Editor’s Note: The image of the cross is incredibly unique in that it simultaneously offers one of the most powerful symbols of suffering but also love and salvation.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus tells the people, “If you remain in my word, you will truly be my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. Amen, amen, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is a slave of sin. A slave does not remain in a household forever, but a son always remains. So if the Son frees you, then you will be truly free” (John 8:31-42).
When we start to go down paths that lead away from God, we become a slave to our sins. Despite the endless opportunities for love and forgiveness, we walk farther down the path instead of turning around and facing God again. The ultimate freedom comes in this act of turning around and walking back towards God, no matter what we’ve done or how long we’ve away.
In Luke’s Gospel, Jesus also states, “If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it” (Luke 9: 23-24).
This is a radical statement that contains a promise of both suffering and salvation. There can be no sanctification without the cross. The cross doesn’t end with the crucifixion. Because of the resurrection, the cross becomes a symbol of new life, of redemption, and of the greatest act of love ever imaginable.
One frequent misconception about living a life in accordance with Christ’s words is that he will ask us to give up too many things.
However, as Jesus himself says, “the truth will set you free.” The truth is, when we do pick up this cross to follow Christ, we don’t lose anything. Instead, we gain everything. To understand this truth and put it into practice, we have to let go of fear related to suffering. For understandable reasons, suffering has negative connotations attached to it. Why would anyone willingly choose a path that included suffering?
In many cases, though, times of greatest joy and freedom come only after a period of trial and suffering. Sometimes, the most beautiful sunrise comes only after the darkest night. The immense joy and celebration of Easter is made complete after the sorrow and somberness of Good Friday.
Reflection Question: At this point in Lent, how can you remind yourself that whatever practices you have given up or taken up are all in pursuit of a deeper relationship with God?
Featured image: adaptation of photo by Pixabay user moise_theodor – public domain