A few weeks ago, I was contemplating Jesus on the cross. It’s not hard to image the pain he was experiencing: the nails, thorns, and scourging rip your own soul wide open. One common tradition understands that Jesus was offered on the cross for the atonement of sins—our sins: being human, he could die, and, being God, he could cross the chasm of sin between us and God.
In his human nature, Jesus truly suffered on the cross. In the hands of sinners, his body was mutilated. The love he had for the Father on the cross was so superabundant that Jesus suffered not only this physical pain but also the intense spiritual pain of knowing how many people reject the gratuitous love of God.
Eternal in his divine nature and seeing everything from all eternity, Jesus on the cross knew the sins of all people from every age of history and shed his blood—God’s own blood—for the salvation of the souls of sinners. The blood that poured out from Jesus is the fount of mercy for those whose sins nailed him there.
In the glorious love of God, this blood also heals all those who have been harmed by the sins of others. Jesus’ own blood received by the faithful at Mass heals and elevates broken hearts to the heights of spiritual peace and joy. Broken heart to broken heart, the life of Jesus is poured into this vessel, making all things new.
As I continued to gaze on the cross, I noticed something. Instead of concentrating on the pain and suffering, the nails and thorns, I saw something very unexpected: a smile. Jesus’ smile. He was smiling down on St. Catherine, who was reaching up, also with a smile, to her Savior’s pierced side. I could hear the prayer on her lips: To you, eternal Father, I offer once again my life, poor as I am, for your dear bride.
Alongside St. Catherine, we can make Jesus smile by uniting our daily suffering or our intentional mortifications to his on the cross. Through him, the daily sweat of our brow can be united to his blood, which in turn can heal the hurt of others, especially our brothers and sisters in the Church who have been harmed through no fault of their own.
Perhaps this is one small way to respond to the Holy Father’s plea in his letter addressed to us: “I invite the entire holy faithful People of God to a penitential exercise of prayer and fasting. … The penitential dimension of fasting and prayer will help us as God’s People to come before the Lord and our wounded brothers and sisters as sinners imploring forgiveness and the grace of shame and conversion.” Perhaps our offering—through the communion we share as the Body of Christ—will be some kind of cause of grace in the lives of those who are wounded and at the same time work for the deeper conversion of our hearts. May all our hearts be immersed in the saving blood of Jesus.
Photo by Fr. Lawrence Lew, O.P. (used with permission)