On this day, the Church bids us rejoice at the victory that Jesus won for us two thousand years ago on the wood of the Cross. On this day, the Church bids us to meditate on the means by which God brought about our redemption. The Preface for Mass today can take us deep into this mystery, for in it we say to the Father, “…You placed the salvation of the human race on the wood of the Cross, so that, where death arose, life might again spring forth and the evil one, who conquered on a tree, might likewise on a tree be conquered, though Christ our Lord.”
In other words, on this day, the great wisdom of God and the great folly of the evil one are juxtaposed, for the great victory that Christ won on the wood of the Cross is at the same time the great, humiliating defeat of the enemy. I say that his defeat is humiliating because God chose to use the very substance of Satan’s plot against him. In the Garden of Eden, the serpent tempted Adam and Eve to grasp selfishly at the forbidden fruit, exercising their own will and failing to trust in God to give them all of the knowledge that they would need. In the Garden of Gethsemane, the New Adam trusted completely in His Father’s will and made a total gift of Himself in love. As a result of original sin, Satan has twisted our conception of the human body; by taking on our human flesh, Christ has untwisted it and given us the grace to live in the freedom of the gift. And, as the Preface so eloquently proclaims, God chose to place our salvation on the wood of a tree, thereby conquering Satan on the very playing field that he himself had chosen and transforming it into the altar of sacrifice, the marriage bed on which the Bridegroom would be united with His Bride. This is precisely why we can find a crucifix beautiful—not because we believe that a man being scourged and nailed to a piece of wood is a good and beautiful thing in itself, but rather because that act of love is what brought about our redemption.
The Lord of everything was placed on the wood of the Cross, and therefore, everything that we need is found there. Jesus redeemed everything there, and we should not fear whatever our crosses might be. There will always be a great temptation to flee from suffering and from pain, but if we are able to trust Jesus enough to stay in it with Him, then our cross becomes the very instrument of the redemption of our bodies, even as we groan in labor pains as we await it (see Romans 8). Why else would we experience so much fear, so much shame, so much anxiety surrounding our weaknesses, our woundedness, and our struggles? Precisely because the enemy knows that as we run from them, we run from the very “stuff” of our redemption, the “wood” of our own crosses. But as we learn not to run—as we learn to trust more and more in our Father to give us all that we need as we wait for Him to come for us, groaning all the while, He teaches us day by day what it means to live in the “glorious freedom of the children of God.”
Father Andy Gutierrez was ordained a priest for the Diocese of Brownsville in May 2012 and serves as associate pastor at St. Luke Catholic Church in Brownsville, TX. He is an alumn of Texas A&M University and of Mundelein Seminary, and has attended TOB I, II, & III.