The Beautiful Scandal of the Cross Mark White, Archdiocese of Atlanta

By: Mark White

Imagine a public execution by firing squad, or how bout a public hanging, or maybe a picture or image of someone being publically beheaded. What about bodies of people executed in a gas chamber, or someone by lethal injection, or better yet a video of someone being executed in the electric chair. Now after contemplating these images, do you feel any sense of hope or peace? I hope not! If so you might need to go to counseling. Yes these are hardly images that to any degree inspire love or hope, especially in the event where innocent people are executed.

But surprisingly there is an even more gruesome way in which people can be executed. Crucifixion! The difficulty for us as Catholics, is that the crucifix has become so common to us, you could say we have domesticated it. And we can no longer see it for the scandal that it truly signifies. But this is not the way it used to be. In the ancient Roman world, there was no more humiliating way to die, than crucifixion. Only the lowest of the low were crucified. Roman citizens were exempt. This was reserved for slaves, for those the Romans saw as the refuse and scum of the earth. The cross was far from a symbol of love and hope. Rather it was a symbol of Roman power. Rome was saying to its enemies, to those who dared to defy its rule. If you cross us this is what we will do to you!

Now 2,000 years later this ancient torture device used to execute, murder, and often humiliate even innocent people, has become a sign of unfathomable sacrificial love and hope, for over a billion people. But can we see the scandal of this? As the Psalmist proclaims, can we see, that the stone rejected by the builders has truly become the corner stone. This is Scripture’s way of saying that God has used seemingly the least likely person, or scenario to bring about His salvation, forgiveness, and mercy. In other words, something or someone we could never have seen any good coming out of, God has leveraged surprisingly for a greater good. For example like the crucifixion. Can you imagine the faces of the disciples? If standing at the Lord’s tomb, after His death, they could see the future. And see crucifixes in our rooms, around our necks, and at our altars. Yes they would say with the Psalmist, the stone rejected by the builders, through Christ’s resurrection, has indeed become the cornerstone.

But how can this happen? How can an excruciatingly humiliating sign of defeat, a sign of suffering and the true depth of human cruelty, become a sign of love and victory for so many? It does when we realize, that through the eyes of faith, illumined by grace, that this is a sign of God in the flesh, offering Himself in the person of His Son as an infinitely astonishing sacrifice of love for the salvation of the World. A sacrifice so pure and beautiful to Our Father in Heaven, that it undoes all the ignorant stupidity and willful pride of our sin, shame, and misery. When you gaze upon the cross and crucifix this Friday, strive to see it through these eyes, these eyes of awe inspired life changing faith.

This Good Friday, don’t reject this great sacrificial love. Don’t allow the crucifixion to be, as Saint Paul writes, a stone that you stumble over or a rock of offense. But put on the eyes of faith. Hear the Gospel of Christ Crucified and Risen preached through His apostles, and accept the pattern of Christ’s death and resurrection in your own life.

Let God come into the deepest darkest recesses of your lives, into your weaknesses, sadness, pain, suffering and even sin, that secret you are so ashamed of that at times it feels unbearable. The things you always struggle to believe God could ever save you from, the tragedies and trials you don’t think He could ever redeem, or work for good through. God uses your crosses to draw you into His own, that as surely as you die with Him to your sin shame and hopelessness, you will be raised in His love. If we trust Him there is no weakness, sin, or tragedy in our lives that He can’t redeem, that He can’t bring good out of.

It is amazing to think that when our Lord showed up 2000 years ago, our response was to hang Him on a Cross, to reject and murder Him. This is our greatest failure and shame as human beings, yet miraculously in forgiving sacrificial love, through the resurrection; the Lord leverages our greatest failure, to bring forth the greatest good, his life giving mercy, forgiveness, and love. Bring your deepest darkest failures, shame, and sin this Good Friday to the Cross. And believe that through this great tree of life, the Cross, you will be raised in your resurrected Lord.

About the Author: Mark White

Mark is in Second Theology at Notre Dame Seminary. He is studying for the Archdiocese of Atlanta.


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