On this third weekend of the Great Fast, we humbly “bow before the Cross of Christ” and we praise His Holy Resurrection. As we venerate the Holy Cross this weekend are readings are taken from Paul’s letter to the Hebrews and Mark’s Gospel.
In the reading from Hebrews Paul presents Jesus as the “compassionate” High Priest – the One called by God to lead God’s People in true worship. Paul writes:
Since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus let us hold fast to our profession of faith. So let us confidently approach the throne of grace to receive mercy and favor and to find help in time of need.
Indeed the Cross is a true symbol of God’s great love for us and His desire to help us understand that the various challenges of life are only meant to bring us to the fullness of life – to bring us to a deep and real trust in Him. Jesus exemplified this true and deep trust in the Father in the way He embraced the challenges given to Him.
This is why the Church has paired the Gospel writing from Mark with Paul’s letter to the Hebrews. Mark shares this exhortation of Jesus:
If a person wishes to come after me, he must deny his very self, take up his cross and follow in my steps. Whoever would preserve his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will preserve it.
The various challenges of life are truly not punishments but opportunities to place our hope and trust in God. Jesus showed us this. Spiritual growth comes when we can embrace the challenges of life as He did. Life presents unique challenges to each of us. When we are determined to embrace these challenges and learn from them, we are transformed – we spiritually grow.
This is why the Cross of Christ is the true symbol of the fullness of life and why we decorate the Cross with symbols of life. When we use life’s challenges to transform the way that we think and behave, we become more like Jesus – we actualize more of our potential to be like God.
This, of course, is the meaning and purpose of this human experience. Earthly life is given to us, out to love, so that we might voluntarily transform ourselves into spiritual-human beings – into persons who are more like Jesus. Let us truly embrace life as Jesus did!