a sheep, that I can stand, O Christ, beneath Thy Cross, to number, drop by drop, Thy blood’s slow loss, and yet not weep?” Yes, let us cry in the presence of our brokenhearted God.
Let us, in the presence of our crucified Savior, behold the Blood of Jesus.Let us meditate on the awful fact and awesome power of the Blood of Jesus. Do we marvel at the offering of the shed Blood of Jesus? Today I cannot help but recall these words of the poet George Herbert: “Love is that liquor, sweet and most divine, which my God feels as blood, and I as wine.”
In the Jewish temple, blood served two purposes. First, blood purified. Sin is death, life is in the blood; sprinkled blood washed away the deadly stain of sin. Second, blood was also used as a bond. The blood of an animal was used to seal the relationship of two parties bound by covenant. The covenant between God and Abraham was sealed by an animal’s blood. The covenant between God and the Jews was sealed by the blood of the Passover lamb.
So, what about the Blood of Jesus? Look into His Heart torn open by a spear and see the Blood which is life flow from the source of life itself. See the Lifeblood of God that wipes away the curse of sin and death. And behold the Blood of Jesus Who is the Lamb of God; see His blood that binds us forever to His Father.
The Blood of Jesus protects us from despair. It would be easy to look at the Cross and cry out, “What have we done?” But we must stay at the foot of the Cross, behold the crucified Christ, and cry out, “Look at what God has done for us!”
In the end, the story of the Cross is a love story. God loves us with a crucifying passion. In the presence of the Cross may we celebrate God’s undefeated love for us.
In the Byzantine Church, on the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross, the bishop gives each worshipper a sprig of fresh basil, so that he may carry with him throughout the day a reminder of the sweet victory of the Cross.
This Lent, let’s contemplate the Cross with a humble and grateful heart, with the words of the Prophet Isaiah on our lips: “By his stripes, we are healed.”
When I write next, I will discuss how a worthy living of Lent can help us to extend true mercy to our neighbors. Until then, let’s keep each other in prayer.
Father Robert McTeigue, S.J. is a member of the Maryland Province of the Society of Jesus. A professor of philosophy and theology, he has long experience in spiritual direction, retreat ministry, and religious formation. He teaches philosophy at Ave Maria University in Ave Maria, FL, and is known for his classes in both Rhetoric and in Medical Ethics.