The Power of the Cross is a book well-suited to daily reading during Lent. The book is available here in pdf version. Daily excerpts will be reprinted in this space during Lent.
From the Introduction (part 3)
If you’re like most people, there have been times in your life—if you’re like me, lots of times—when you have said, “If I knew then what I know now, I never would have done that!” In reality, experience alone seldom gives us the wisdom we need to avoid all future missteps, whether days or years from now. As much as we like to think we know what is best for us and for those entrusted to our care, much of life is still beyond our control. It’s frustrating—but it is also part of the human condition.
The Apostle Paul said it best in his letter to the Romans: “I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate” (Romans 7:15). It’s called concupiscence, a fancy word for “disordered desire.” As human persons, we do not always desire what is best for us. Not the way God does.
The good news is that it doesn’t have to be that way. God became one of us in Jesus Christ to help us break this vicious cycle. He shed his blood to break the power of sin in our lives, and to restore us into relationship with God the Father.
Sounds great, doesn’t it? There’s just one small catch: We must be willing to be entirely transformed, starting from the inside. Everything must change: what we do, how we think, what we believe, and whom we follow. In the language of the Scriptures, we must “repent.” This doesn’t sound like great news at first—not to those who have deluded themselves into thinking that they are in control of their own lives. Yet to those who know better, it is the best news imaginable.
Still, it all boils down to the cross. Not the beautifully engraved golden ornament you can put around your neck and forget. It’s the kind of cross Mel Gibson portrayed in The Passion of the Christ: full of pain and feelings of rejection, not to mention the blood and gore. The kind that requires you to die. It’s frightening. It’s agonizing. It’s risky. It’s nothing we would choose for ourselves, not in a million years.
Ah, yes. But it is also necessary. There are two things to keep in mind, to help you put this in perspective. First, once you understand the gift that is being offered, the risk is hardly worth
mentioning. The way of the cross is the only way to eternal glory.
Second, the Lord does not expect us to walk this way alone. He gives us a helper, the Holy Spirit. He strengthens us through the sacraments. And Jesus also gives us his very life— body and blood, soul and divinity— in the Eucharist. My friend Pearl understood this, and received her Lord as often as she could. It was the incredible grace of this sacrament that gave her the strength to live out the mission God had given her to fulfill.
On the other hand, you don’t have to be a spiritual “giant” to take up your cross like Pearl did. Those first disciples all fled when confronted with the cross of Christ at his arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane. They understood what was at stake, and they were afraid for their own lives.
Yet something happened between Good Friday and Pentecost. Something changed those men, so they no longer feared earthly power but trusted in Christ. Through the empowerment of the Holy Spirit, they sought to do the will of God even if it meant giving up their lives—and for most of them, that is exactly what it did mean.
Jesus extends the same invitation to you: Starting today, take up your cross. Forget the failings of the past. Don’t worry about what tomorrow will bring. Open yourself to God’s will for your life, with all its unsettling possibilities. Believe in the mercy of God that can withstand an honest appraisal of past sinful actions. Let go of your right to judge others or dictate terms. This is the power of the cross: In our weakness and humility, God’s love reigns supreme. More
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