Life Through Death

By Chris Sparks

The Exaltation of the Cross can sound like a strange name. What's there to exalt about an instrument of torture and bloody death, employed by an empire against its subject peoples and political dissidents?

And yet the Cross was the throne of the King, who entered His kingdom when He took His place upon it. The Cross is the mercy seat from which God enacts justice - Jesus pays a price we could never pay in order to satisfy the terms of the covenant between God and man - and gives mercy - we are restored to friendship with God through Christ's death and resurrection, offered a path to become children of God once again. The Cross is the path of life after death, of joy through sorrow, of healing through suffering.

Sound strange? It's the same cycle written into the very fabric of reality, identified by Jesus in the Gospels and dramatically depicted by great Christian artists such as C. S. Lewis, J. R. R. Tolkien, and many, many others. You must give in order to gain. You must die in order to live. You must suffer in order to be free from suffering.

Whether it's the courage needed to overcome stage fright, make it through the performance, and finish triumphantly; or the courage required to face the pain of the dentist's chair so the toothache will be gone; or the courage required of soldiers fighting an invading army so that peace will come again; or the courage of the Christian, called to cooperate with God's grace, to die to self in order to receive themselves again, whole, holy, healed, and free from every vice and sin - over and over again, throughout our lives, we are confronted with the reality, the necessity, of the Cross.

Amen, amen, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit. Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will preserve it for eternal life. Whoever serves Me must follow Me, and where I am, there also will My servant be. The Father will honor whoever serves Me - Jn 12:24-26.

Thus spoke Jesus, referring to His death. Jesus was on the Cross - we must be there as well, in order to rise again with Him. What does that look like for each Christian? It means living in self-sacrificing love, living mercy, as Fr. Michael Gaitley, MIC, explains in all four of the Hearts Afire: Parish-based Programs books, but especially in 'You Did It To Me'. It doesn't mean there will never be times of joy or happiness in this life, but rather that a Christian can accept those as gifts from God just as much as we accept the times of sorrow, of trial, of pain as gifts from God, as well. Borne well, they console His Heart, let grace into the world, and help sanctify all things.

So on this feast of the Exaltation of the Cross, let us ask the help of Jesus to bear our crosses out of love for Him. Let us seek to console His Heart by accompanying Him spiritually in His times of trial.



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