Do you have a cross in your house? Is it somewhere prominent, for you and all to see? Do your children and grandchildren know the true meaning of the cross in the scheme of life? When you are miserable with pain or grief, do you ever hold the cross in your hands? Kiss it?
Next Sunday, our Church celebrates the Triumph of the Cross. The only other time during the year that the cross is highlighted is Good Friday, when it is solemnly carried through the church during the Liturgy of the Lord’s Passion and the cantor sings:
Behold! Behold! The wood of the cross, on which is hung our salvation.
And the congregation responds:
O, Come let us adore.
To be sure, the cross is one of the most universally recognized religious symbols. At the same time, the cross is one of the most widely misunderstood of all symbols. On the one hand, some groups in society have adopted the cross as part of the shock jewelry they wear. For others, the cross is an instrument of execution. Sometimes, it makes people squirm. It might make us squirm, too. Maybe we would rather skip Good Friday and the cross altogether.
For Christians who try to deepen and embrace faith in Jesus the Word made flesh, the cross is more than a symbol of execution. It is a symbol of redemption. The triumph of the cross is the triumph of love over hate, the triumph of faith over cynicism, the triumph of life over death.
Christians do a risky thing when we see this death of Jesus on the cross as an act of liberation, of deliverance, of conquest over the forces of bondage and death. Christians believe against all evidence that death is not the final word. Yet the cross reminds us suffering and death were necessary to Jesus if Christ’s resurrection and our faith are to have any meaning.
The cross reminds us that God’s love does not protect us from all suffering. Rather, God’s love is a shelter in all suffering. In Syria, Iraq, the Ukraine, the Ebola ridden countries of Africa, maybe in our own neighborhood – wherever there is darkness, futility and meaninglessness, the God of the lost reaches out from the cross, inviting suffering people to dare to hope. These women and men, boys and girls, who have no apparent advocates, are, in fact, sustained by God.
If the purpose of Jesus’ life is to demonstrate God’s unconditional love for us, is there a more dramatic way than the cross?