The Resurrection does not cancel the Cross, so let's try these 3 steps as a start to living the Greatest Commandments.
Do you prefer Christ with or without his wounds?
We’re sorry that he suffered; we’re grateful for what his suffering won for us. We’re not clear about why the risen Christ has wounds—and we’re tempted to boost the resurrection to the point of forgetting that he does, and why he died in the first place.
Honest Christians know that being a faithful disciple of Christ means not avoiding the cross. And, even on our better days, most of us are ambivalent about the cross of Christ.
Objection: “Yes, the cross is scary, but there is the resurrection, too! Let’s not forget about that!” To which I wish to offer a resounding, “NO!” For a Christian to say, “There is the cross BUT there is the resurrection” is just plain wrong. Let me explain why.
This view presents the resurrection as a welcome but unrelated compensation for an otherwise regrettable event. It is like getting hit by a car and finding a winning lottery ticket when you land in the gutter. You might say, “Yes, I got hit by a car, BUT I did find a winning lottery ticket …”
If we say, “Yes, there is the cross—which no one wants—BUT, there is the resurrection, and that’s kinda nice …”, then we’ve not understood Christ. We’ll fail unless we understand the link between Christ’s cross and resurrection. First, the cross is needed for us to love as Christ loves. Only then can we love without self-seeking.
Second, we must always speak of the cross-AND-the-resurrection. The boast of the gospel is that whenever Christ crucified and suffering is found, there also is Christ risen. That fact makes the proclamation of Christ the most urgent task in all of human history.
Note: We proclaim Christ, not simply as a concept, but as the person who is the way, the truth and the life. Our highest hope and our greatest mission is to unite with Christ, loving as he loves, to die and rise with him for the life of the world.
How shall we live this? How shall we live the new commandment? How shall we live the truth and mystery that the cross and resurrection of Christ are inseparable? If we’re really going to live the new commandment of Christ, we’ll have to put to death our own selfishness and self-righteousness. We’ll have to serve each other and hope for each other in a way that will crack open our hearts. And we’ll have to yearn constantly for a deeper union, a deeper identification with Christ crucified and risen.
If we agree to do all that together—and we must—then how shall we begin? I think that we can begin with three simple steps.
First, let’s give each other the benefit of the doubt. In other words, let’s assume that we’re each well-intentioned, so let’s stop throwing at each other the stones of gossip and detraction.
Second, let’s forgive each other. Yes, we’re all flawed and annoying. I myself am a sinner whose quirks and habits could strain the patience of Our Blessed Mother. I’m sure that St. Ignatius Loyola would have slapped me if he had to live with me. And I’m a sinner who has offended God infinitely. Yet, God, in his mysterious mercy, has not let me die in my sins. He has forgiven me my infinite offenses, at a terrible cost to Himself. What he has done for me, he has done for you.
Therefore, I believe that we each need to look in the mirror and say: “If God can put up with the likes of me, then surely I can extend mercy to others.” If we’re to be united with Christ in his cross and resurrection, then we must learn how to forgive each other.
Our third task: Let’s work to bring out the best in each other. In other words, let’s be near occasions of grace for each other, rather than near occasions of sin. Let’s look for and call forth whatever is good in each other. And let’s protect what is good in each other by our chastity, our sobriety, and our joy.
If we begin with these three steps—the benefit of the doubt, forgiving each other, promoting the good in each other—then we’ll have begun well our deeper obedience to Christ’s new commandment. United with him, loving as He loves, we’ll pass over with Him from the Cross to the resurrection, from death to life. And finally, we’ll see for ourselves what St. John saw long ago, we’ll see the One Who sits on the throne, and we’ll hear Him say, “Behold, I make all things new.” (Revelation 21:5)
When I write next, I will offer another meditation for the Easter season. Until then, let’s keep each other in prayer.