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A Beacon Of Light… The Holy Cross And Jesus’ Unconditional Love

September 12, 2023 Our Catholic Faith No Comments


Each year on September 14 the Church celebrates the Feast Day of the Exultation of the Holy Cross. The Feast Day of the Triumph of the Holy Cross commemorates the day St. Helen found the True Cross. It is fitting then, that today we should focus on the final moments of Jesus’ life on the Cross and their significance for us in our lives.
First and foremost, we must remember that the events of Calvary are re-presented each time we participate in the celebration of Holy Mass. For us as Catholics, this is essential to who we are. In this way Jesus spoke from the Cross reminding us of the importance of what was happening.
“Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.” These are the first words Jesus speaks from the Cross and they are recorded in Luke 23:34. In these first words we are reminded of the Father’s love for us. We experience the depth of love and mercy God has for humanity. As Jesus is hanging in agony, He thinks of us and pleads with the Heavenly Father to forgive humanity for turning their back on Him. Jesus’ unconditional love is a visible sign of God’s mercy for us. Are we examples of this loving mercy toward others? In the same way we are called to forgive those who hurt us as well.
“Today you will be with me in paradise.” These words are found in Luke as well, chapter 23, verse 43. Hanging on the Cross, Jesus shows the power of that love and mercy by forgiving the repentant thief and assures him a place in Paradise. Jesus doesn’t only speak words — Jesus puts those words into action by truly forgiving the thief. In doing so, Jesus reminds humanity that there is a place in paradise for all those who believe and are faithful to Him.
Do we forgive from the heart, or do we hold grudges? Are we an example of the forgiving action of Jesus?
“Woman, behold, thy son! Behold, thy mother!” It is in St. John’s Gospel we find these words in chapter 19 verses 26-27. This is the moment Jesus entrusts humanity into the loving arms of His Blessed Mother. Again, Jesus reminds us that we are never alone on the path to paradise. It is also the moment we are reminded that we have a great intercessor in the Blessed Mother. Mary cooperated in the Lord’s plan of redemption by saying yes. Her “fiat” must be ours as well.
The question presented to us in these words of Christ is: are we cooperating in the Lord’s plan for our own lives, or are we living our own lives? Do we allow the Blessed Mother to journey with us?
“My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” One is struck by the anguished tone of this expression in contrast to the first three words of Jesus. He feels separated from His Father. This cry is from the painful heart of the human Jesus who feels deserted by His Father and the Holy Spirit, not to mention His earthly companions the disciples, who “all left Him and fled” (Matt. 26:56, Mark 14:50). Jesus is now all alone, and He must face death by Himself.
The fourth words spoken by Christ resonate with us all. We have all experienced moments of feeling alone or abandoned by God, family, and friends. And yet, even in these most distressing times of our lives, there is still a ray of hope. Even the words themselves denote for us that all is not lost.
Jesus is thirsty for the love of souls and so He exclaims, “I thirst” (John 19:28) His thirst is of love and compassion for us, who seek the remedy that quenches all thirst we yearn for in life. Remember when Jesus goes to the well to get a drink of water. What happens there? Jesus encounters the woman whose heart He touches by telling her that He alone can quench her thirst. She in turn pleads with Him to give her the water that will quench her thirst forever. Are we thirsty? Does our soul thirst for the Lord? Maybe now is the time to eliminate that thirst by allowing the Lord to hydrate us with the springs of living water, just as He did the woman at the well.
Knowing that the time of fulfillment was at hand, Jesus cries out, “It is finished” (John 19:30). With these three words, Jesus completes the work He was asked to do: the work that was begun when Mary said yes at the Annunciation. Jesus’ surrendering was necessary to accomplish the work of our redemption.
Today we often confuse the true meaning of surrender with a more selfish meaning. Many have forgotten that we are called to give our “entire self” to the Lord. This is what is meant by surrendering. What do I mean by this? Often, we just give up! We become weighed down by the burdens of life and don’t know what to do. Do not be afraid! There is always a way out. There is always a road to recovery. When it looks like the end is near, remember the words of Jesus, “It is finished,” lasted only for a moment and were transformed to new life.
The final words spoken by Jesus are: “Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit” (Luke 23:46). These words are the final prayer Jesus utters to the Father in Heaven. Jesus can’t do it anymore! He is exhausted, tired, and has no more strength to go on. He bows His head and offers His soul over to the Heavenly Father. Like Jesus when the pressure of life is so heavy, we need to trust enough in the Father, to commend ourselves into His loving care.
Recently, this was expressed in a very real way. There was a 15-year-old boy who was lying in bed in the final stages of a rare brain cancer. The boy, who had a great faith, wasn’t afraid to die. In fact, he was consoling his own parents and assuring them that he was ready to see God. As the boy spoke, with each words getting softer and softer, he raised his hands and arms heavenward, smiled and commended himself to the arms of his waiting heavenly Father. The boy left the arms of his “earthly parents” and was welcomed into the arms of his “heavenly Father.”
Each time we gaze upon a crucifix, we should be reminded of the dialogue Jesus spoke to the Father on our behalf. The events that occurred on Calvary are not just merely a historical event, they are the living moments of our faith. This dialogue is re-presented to us each time Mass is offered. Every time the priest ascends the steps into the sanctuary, he is climbing the hill of Calvary offering the Sacrifice of Christ.
Every time we look up at the crucifix we see the ultimate sign of God’s love for us. In the end, what was seen as a method of torture during Roman times, was transformed into the means through which we would be saved!
And so, we pray the prayer before Jesus Crucified:
“Look down upon me, good and gentle Jesus while before Your face I humbly kneel and, with burning soul, pray and beseech You to fix deep in my heart lively sentiments of faith, hope, and charity, true contrition for my sins, and a firm purpose of amendment. While I contemplate, with great love and tender pity, Your five most precious wounds, pondering over them within me, and calling to mind the words which David, Your prophet, said to You, my Jesus: “They have pierced My hands and My feet, they have numbered all My bones.” Amen.

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