To His enemies this seems to be the hour of their triumph and Christ’s defeat, but in fact it is the supreme hour of His triumph. Now when He seems to be more helpless than He has ever been before, He is in fact more powerful. When He seems to be more limited, more restricted, His love is boundless, His reach across the world to the hearts of men in all ages is infinite.
But to those who look on, how different what appears to be happening seems to what is really happening. How certain it seems that Christ has been overcome, that His plan of love for the world has failed utterly, that He Himself is a failure, His “kingdom” a pitiful delusion.
Caryll Houselander, The Way of the Cross
I have often thought that when Judas kissed Jesus on the cheek all the devils in Hell must have been laughing in triumph. How much more bitter this must have made their hatred when they learned what had really happened. So often, we are like a color-blind person looking at one of those circles full of many different colored circles that you see at the optometrist’s office. If only he had the eyes to see, he would know there was a number in the circle.
There was a time about 25 years ago when I was going through terrible spiritual struggles, and in the midst of it all I noticed that this phrase kept turning up in the Liturgy of the Hours, “The wood of the cross has become the tree of life.” Whenever I read it, the pain in my heart seemed to ease a bit. Then, a friend sent me an Easter card. It was shaped in the form of a cross, white with little vines and flowers growing all over it. A couple of days later, another friend sent me a similar, but not identical card. Eventually, I worked my way through the difficulties, but I never forget that it’s the wood of the cross that becomes the tree of life.
Recently, my spiritual director asked me to classify the major events in my life by listing them under the different mysteries of the Rosary--sorrowful, joyful, glorious, luminous. It seemed like an easy thing to do, but as I wrote I found that it was more difficult than it appeared on the surface. Things that had been devastating at the time have turned out to be glorious and vice versa. My joys and my sorrows seem to be the same things.
I remember that when I was a child, I would hear prayers that talked about “mourning and weeping in this valley of tears” and wonder what the heck that was all about. When I was a teenager and older people would talk about life being hard, I didn’t want to hear it. I would push that knowledge away, and I have seen my own children do that. Now I can see that “the valley of tears” and “the valley of the shadow of death” are the same as the green pastures in which He makes us lie down. We may only be able to get a glimpse of that now, but in the end, I’m convinced that we will find it to have been true. I find myself in this last week of Lent in pretty much the same frame of mind that I was in Advent, waiting in joyful hope for the coming of our Saviour.
The this morning’s Office of Readings St. Augustine says, “Brethren, let us then fearlessly acknowledge, and even openly proclaim, that Christ was crucified for us; let us confess it, not in fear but in joy, not in shame but in glory.”
Behold the wood of the cross on which hung the salvation of the world.
Come let us adore.