Good Friday Reflection on the Logic of the Cross
Pope Francis said something during his first general audience that inspired me to reflect on the suffering Jesus endured during his Passion for the sake of our redemption. He said, "Living Holy Week means increasingly entering into God's logic, the logic of the Cross.
Thinking about the logic of the Cross reminds me of some things Benedict XVI discussed in chapter two of his book, Introduction to Christianity. I find them interesting. You may too.
Throughout history, most religions have recognized our guilt or estrangement before God. As a result, they have attempted to bridge the divide by means of sacrificial rites or expiation. But in Psalm 50 we read that God does not want the sacrifice of bulls or goats. He does not need them. They all belong to Him anyway.
Benedict then reminds us that what God wants is "man's unqualified Yes." Benedict says, "Everything belongs to God, but to man is lent freedom to say Yes or No, the freedom to love or to reject; love's free Yes is the only thing for which God must wait" (285-86).
The Catechism of the Catholic Church says that God is "an eternal exchange of love, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and he has destined us to share in that exchange" (221). To enter into that exchange, Benedict tells us, requires a concrete expression of love that extends "to the end" in total surrender and gives its all.
This is the kind of worship God wants. It is sacrificial and involves suffering, but for the Christian, the fundamental principle of the sacrifice is not suffering but love." However, suffering plays an important role in testing love. Benedict also gives us an example that shows us how suffering tests love in a sinful world. I thought it was powerful.
Four hundred years before Christ was born, the Greek philosopher Plato concluded that a truly righteous man (a "just man") must be misunderstood and persecuted. Only then can the just man's righteousness be complete. Only then can it be guaranteed that he seeks justice for its own sake. Plato wrote the following in the Republic: "They will say that our just man will be scourged, racked, fettered, will have his eyes burned out, and at last, after all manner of suffering, will be crucified."
We see a similar example in chapter two of Wisdom: "1Our life is short and dreary, there is no remedy when our end comes. . . . 6 Come then, let us enjoy the good things of today, let us . . . 7 take our fill . . . of the dearest wines and perfumes, on no account forgo the flowers of spring 8 but crown ourselves with rosebuds before they wither, 9 no meadow excluded from our orgy . . . .
"10 As for the upright man who is poor, let us oppress him . . . . 11 Let our might be the yardstick of right, since weakness argues its own futility. 12 Let us lay traps for the upright man, since he annoys us and opposes our way of life. . . . 14 We see him as a reproof to our way of thinking, the very sight of him weighs our spirits down. . . . 19 Let us test him with cruelty and with torture, and thus explore this gentleness of his and put his patience to the test. 20 Let us condemn him to a shameful death . . . ."
Blessed John Paul II makes a similar connection between love and sacrifice in his Apostolic Letter, On the Christian Meaning of Human Suffering, and he further develops Benedict's reasoning. John Paul says, "Suffering is particularly essential to the nature of man. . . . It is one of those points in which man is in a certain sense 'destined' to go beyond himself . . . ."
Human existence, as we know it on the natural level, is not our end; it is like a grain of wheat. Jesus said, ". . . unless the grain of wheat falls to the earth and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat. But if it dies, it produces much fruit" (Jn 12:24).
Hebrews 5:7-9 says that Jesus learned obedience from what he suffered and was made perfect. In this context, "perfection" refers to Jesus giving God a concrete expression of a love that extends "to the end," in other words, a love tested by suffering. Jesus poured his divinity into our nature. He then poured himself out for us on the Cross. Then he humbled himself even further, becoming "ground wheat."
But we are weak and rebellious. We do not want to give ourselves away completely and sacrificially. We fear suffering. So in our weakness we avoid it and disobey God. Our disobedience began in the Garden of Eden. The Catechism states, "Seduced by the devil, [Adam] wanted to 'be like God,' but 'without God, before God, and not in accordance with God'" (398).
Although we rebel against God and fail to enter into an exchange of love with Him, God uses even our weakness for a higher purpose. Blessed John Paul says that Jesus descends to the ultimate limits of human weakness and impotence, but at the same time in this weakness he is lifted up, confirmed by the power of the resurrection. This is the gospel paradox of weakness and strength (2 Cor 12:9-10).
Blessed John Paul writes, ". . .this means that the weaknesses of all human sufferings are capable of being infused with the same power of God manifested in Christ's cross. In such a concept, to suffer means to become particularly susceptible, particularly open, to the working of the salvific powers of God offered to humanity in Christ. In him God has confirmed his desire to act especially through suffering, which is man's weakness and emptying of self, and he wishes to make his power known precisely in this weakness and emptying of self" (25).
Jesus raised human suffering to a higher level by endowing it with the power to become redemptive. In this respect, the redemptive mission of Jesus continues. Blessed John Paul says that the redemption, which Jesus accomplished through perfect love, remains open to our loving participation and can even be expressed in human suffering.
Saint Paul says that we complete the suffering of Jesus in our own bodies (Col 1:24). When we unite our suffering to Jesus, we are participating in his ongoing redemptive mission. This act is our yes to God, our worship, our sacrifice. It is how we give ourselves back to Him and enter into His inner life through the logic of the Cross.
Michael Terheyden was born into a Catholic family, but that is not why he is a Catholic. He is a Catholic because he believes that truth is real, that it is beautiful and good, and that the fullness of truth is in the Catholic Church. However, he knows that God's grace operating throughout his life is the main reason he is a Catholic. He is greatly blessed to share his faith and his life with his beautiful wife, Dorothy. They have four grown children and three grandchildren.
© 2014 - Distributed by THE NEWS CONSORTIUM
Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for October 2014
Peace: That the Lord may grant peace to those parts of the world most battered by war and violence.
World Mission Day: That World Mission Day may rekindle in every believer zeal for carrying the Gospel into all the world.
Rate This Article
Leave a Comment
More Lent / Easter News
- 4th Sorrowful Mystery: The Carrying of the Cross
- 3rd Sorrowful Mystery: The Crowning with Thorns
- Good Friday Reflection on the Nature of Sin
- Lent is almost over, but have YOU kept this Commandment?
- 5th Sorrowful Mystery: The Crucifixion
- Holy Thursday: Take Up the Basin and Towel. Love is a Verb.
- Holy Thursday: He Loves to the End
- 2nd Sorrowful Mystery: The Scourging at the Pillar
- The Precious and Life-Giving Cross of Christ
- Fr. Paul Schenck: Finding Living Faith on Catechetical Sunday
- The Movie Yellow: Incest as 'Normal' and Cassavates's Slides Into the World of Woes
- The Chicago School Teachers Strike Reveals the Need For School Choice
- The Sexual Barbarians and the Dissolution of Culture
- The Happy Priest Challenges Us to Ask: Who is Jesus to Me?
- Michael Coren on Canadian Public Schools: Teachers, leave those kids alone
- We Cannot Ignore Our Consciences: Cardinal Dolan On Religious Liberty
- In the Face of Danger, Successor of Peter Travels to Lebanon as a Messenger of Peace
- Reflections on the Dignity and Vocation of Women: Who or What?
More Easter / Lent
'So it is written that the Christ would suffer and on the third day rise from the dead' - Luke 24:46
Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of the Season of Lent. It is a season of penance, reflection, and fasting which prepares us for Christ's Resurrection on Easter Sunday, through which we attain redemption. continue reading
Palm Sunday, the Sunday before Easter, commemorates Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem, an event mentioned in all four canonical Gospels. (Mark 11:1.11, Matthew 21:1.11, Luke 19:28.44, and John 12:12.19) ... continue reading
On Palm Sunday, we celebrate the first joy of the season, as we celebrate Our Lord's triumphant entrance into Jerusalem where he was welcomed by crowds worshiping him and laying down palm leaves before him. It also marks the beginning of Holy Week... continue reading
HOLY THURSDAY is the most complex and profound of all religious observances. It celebrates his last supper with the disciples, a celebration of Passover ... continue reading
On Good Friday, each member of the Church tries to understand at what cost Christ has won our redemption. In the solemn ceremonies of Holy Week we unite ourselves to our Savior, and we contemplate our own death to sin in the Death of our Lord ... continue reading
Easter is the principal feast of the ecclesiastical year. Leo I (Sermo xlvii in Exodum) calls it the greatest feast (festum festorum), and says that Christmas is celebrated only in preparation for Easter. It is the centre of the greater part of the ecclesiastical year ... continue reading
For most people the easiest practice to consistently fulfill will be the traditional one, to abstain from meat on all Fridays of the year. During Lent abstinence from meat on Fridays is obligatory in the United States as elsewhere. Christ Himself said that His disciples would fast once He had departed (Lk. 5:35). continue reading
Everything answered from when does lent end, ashes, giving something up, stations of the cross and blessed palms. The key to understanding the meaning of Lent is simple: Baptism... continue reading
Stations of the Cross refers to the depiction of the final hours (or Passion) of Jesus, and the devotion commemorating the Passion. First Station: Jesus is condemned to death... pray the stations now
What did you give up for Lent?
From the humorous to the bizarre, people have had interesting Lenten experiences. Tell us about what you are going to give up for this Lenten Year.
What others gave up »
Jennifer Hartline - Catholic Online, 4/18/2014
This Sorrowful pilgrimage now brings me here to this lonely hill. All the agony, the beatings and the bleeding have led me somewhere I do not want to go; somewhere I resist going with all my ...Continue Reading
Jennifer Hartline - Catholic Online, 4/18/2014
I wonder if perhaps it was tempting for Jesus to just lie down on the dirt road and die right there. Completely sapped of strength and in agonizing pain, I wonder if He was tempted by the ...Continue Reading
Jennifer Hartline - Catholic Online, 4/18/2014
Humiliation, in one form or another, is part of the package. It is only avoidable if we decide to deny Christ. WASHINGTON, D.C. (Catholic Online) - 3rd Sorrowful Mystery: The Crowning ...Continue Reading
Michael Terheyden - Catholic Online, 4/18/2014
The Passion of Christ represents the most atrocious miscarriage of justice in all of human history. So when we come face to face with the crucified Christ on Good Friday, it is only natural for us to ...Continue Reading
On Good Friday, the entire Church fixes her gaze on the Cross at Calvary. Each member of the Church tries to understand at what cost Christ has won our redemption.
In the symbol of the Cross we can see the magnitude of the human tragedy, the ravages of original sin, and the infinite love of God. Learn More
Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of the Season of Lent. It is a season of penance, reflection, and fasting which prepares us for Christ's Resurrection on Easter Sunday, through which we attain redemption.
The ashes are made from the blessed palms used in the Palm Sunday celebration of the previous year. The ashes are christened with Holy Water and are scented by exposure to incense. Learn More
Stations of the Cross refers to the depiction of the final hours (or Passion) of Jesus, and the devotion commemorating the Passion.
ACT OF CONTRITION. O my God, my Redeemer, behold me here at Thy feet. From the bottom of my heart... Pray the Stations
'Christ Himself said that His disciples would fast once He had departed' Lk. 5:35
Abstinence. The law of abstinence requires a Catholic 14 years of age until death to abstain from eating meat on Fridays in honor of the Passion of Jesus on Good Friday. Salt and freshwater species of fish, amphibians, reptiles and shellfish are permitted.
Fasting. The law of fasting requires a Catholic from the 18th Birthday (Canon 97) to the 59th Birthday (i.e. the beginning of the 60th year, a year which will be completed on the 60th birthday) to reduce the amount of food eaten from normal. The Church defines this as one meal a day, and two smaller meals which if added together would not exceed the main meal.
Learn More »