Saved by the Cross
Tuesday, April 23, 2019
For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weakness, but we have one who was like us in every way, experienced every temptation, and never backtracked. —Hebrews 4:15 (my translation)
Jesus walked, enjoyed, and suffered the entire human journey, and he told us and showed us that we could and should do the same. His life exemplified unfolding mystery in all of its stages—from a hidden, divine conception, to an ordinary adult life full of love and problems, punctuated by a few moments of transfiguration and enlightenment, inevitable and deep suffering—leading to resurrection, a glorious ascension, and final return.
We do not need to be afraid of the depths and breadths of our own lives, of what this world offers us or asks of us. We are given permission to become intimate with our own experiences, learn from them, and allow ourselves to descend to the depth of things, even our mistakes, before we try too quickly to transcend it all in the name of some idealized purity or superiority. God hides in the depths—even our sins—and is not seen as long as we stay on the surface of anything.
The archetypal encounter between doubting Thomas and the Risen Jesus (John 20:19-28) is not really a story about believing in the fact of the resurrection but a story about believing that someone could be wounded and also resurrected at the same time! That is quite a different message and still desperately needed. “Put your finger here,” Jesus says to Thomas (John 20:27). Like Christ, we are all indeed wounded and resurrected at the same time. In fact, this might be the primary pastoral message of the Gospel.
I’ve often said that great love and great suffering (both healing and woundedness) are the universal, always available paths of transformation because they are the only things strong enough to take away the ego’s protections and pretensions. Great love and great suffering bring us back to God, and I believe this is how Jesus himself walked humanity back to God. It is not just a path of resurrection rewards but a path that now includes death and woundedness. Or as I teach our Living School students, the sequence goes order —> disorder —> reorder!
Jesus the Christ, in his crucifixion and resurrection, “summed up all things in himself, everything in heaven and everything on earth” (Ephesians 1:10). This one verse is the summary of Franciscan Christology. Jesus agreed to carry the mystery of universal suffering. He allowed it to change him (“resurrection”) and, it is to be hoped, us, so that we would be freed from the endless cycle of projecting our pain elsewhere or remaining trapped inside of it.
This is the fully resurrected life, the only way to be happy, free, loving, and therefore “saved.” In effect, Jesus was saying, “If I can trust it, you can too.” We are indeed saved by the cross—more than we realize. The people who hold the contradictions and resolve them in themselves are the saviors of the world. They are the only real agents of transformation, reconciliation, and newness.
Adapted from Richard Rohr, The Universal Christ: How a Forgotten Reality Can Change Everything We See, Hope For, and Believe (Convergent: 2019), 111-112, 147-148.