The Paradox of the Cross

The death of Jesus remains a mystery at the heart of our faith. From the Gospel accounts, we can surmise that Jesus was: betrayed by Judas, one of His own apostles; arrested under the direction of the political forces of His day; convicted without just cause by the Roman governor Pilate under the pressure of the near-revolting crowd; scourged and tormented on His way to Calvary; and nailed to die on the cross.

The Church teaches us that the death of Jesus cannot be blamed on any individual or people; rather, all sinners are collectively held accountable for His death. The agony of His suffering continues to this very day at the hands of the hardened hearts and contemptuous acts of sinners, a group to which all of us belong.

The suffering and death of God's only Son was not the result of an unfortunate series of events; rather, it was the centerpiece of God's plan of redemption for His lost children. Those involved in acting against Jesus were allowed to carry out their dark desires as part of that plan. St. Paul expressed God's plan in his letter to the Colossians:
"He delivered us from the power of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins… He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He Himself might be preeminent. For in Him all the fullness was pleased to dwell, and through Him to reconcile all things for Him, making peace by the blood of His cross (through Him), whether those on earth or those in heaven. And you who once were alienated and hostile in mind because of evil deeds He has now reconciled in his fleshly body through his death, to present you holy, without blemish, and irreproachable before Him." (Colossians 1.13,14,18b-22)

Jesus offered Himself in our place, accepting the collective punishment of all the sins of humanity. In the Eucharist, which we 'do in memory of Him', we recall His sacrifice on the cross. As noted in the Letter to the Hebrews, He is at once both Priest and Perfect Sacrifice: "It was fitting that we should have such a high priest: holy, innocent, undefiled, separated from sinners, higher than the heavens. He has no need, as did the high priests, to offer sacrifice day after day, first for his own sins and then for those of the people; He did that once for all when He offered Himself." (Hebrews 7.26-27)

The obedience of Jesus, symbolized by the cross, is a model for the obedience to God to which we are all called. As Jesus said to all: "If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me." (Luke 9.23)

It is first and foremost out of His merciful love that He willfully submitted to death on the cross. The crucifixion of Christ was not the act of human sacrifice deigned to appease the divine judgement of the Father; rather, it was necessary to demonstrate to all of us enslaved to sin that: "No one has greater love than this, to lay down one's life for one's friends." (John 15.13) It is to this non-judgmental, all-inclusive gift of God's love that all of us are called to revel in as His joyful children.

This poem expresses the great gift of His merciful love poured out for us from the cross:

The Paradox of The Cross

Is the Father a vengeful god,
Seeking retribution for sin?
That would reduce the faith to fraud -
His steadfast love? Fake and foreign!

If Christ was human sacrifice,
His death's the end; debts paid by pain.
In fact, Mercy has paid the price -
Limitless love - His gift's our gain!

The final end of sin is death;
"Forgive them!" He called from the cross.
New life was breathed in His last breath -
His blood covered our debt's full cost.

In His wounds, we have our healing;
By His blood -- innocents restored;
His soul bleeds mercy, revealing
The divine nature of the Lord.

The Lamb saves sinners from their fall;
The Divine Mercy merits all.

Holy Spirit, help me to recall the great gift of God's mercy poured out on the cross, that I may respond wholeheartedly to the Lord's call: "And when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to Myself." (John 12.32). Amen..


New American Bible - Catholic Edition

Catechism of the Catholic Church,
Paragraphs 595-623

Pope Benedict XVI, Introduction to Christianity,
© 2004 Ignatius Press, San Francisco, p. 281 - 293

prepared by:

Paul Buis

(c) Paul Buis, 2006