(my article, originally published for the April 2015 issue of The Courier.)
It was during his visit to Croatia in 1994, when Pope John Paul II boldly proclaimed, “Do not abandon yourself to despair. We are the Easter people and Hallelujah is our song.” St. John Paul II taught us many things, but persevering in hope despite suffering or challenging surroundings was one of his most pervasive lessons. From the moment he began his pontificate, he declared, “do not be afraid!”
As we approach Holy Week and focus on the gift of selfless love that is the Holy Cross, the task of taking in the enormity of our Lord’s sacrifice can be overwhelming. So much so that we may dismiss it before it has a chance to reach our inner most being. We have heard the story before, like a familiar bedtime tale. We yawn, we smile, and cheer for our Savior. The pain can feel too much, too deep, too raw if we really meditated on the Cross; it’s easier to go through the motions and move right to the chocolate eggs … oh, I mean, the empty tomb.
For in the eyes of the world, the Cross is ridiculous. It is suffering; it is hardship; it is pain. And in many eyes, it is needless pain. Our world continues to do everything it can to rid itself of any type of suffering. For the world, suffering is discouraging, despairing, unbearable. Indeed, John Paul II taught us that without Christ, suffering is hell. Yet, God does not operate with the world’s eyes. God sees eternity. God sees the effects of evil on the world: sin and eternal death.
God is so great, so powerful, so loving, that He has taken suffering, Satan’s greatest tool of despair, and used it to bring eternal hope. For it was only through suffering that Christ redeemed the world. God conquered eternal suffering with Christ’s suffering on the Cross. Through this one act of selfless love, this one act of giving of Himself to us – wholly, completely, forever – our Bridegroom won victory over sin and death.
Focusing on the depth of Love that is the crucifixion of Christ, it should not send us into a miserable state of pain, but a soul bearing humility. To stand before the One who holds nothing back from you, the One who gives you all of His Love without any conditions, without any judgment, it is His great Love that makes us vulnerable, open and calls us to holiness – if we let it.
It is not the pain of the Cross that overwhelms us, but the Love of it. We are not accustomed to such love, such vulnerability. We can take care of ourselves; we can figure it out. We don’t need to depend on another. We’ve got the American spirit! We can accomplish anything! And yet, we cannot accomplish our own salvation. We don’t like to admit when we are weak, vulnerable and need help. Yet, in order to be saved, in order to grow in holiness that is exactly what we need to do. And it is before the Cross that this profound transformation of humility of our soul can take place.
Yet, the Cross is not the end! It is only the beginning! Jesus rose from the dead solidifying His victory and winning for us God’s eternal life, if we but accept His Word. He gave us the Holy Spirit to build His life in our hearts. As St. John Paul II reminded us, we need not fear. We need not fear temporary suffering, challenges, persecutions nor death, for the eternal victory has been won for us! We live in hope because of Easter Sunday! The song of Hallelujah should ring from our hearts every day of our life despite our trials! For we have been saved; we have been forgiven; we have been eternally loved.