Jesus and the Cross
Unfortunately, with the widespread acceptance of the substitutionary atonement theory, salvation became a one-time transactional affair between Jesus and his Father, instead of an ongoing transformational lesson for the human soul and for all of history. (Sunday)
Christianity’s vision of God was a radical departure from most ancient religions. Instead of having God “eat” humans, animals, or crops, which were sacrificed on altars, Christianity made the bold claim that God’s very body was given for us to eat! This turned everything around and undid the seeming logic of quid pro quo thinking. (Monday)
A view of God as punitive and retributive nullifies any in-depth spiritual journey: Why would you love or trust or desire to be with such a God? (Tuesday)
The Franciscan School of theology claimed that the cross was a freely chosen revelation of Love on God’s part, meant to utterly shock the mind and heart and turn it back toward trust and love of the Creator. (Wednesday)
The Divine Mind transforms all human suffering by identifying completely with the human predicament and standing in full solidarity with it from beginning to end. This is the real meaning of the crucifixion. (Thursday)
Jesus did not come to change God’s mind about us. It did not need changing. Jesus came to change our minds about God—and about ourselves—and about where goodness and evil really lie. (Friday)
Practice: Standing Before the Cross
Picture yourself before the crucified Jesus; recognize that he became what you fear: nakedness, exposure, vulnerability, and failure. He became sin to free you from sin (see 2 Corinthians 5:21). He became what we do to one another in order to free us from the lie of punishing and scapegoating each other. He became the crucified, so we would stop crucifying. He refused to transmit his pain onto others.
In your imagination, receive these words as Jesus’ invitation to you from the cross:
My beloved, I am your self. I am your beauty. I am your goodness, which you are destroying. I am what you do to what you should love. I am what you are afraid of: your deepest and best and most naked self—your soul. Your sin largely consists in what you do to harm goodness—your own and others’. You are afraid of the good; you are afraid of me. You kill what you should love; you hate what could transform you. I am Jesus crucified. I am yourself, and I am all of humanity.
And now respond to Jesus on the cross, hanging at the center of human history, turning history around:
Jesus, Crucified, you are my life and you are also my death. You are my beauty, you are my possibility, and you are my full self. You are everything I want, and you are everything I am afraid of. You are everything I desire, and you are everything I deny. You are my outrageously ignored and neglected soul.
Jesus, your love is what I most fear. I can’t let anybody love me for nothing. Intimacy with you or anyone terrifies me.
I am beginning to see that I, in my own body, am an image of what is happening everywhere, and I want it to stop today. I want to stop the violence toward myself, toward the world, toward you. I don’t need ever again to create any victim, even in my mind.
You alone, Jesus, refused to be crucifier, even at the cost of being crucified. You never asked for sympathy. You never played the victim or asked for vengeance. You breathed forgiveness.
We humans mistrust, murder, attack. Now I see that it is not you that humanity hates. We hate ourselves, but we mistakenly kill you. I must stop crucifying your blessed flesh on this earth and in my brothers and sisters.
Now I see that you live in me and I live in you. You are inviting me out of this endless cycle of illusion and violence. You are Jesus crucified. You are saving me. In your perfect love, you have chosen to enter into union with me, and I am slowly learning to trust that this could be true.
Adapted from Richard Rohr, “Jesus: Forgiving Victim, Transforming Savior,” Richard Rohr on Transformation: Collected Talks, vol. 1, disc 1 (Franciscan Media: 1997).
Richard Rohr, Richard Rohr on Transformation: Collected Talks, vol. 1 (Franciscan Media: 1997)
Richard Rohr, The Universal Christ: How a Forgotten Reality Can Change Everything We See, Hope For, and Believe (Convergent: 2019)