In the Gospel today, Jesus says, “Carry your cross, then you can follow me. Give up your life, then you will find true life. To keep your life means you will lose your life.” The cross means suffering. [To see the words of the gospel, click here.]
But the cross of Jesus means much more than that. What more? The cross of Jesus means life; the cross of Jesus means love; the cross of Jesus means joy.
The cross means the life, why? Jesus died on the cross. It was a terribly painful way to die. It was the worst way the Romans could torture anyone. But why? Why did Jesus do it? So all human beings, all of us, could again share the life of God Himself.
Because Jesus died, we now can have God the Father living within us. We can have Jesus, the Son of God, living within us. We can have God the Holy Spirit, living within us. We have life, God’s own life in us, because Jesus accepted dying on a cross.
The cross means love. Jesus died because of love, love for us, so that our sins could be forgiven, and we could be reunited with God our Father. The cross shows us that God the Father wants to be in a deep relationship with us; God did not forgive us and then walk away. No. God the Father wants to be in continual union with us. So what did God do? To break down the wall that separates us from God, He sent His Son to prove to us how much God the Father wants this loving relationship. And so Jesus the Son came into the world; he went against all the evil in the world, so that evil could be destroyed. It was almost as if the wall that separates us from God could only be destroyed, the wall could only be torn down, how? By love. If the wall separating us from God was built because of sin and hate and rejection, only love could really tear it down. So the wall separating us from God has been torn down because of the love of Jesus on the cross.
And we can be filled with joy. Not joy because on the cross there was a dead body that suffered awful torture. But joy because God’s life is in us now. Jesus is with us now. His love surrounds us now. We know that Jesus walks with us each moment of our life.
And the one thing that everybody fears or certainly doesn’t know what to do with, the one thing Jesus destroyed, what is it? It is death. So many people come in front of death and don’t understand, so that they’re afraid of it. Because Jesus died on the cross, death now has been overcome. You don’t have to be afraid of it because we know when we die, Jesus will take our hand as we walk through death and lead us into heavenly life. The evil of death has been overcome, how? By Jesus’s death on the cross.
The suffering of Jesus accomplished so much for us; it gave us life; it proved his love; it gives us joy. Now what about us? We suffer. All of us suffer. You suffer and I suffer. Even the best person suffers; even saints close to God suffer. Our human life is difficult.
And in recent months because of this virus, we see suffering more clearly. People and friends we’ve known have died perhaps; neighbors have died. People we used to see in the store they’re gone; maybe they are sick or they died. People are stuck at home. People are afraid. Perhaps people have lost jobs. Money is tight. We suffer.
When we suffer, two things can happen. Sometimes people suffer and become bitter, angry, hate people, hate God. But suffering can also become sacrifice; what does it mean? Sacrifice is a gift to God because of love. For example, you mothers and fathers, you suffer for your children, how? You work hard, you cook, you clean, and sometimes your children hurt you, ignore you, take advantage of you. They talk against you, have a bad attitude, refuse to listen to you. Usually you accept the suffering and pain because you love your children. You are willing to forgive. You accept the suffering because of love, then it becomes a sacrifice, a gift of love to your children and to God. So also in what we have to endure, in human living, the pain, sickness, worry, fear, we can make everything a sacrifice, a gift we give to God because of love. Sacrifice helps us be more closely joined to Jesus on the cross, to be with him, to be more like Him, to be generous like him. And when we make suffering a sacrifice, a gift of love, we can benefit other people.
You and I and all people are joined together; we belong to one another. So when I suffer out of love, I make a sacrifice to God. Then I can benefit someone else.
This is a mystery; we do not understand it fully. It’s not clear how this is going to happen or why it happens. But we have the example of Jesus helping us to know that it does happen. Wonderful things can happen when we suffer out of love, when we make our suffering, a sacrifice. You mothers and fathers again, your children say things against you, do things that hurt you. But you endure it patiently. Later on, they come and they tell you, they are sorry. They know they did wrong. Before, you didn’t reject them, you love them continuously, and the love accomplishes something beautiful. They come back and show that they had grown to become a better human person. Because you sacrificed, you made a gift of suffering, because of love. Your child learns from you because of your patient forgiveness, because of your loving forgiveness. This is true for all suffering — when we patiently endure pain or frustration or failure, loneliness, when we offer it up to God as a gift of love, it becomes a sacrifice; it benefits other people.
Let me end with a picture, a comparison. Before computers, children used to play games with string. They would gather in a circle. Someone would have a ball of string, hold the end and then toss the string to another across the circle. That child would hold the string and toss the ball of string to someone else. Eventually all in the circle would hold part of the string. One person pulled on the string, then everyone else would feel the string pulling. Pulling it a little or pulling it hard, no matter. One person pulled, then all felt something. It is the same with us. We are all joined together. One person’s action touches many others in the circle we are part of. We are all joined together. We all influence what happens in our world. Our actions may seem little to us, but our actions affect others in this great circle of our world.
Do good; love well; do all because of love, and beautiful things will happen for you and for others. We may not know about it; but God knows.