Our household was hit by a stomach virus recently. It took all 7 of us, one by one, starting with Natalie, the middle granddaughter. It was ugly! But of course we all survived as our body defenses did what they do. It came at a good time, right before Lent. It was a good time, because Lent is a time of scaling back, reducing, minimizing, fasting, and sacrificing. I lost 5 pounds in a couple of days!
Getting back to our defenses, our psychological defenses tend to minimize the suffering that is an everyday occurrence in our world. Yes, there are fires and murders and serious accidents and illnesses all the time. The corona virus threat focuses us on a particular illness, but really they are with us constantly. My own stomach illness (pretty minor really!) called my attention to my vulnerability and weakness. My mortal body will fail at some point, and I will die. Isn’t that what Ash Wednesday was about? I have been primed to think about those who are suffering. And ultimately, I am thinking about the suffering of Christ. That is what this is all about.
The person of God who was filled with love for others, whose life reflected an openness to the suffering in others, was himself made to suffer. The suffering of Christ is visible, public, naked, and enduring in the sign of the Cross. The Cross is something we venerate and is commonplace around our homes, our churches, and our necks. It joins us with Christ in his suffering and in the suffering of all our fellow human beings. Let that sink in. That beautiful Cross in your bedroom stands for suffering, that wooden Cross at Church stands for suffering, that silver Cross you can wear stands for suffering. The Cross has been earned by the pain and angst of so many beings over the years. Of course, it stands for the agony and passion of Christ as well. But it goes beyond that. It stands not only for the cost in struggle and death, but it also points to the Resurrection! The Cross stands not alone but with the empty tomb! The Cross means that we fall and fail, but it also means that we are raised by God in his mercy and salvific love. The Cross is the key to the world of Heaven! So let suffering occur, and know that it will be transformed into joy through God’s mysterious love!