The heart of the Christian life is intimacy with Christ on the cross.
This past weekend I went on silent retreat, and throughout it all, the words of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI came back again and again:
“The world offers you comfort, but you were not made for comfort. You were made for greatness.”
Let me be first to confess that I love comfort. I know this about myself. I like iced coffee and warm beds and fun events and good people and my routines. I lean into comfort. But over the past few weeks, I’ve become more and more convicted of the importance of reflecting on Christ on the cross.
Frankly, I much prefer Jesus in the glory of adoration – surrounded by the sparkling gold of a monstrance. I love Jesus as He teaches the crowds, on the side of a mountain with a soft breeze. I love Jesus in the final supper, when He gives His followers words to encourage them and drive them forward. I love Jesus in the Eucharist, filling our souls with grace to walk with Him.
Christ crucified, beaten and bloody on the cross, hanging in humiliation – that’s harder. But the cross – His suffering – that is the heart of our faith.
It is at the cross that we are able to connect with Him most deeply. Christ on the cross gives meaning to the crosses in our own lives. Through it, our own suffering becomes redemptive. We are given hope. We see the humiliation and pain and betrayal that Jesus experienced, and it comes face to face with our own experiences of humiliation and pain and betrayal. When we stand at the foot of the cross, we bring Him such consolation, and our own hearts are comforted.
This life is a constant cycle of death and resurrection. But those sufferings – those little deaths – they’re not meaningless. They’re redemptive. They’re beautiful. All because of Him. He’s done it. And He’s done it for you.
If it’s hard (it’s hard for me) to stand by the cross, do with with Mary. She was there. She heard whispers and rumors in the streets that people were trying to have her son killed. Imagine her pain when she heard that He was condemned. Stand with her as He is scourged. Walk the way of the cross with Mary. Meet Him after He’s fallen. Stand at the foot of the cross with Mary and John. Stay with her as His body is taken down from the cross.
Mary will give you the strength to be courageous and stay there for Jesus.
The cross is hard, but it’s arguably the most beautiful and present part of our faith. It’s there that we can meet Jesus, we can offer up our own sufferings, and we can thank Him for the suffering He endured for us. We can stand there, loving Him, and letting Him love us – because all of that suffering?
It was out of love for you.
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Jane Kennedy lives in Washington, DC. She is a graduate of UC Santa Barbara and works in criminal justice reform. When she’s not working or writing, she’s probably catching up with friends on FaceTime, getting lost in Rock Creek Park, quoting C.S. Lewis, or trying to recreate Salt and Straw ice cream at home.