Lent and the Cross

Posted: 5 April 2013


crossWe are rapidly progressing through the season of Lent and if we have been taking the season seriously, the physical and spiritual efforts we have undertaken are probably being felt. This exercising of the spirit is much like exercising the body.  Initially when we start a fitness regime, maybe running or swimming or a particular group sport it can be tough, we cannot go as far as we would like, but as we keep working at it, little by little, our ability becomes greater, the distractions and bothers fall away.  This is the Church’s hope for us, that by now we are starting to grow stronger in virtue, but we must keep the cross before our eyes to remind us of why we are suffering and of whom we suffer with. Everything done in Lent has to be done for Christ and with Christ. One might live on bread and water for forty days but if that suffering is not united with Christ’s suffering then all that has been achieved is most probably significant weight loss.

Each one of us is called during this Lent to wait on the Lord, for our sufferings are not meaningless, but the very opportunities that God allows to unite us to him. Sure, we were not created to suffer but we live in a fallen world and now the only way to overcome our fallenness and be united with the Trinity is through the cross. There is no other method; no pill, no book, no website, no self-help DVD and not even another person. By allowing himself to be hung nailed to a tree Christ wanted to show us that happiness in this life – and salvation in the next – comes through waiting on God.  The cross is the exact opposite of what happened with our first parents in the garden.

Consider what happens when we believe that we are not being fulfilled as we should. When we are unable to stand with Mary at the foot of the cross, we turn to our first parents and grasp at our own happiness. We reach out to take the fruit because we do not trust God will provide. All sin is us grasping at what we think will make us happy although we know from experience it only leaves more emptiness than before.  Think of any sin, adultery, fornication, pornography, masturbation, contraception, homosexuality, jealousy, theft.  When we give in to one of these temptations we are grasping at the happiness we think they will bring. We confuse the very good desire for happiness with the correct way to find it.  So what is the answer?  It is the cross. There can be no other answer.

God does not want us to suffer and God does not want us to be lonely. It is from the cross we are reassured that from death comes life, from crucifixion comes resurrection, from the battle comes the crown.

So as we continue to move through Holy Lent it is the time to remind ourselves that we cannot solve every problem ourselves. God knows where our heart aches and he is there with us. You might know the story of Job (he has a whole book dedicated to him in the Old Testament).  When everything goes wrong in Job’s life when he loses his land and his cattle and his family, he sits down in the ashes and from that place he worships God. From the very centre of his pain, he is able to say ‘The Lord gives and the Lord takes, blessed be the name of the Lord’. Can you do that? Each of us is called to be like Job. To sit at the foot of the cross in our sufferings and look up knowing that he who hangs on the cross knows all our sufferings.

The philosopher Peter Kreeft used these words to relay the way the suffering Christ dwells among his people. “Christ sits beside us in the lowest places of our lives. Are you broken? He is broken too. Are you rejected? He is rejected too? Do you weep? He weeps too. Was your love betrayed? Jesus loved and he was betrayed by the ones he loved. He sits with us not only in our sufferings but in our sins. No matter how much we turn our face from him he will never turn his face from us; all he does is constantly call us back to him. Every tear we shed becomes his tear. He may not wipe our tears away but he makes them his own.”