Archbishop Follo: The Reason for our Joy: the Cross of Christ.
March 9, 2018. We are invited to understand that life is a gift and we deserve it by offering our lives to others.
Roman Rite – Fourth Sunday of Lent – Year B – March 11th, 2018
2Chr 36, 14-16.19-23; Ps 137; Eph 2,4-10; Jn 3,14-21
Ex 33, 7-11a; Ps 36; 1Ts 4, 1b-12; Jn 9: 1-38b
Sunday of the Blind – Fourth of Lent
1) Contemplate Christ on the Cross.
The Lenten journey is like the exodus of the Jews who for forty years went on pilgrimage in the desert. During that long period, they were fortified by trial and lived a particular time of purification and grace. They also experienced the gift of the benevolence of the Lord who, walking in front of them as a column of smoke by day and as fire by night, led them to the Promised Land.
The Israelites were pilgrims in the desert because they believed completely in the Lord who was leading them to freedom. At a certain point, this faith failed and they complained against Yahweh. Then God punished them with the bite of poisonous snakes coming out from the sand. However, in his mercy God was moved by their tears of repentance and, above all, he listened to the trusting prayer that Moses addressed to him in favor of his countrymen. He ordered a bronze serpent to be made and placed on a stick in a high desert place so that it could be clearly visible. In such a way, all those who looked at him were immune to the venom of the true snakes raging from all sides of the desert. By doing this, the Israelites were saved from death by poisoning.
On this Sunday, the bronze serpent that the Gospel mentions invites us to reflect on Christ the Crucified Savior destined to become Risen One.
In the same way as it was ordered to Moses to raise the bronze serpent in the desert to save the Jewish people (and this became an instrument of salvation for those who were wounded by the bites of real snakes), todayit is ordered to us to look to Christ lifted up on the wood of the Cross. Looking at the Crucified, Christians are saved from the poison of the spiritual serpent.
In the conversation with Nicodemus, of which today’s Gospel passage is a part, Jesus unveils the deepest meaning of his death and resurrection: the Son of man must be raised on the wood of the Cross so that he who believes in Him may have life. Therefore, if we want to save ourselves from the poisonous bites of evil, we must look to Christ who spreads love from the Cross.
Looking at the crucified Christ with eyes purified by pain, allows us to see God’s love for us and to believe in love.
Looking at the crucified Christ and following him taking our cross every day, makes us become people who love as God has loved us.
Let’s look at the Cross to let it enter not only in our eyes but also in our hearts and our lives. Let’s look at the Cross to become witnesses of the crucified Christ. When we look at it, wherever it is displayed, we are reminded of the possibility of salvation for life. The cross is there to tell us that, if we believe in the Gospel and in what Jesus did and said, our life is saved and becomes a healer for all those who are close to us.
2) The joy of the Cross
On the cross, Christ has given his life because he loves us. The contemplation of such a great love brings in our hearts a hope and a joy that nothing can tear down. A Christian can never be sad because he has met Christ, who gave his life for him. But the Cross is not only to be looked at with adoration, it is also to be embraced.
Why is it so important to embrace the Cross and why is this a source of joy? I will answer these questions with an episode from the life of Mother Teresa of Calcutta. One day this saint went to visit a sick woman and told her she had to be happy because, with her suffering, she was close to Christ. The woman replied that she wanted to get away from Christ because her suffering was too acute. Mother Teresa smiled at her, embraced her and continued to treat her stinking sores. The Saint of Calcutta had well understood that saying to embrace the cross was not an exhortation to resignation like: “suffer with patience, accept, and endure the inevitable crosses of life”. Jesus does not say: “endures suffering”, but says: “Take on you the love that is a gift of oneself “, namely, capable of sharing the pain by giving oneself up to death.
We are not asked to passively suffer, but to actively take part in the passion of Christ for the world, remembering that passion is the passion of lovers. Taking the cross means “taking upon us a life that resembles his”.
What is then the cross?
For Christ, it was not the instrument of death, but of the manifestation of his “exaggerated” love. The Cross is the synthesis of the whole life of Jesus, lived for love and by love.
With Christ, the Cross becomes a synonym of love. Therefore, the sentence of Christ “Whoever wants to come behind me, must take his cross and follow me”, can be rewritten “If someone wants to come with me must take on him the yoke of love, all the love of which he is capable, and follow me “.
Of course, we will experience that love has a price: the price of the gift of self. Love also has its thorns and wounds. These do not obscure love. They purify it because it is a love that does not possess the other but exalts him and makes us happy because it is an experience of belonging and of being loved. It is in the gift of oneself that there is true joy. The Apostle Paul speaks of such joy: “I am pleased with the sufferings that I endure for you” (Col 1, 24).
This is possible if the accent is placed not so much on the fact that Christ asks us to “lose” life, but on” finding “life.
The final outcome is “finding life”, as happened to Christ with the resurrection. What Christ offers is what all men seek, in all corners of the earth and in every day that is given to them: the blossoming of life, of a life that lasts forever, of a happy and rich life, because love grows only when we give.
3) Cross, joy, and virginity.
We could compare the cross to the bed where a mother gives birth to a child. The birth pains are not an obstacle to the joy of a new mother, but they are the condition. Living the cross is giving birth. How can we fail to think of the crucified Lord who, while everything is finished (Jn 19:30), floods with love those who are under his bed of pain giving a child to a mother and a mother to a child forever? Dying on the Cross, Jesus entrusted John to his mother saying: “Woman, behold your son” (Jn 19, 26). If He did not call her by the sweet name of Mother, it was because the hour had arrived – as it comes for the souls who progress in love – to entrust her with another motherhood. Spiritual motherhood on souls; the motherhood that the Savior had promised to grant to all those who had done his divine will: “Whoever does the will of my Father who is in heaven, this is for my brother, sister, and mother” (Mt 12, 50).
That was a moment of joy. Apparently, it was not, because that birth was happening in pain. In fact, that motherhood made Mary cause of our joy because the most real joy is to see the light inside the love of a Mother who accepts us as her children born from the pain of her Son. On the cross, Christ gave his life because he loves us.
In fact, true joy does not consist in having many things, but in feeling loved by the Lord, in giving himself to others and in loving each other.
The highest way to give oneself to God and to others and to love God and neighbor is that of consecrated virgins, who graft on the cross the flower of their consecration whose nourishment is the life of Christ.
The flower is a symbol dear to Santa Teresa of the Child Jesus, who uses this symbol in the manner of the Sacred Scripture to indicate at the same time the beauty and the fragility of the human being in the earthy life (cf. Mt 6: 28-30). Thus, she rejoins one of the meanings of the word flesh in the Bible. In the book of Isaiah, the symbol of the “flower of the fields” characterizes the extreme fragility and mortality of “every flesh”, confronted with the eternal stability of the “Word of God” (see Is 40: 6-8). But the great novelty of the Mystery of Jesus is precisely that the “Word became flesh” (Jn 1:14), as fragile and mortal as the flower of the fields. Saint Teresina uses the biblical symbol of the “flower of the fields” (or “little flower”) for herself, extends it to all humanity (especially in the admirable Prologue of the Manuscript A), but above all, applies it to Jesus “in the days of his flesh “(see Hebrews 5: 7), that is in all the mysteries of his terrestrial life contemplated as mysteries of lowering, of smallness and of poverty, because it is” being typical of the Love to low himself “(Ms A 2v). It is here that the Saint of Lisieux joins Saint Francis and Saint Clare of Assisi contemplating “the Love of this God, Who poor was laid in the cradle, Poor lived in this world and naked remained on the Cross” (Testament of Saint Clare of Assisi).