These past few weeks have been filled with suffering. The revelation of scandal has caused an immense amount of pain among the members of the Body of Christ, both the victims and all who love the Church. It raises a number of difficult questions. Among the many questions raised, one of the most difficult to answer is “why?” Unfortunately for us, the answer to the why question won’t come on this side of heaven, at least not completely.
In the midst of this pain and suffering, though, we can begin to see some purpose. These last few weeks have brought us straight to the foot of the Cross. We are standing at Calvary, looking upon our crucified Lord. We are on that hill, seeing the agony of Our Lord as He hangs upon the Cross for our salvation. He bore suffering He did not deserve so that we might live with Him forever.
This same Cross is our path to salvation, for Christ has shown us the Way. Painful as it is, this is the path Christ has laid out before us. By being brought close to the wood of the Cross, by clinging to the Cross, our path to heaven opens before us. This evil and suffering we endure now has the paradoxical power to bring us closer to heaven. If we continue to love God in the midst of this suffering and remain faithful to Christ, this Cross can bring us to heaven, for Christ has gone before us. As St. Rose of Lima said, “Apart from the Cross there is no other ladder by which we may get to heaven.”
Further, in clinging to the Cross, we are conformed to it and conformed to the One who hung upon it. We are crucified with Him, bearing our suffering as He bore His, so that we may share in His heavenly glory. “I have been crucified with Christ,” St. Paul says, “yet I live, no longer I, but Christ lives in me” (Gal 2:19-20). Being conformed to the Cross, to the crucified Christ, with all our pain and suffering, is our path to the eternal life that we are promised.
In these times of agony, we must bring our suffering to the foot of the Cross. We must be prepared to stretch our arms wide in prayer and penance, as we bring years of hurt and lay them at the foot of Our Lord’s Cross. We can cry out in anguish the words of Psalm 22, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you far from saving me, so far from my words of anguish?” while remembering its joyous conclusion, “My soul shall live for him, my descendants serve him. They shall tell of the Lord for generations yet to come, declare his saving justice to peoples yet unborn.”
We have been brought back to the foot of the Cross, and in the face of this pain it is easy to become discouraged. Evil brought us here, but evil has not won. That victory belongs to Christ, who won it while He hung upon the Cross. We share in His victory by sharing in His suffering. By clinging to the Cross and being conformed to it, bearing our suffering and remaining faithful to the Lord, we gain our share of the victory we have been promised, life with God, forever.
Image: Unknown Master, Calvary of Hendrik van Rijn