“When we distance ourselves from the Cross of Christ, we distance ourselves from His love.”
VATICAN CITY — During Lent we are called to convert not to an abstract God or to an ideology, but to Christ Crucified and the scandal of the Cross, Pope Francis said today at morning Mass in the chapel of his residence at Santa Marta.
A Christian’s compass always points him to Christ Crucified, the pope said, not to a disincarnate God, but to God made flesh who bears our wounds and those of our brothers and sisters.
God, man, and the journey
At the beginning of Lent, the call to convert to the Lord with all our hearts pervades the liturgy. Today’s readings, Pope Francis observed, places the call to conversion within the context of three realities: man, God, and the journey.
The reality of man is that of choosing between good and evil: “God has made us free, the choice is ours,” Pope Francis said, but “He does not leave it to us alone.” Rather, he points out the path of goodness through the Commandments.
Then there is the reality of God. “It was difficult for the disciples to understand” the way of the Cross, the pope said. “God has assumed all of human reality, except sin,” he explained. “There is no God without Christ. A God without Christ, ‘disincarnate,’ is a god that is not real”:
“The reality of God is God made Christ, for us. To save us. And when we distance ourselves from this, from this reality and we distance ourselves from the Cross of Christ, from the truth of the Lord’s wounds, we distance ourselves from his love as well, from the charity of God, from salvation, and we go down an ideological road of God, far away: [This] is not God who comes to us and who became close in order to save us, and died for us. [God made Christ] is the reality of God.”
The pope referred to a dialogue between an agnostic and a believer, reported by a French author of last century:
“The agnostic, a man of good will, asked the believer, ‘But how can I… for me, the problem is how Christ is God. I can’t understand this. How is Christ God?’ And the believer responded: ‘Ah, for me this is not a problem. The problem would have been if God had not become Christ.’ This is the reality of God: God made Christ, God made flesh, and this is the foundation of the works of mercy. The wounds of our brothers are the wounds of Christ. They are the wounds of God, because God was made Christ. The second reality. We cannot experience and live Lent without this reality. We must convert, not to an abstract God, but to the real God who was made Christ.”
Lastly, the pope explained the third reality, i.e. the journey. Jesus says: “If someone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself, take up his cross each day and follow me”:
“The reality of the journey is that of Christ: following Christ, doing the will of the Father, as He did, taking up one’s crosses daily and denying oneself in order to follow Christ. Not doing what I want, but what Jesus wants; following Jesus. And He says that, on this road, we lose our life in order to gain it later. It is a continual losing of one’s life: a loss of doing what I want, a loss of comforts, being always on the path of Jesus who was at the service of others, [who was] was in adoration of God. That is the right path.”
“The only sure path,” the pope concluded, “is to follow Christ Crucified, the scandal of the Cross.” And these three realities — man, God, and the journey — “are a Christian’s compass” that prevents us from taking the wrong road.