March 15, 2016 Divine Mercy Week 7
The late Russian writer Alexander Solzhenitsyn told of a time in the Siberian prison when weary from hard labor, weak from a starvation diet and in pain from an untreated illness, he felt he couldn’t go on. He was being forced to shovel sand hour after backbreaking hour. Finally he just stopped, knowing that the guards would beat him severely, perhaps even to death. Just then another prisoner, a fellow Christian, took his shovel handle and, right at Solzhenitsyn’s feet, drew in the sand the sign of the cross. Then he quickly erased it. But when Solzhenitsyn caught the glimpse of the cross all the hope and courage in the gospel flooded his soul and enabled him to hold on. He was saved by the sign of the cross.
Today we learn about the New Testament fulfillment of an Old Testament episode. The Book of Numbers shows the Israelites turning against God even though he had just won their release from slavery in Egypt. In punishment for turning away from God, Jews were bitten by serpents; but when they looked at a bronze serpent fashioned by Moses, their lives were saved. In the gospel, Jesus is speaking about himself and telling the people that only when they have killed him on the cross will they realise that he is the Son of God because only then will they see his glory. Like the bronze serpent on the pole, Christ on the cross will bring us new life. The cross is the symbol of our sinfulness, our rejection of God and our total separation from Him; yet Jesus made the cross the source of our salvation. The lifting up on the Cross ultimately reveals the merciful love of God the Father for all humanity.
Moreover, Jesus was confident that the Father would be with him through his cross. How about us? Do we put our confidence in God, that he would be with us through our crosses? How often we view the cross as a burden, a necessary evil. Rather than finding strength in it, we find despair. Admittedly, no one likes to suffer, but suffering is part of everyone’s life. The difference is that a Christian knows the secret— he joins his suffering to Christ’s. In doing so, we find not only strength but meaning in our pain and suffering. In the cross, the symbol of death has become the symbol of God’s loving mercy. Today we ask Our Heavenly Father for the grace to carry our cross. We are not asking Him to remove it, but to give us strength to bear it as Jesus did. May we do so not begrudgingly but with grace and fortitude, for in doing so, we will find life.