Perhaps it is Covid 19 that gives me this sense of an uncertain future and intensified my experience of the cross recently. I remember several years ago on Passion Sunday when towards the end of Lent and my spiritual journey of decent into Jerusalem had just begun. I was in my alb, sitting on my usual perch in the second pew behind the pillar and Fr. Dale was delivering his homily at the ambo. Towards the end, he pointed his finger to the crucifix and reiterated his familiar refrain emphatically saying, “There is no resurrection without the cross.”
Of course for me as a Christian, the cross is never out of sight. But I have noticed the symbol of the cross has become so prevalent in my culture that I can tend to forget it’s meaning. I see crosses on church tops, on cars stickers, on grave stones. I have planted them in my garden and seen them in museums. We even buy them as jewelry. In so many ways the cross has been tamed and domesticated over the years. A far cry from that awful symbol of torture used by the Romans in instill fear and terror into the hearts of Christians.
I suppose it should not be altogether surprising for me that I often miss the point of the cross. The disciples eventually got it that Jesus was the Messiah, the one who would triumph over evil and establish peace and justice, but they too missed the point of the cross. When it comes to understanding what it really means to follow Jesus, that’s where things start to go off track for me.
Even today, after all the spiritual direction training, the prayer and contemplation, the Enneagram and pastoral ministry, it’s still a temptation for me to trust more in my own power and influence than in the truth of the Gospel. It’s still a temptation for me to measure discipleship in the same way that my culture and world measures success. And what else holds me back from grabbing onto the real meaning of the cross and holding on for dear life? What am I afraid of losing? Is it my comfortable home and all my stuff? Am I afraid of others opinion of me? Am I afraid of losing control? What am I willing to risk for the sake of the Kingdom of God? Or maybe, what am I not willing to risk?
I know that everyday of my life I am invited to live the same paschal mystery of Jesus’ passion, death, and resurrection. If I can only crack-open enough, trust enough, love enough, to let go of those silly ideas I hold about my false self and surrender all that I have into the loving arms of God, then I too will live, no matter what my ego or false self says. The cross may be the symbol of suffering but it is also the vehicle of salvation. And without the cross there is no resurrection.