By Father Danny Ferrandiz
For the Umatuna Si Yu’os
The cross and the resurrection are opposite realities of life. The cross is a reality lived in life while the resurrection is a reward for winning the crosses of life. But in order to experience the reward, we need to recognize that the crosses we bear are real crosses or sufferings that are redemptive in nature – meaning that they are worth the price that Jesus suffered on the cross. How do we know that the crosses we bear are redemptive in nature?
First, when the sufferings are borne out of love and not of pride and self-righteousness. The self-righteous suffering is not deserving suffering hence not redemptive in nature. This was Job’s mistake. His sufferings were out of pride and self-righteousness. He blamed God for his sufferings and thinks that he was innocent. By saying that he was innocent, he was actually criticizing God for making an innocent person suffer. This can sometimes be our temptation, when we see our sufferings as a punishment rather than a share in the cross of Christ then our sufferings have no meaning and not redemptive in nature.
It was when Job acknowledges his “nothingness” before God that his sufferings became redemptive. “The Lord gives, and the Lord takes away.” When our sufferings become an opportunity for repentance and conversion, then it becomes redemptive. For Job, everything changed for the better when he finally turned to God in humble acceptance and repentance. And God blessed him with even more than before.
Second, suffering is redemptive when the suffering is visible. An example of this is the life of St. Thomas More. Thomas was the chancellor of England in the early 1500s, a close friend and faithful servant of King Henry VIII. The king was unfaithful and wanted an annulment with his wife, Queen Catherine of Aragon, who did not bear a son for him.
But there were no grounds for an annulment. So, King Henry, instead of humbly accepting the church’s decision and trusting in God, took things into his own hands. He declared himself the supreme head of the Church in England, denouncing the Pope’s rightful supremacy. Then with his newfound religious authority, he granted himself the annulment, so he could marry his mistress Anne Boleyn.
The bishops and noblemen sided with him and the Anglican Church was born. St. Thomas More, the king’s chancellor refused to take the oath of supremacy. He and his family were threatened and tortured, but he would not betray Christ’s church. He was convicted of treason and executed. His last words before his execution were: “I die the king’s good servant, but God’s first.” Sufferings are visible when it threatens the very core of our belief in God.
When you are a Catholic politician and you refuse to give in to the legalization of abortion and other church moral issues, and because of that, your faith is criticized and you suffer, that suffering is visible suffering. Recognizing these crosses as gifts from God helps us to bear them with faith so that God can use them to mature our love, and to grant us the wisdom and joy that mature love brings. The saints achieved their holiness and maturity of their faith because of sufferings for and with Christ. When we share Jesus’ cross, we also share in the rewards of the resurrection in the end.
Third, suffering is redemptive when it is endured til the end. When Christ was hanging on the cross, he said: “Tetelestai” – “it is finished.” His obedience to the Father was unto death. And this allowed the resurrection to happen – the cross of Jesus validates the possibilities of miracles because the resurrection is the greatest miracle ever happened. What are the implications of believing the reality of the cross and the resurrection?
First, if we suffer our crosses, it’s not far that miracles can happen to us, too. We just need to believe – and to believe means to accept.
Second, because of the redemptive effect of the cross, forgiveness becomes a reality. With the cross, Jesus paid the price of our sins in full. The resurrection is the receipt or proof of that. Our sins are costly, because if it were not then Christ would have been kept in the tomb. The tomb that buried Christ, because of our sins, was opened. This means that everything is forgiven. This implies that we, too, have no right to withhold forgiveness from someone else. If God did not withhold the sins of man, who are we to withhold?
Third, if our crosses are not lived in reality then the God who suffered is not also real and neither is his resurrection. Then, our faith would be useless because Christ is not real.
But Christ indeed suffered, died, and rose from the dead. He has risen! And that is the reality – the best real event that we can possibly shout to a dying world.