Saint Thomas of Canterbury, Bolton

Stay with us, Lord, on our journey

Cycle A

The Triumph of the Cross

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“When I survey the wondrous cross” we sing, but what can be wondrous about so infamous an instrument of torture and death? How can we speak of the cross in terms of triumph? Why did such a good person, a man of such good words and works as Jesus, have to die on the cross? When we follow carefully the Gospel accounts we can see that his death is the culmination of his life. It is the consequence of what he taught and what he did, a sinful world’s response to everything he stood for and, ultimately, the victory of love over death.

In the Gospels Jesus tells us that he has come to proclaim the kingdom of God. The foundation of his teaching was his own unique intimate relationship with God, whom he addressed as ‘Abba’, my Father, a loving, caring, forgiving, life-giving God. Jesus declared that it was God’s intent to extend this intimate personal relationship to everybody. He is the Father of all living beings. Jesus had been sent to make known the reign of God’s love, justice and forgiveness in the world, a love extended to all but especially to those traditionally seen as inferior, even as outcasts. He revealed this in his practical concern for women, children, the sick, the handicapped, the sinner, the oppressed. He put the Law of Love above love of the law in ways that upset some of his contemporaries.

He taught that this coming of the kingdom called for a radical conversion, a change of heart, involving a rooting out of the old-styled legalism, a rejection of the arrogant dominion and manipulation of the weak by their strong spiritual leaders, whose hypocrisy he condemned. He demanded a universal recognition of human dignity based on an inclusive acceptance of all people as children of God. He proposed a radical commitment to justice and to a spirit of loving service of others.

All of this of course was good news to the poor and oppressed. But to the leaders, the people with power, it was more than just disturbing; it was dangerous and must be stopped. However much they tried to silence him, his refusal to be silenced was relentless. He would not compromise his mission to teach and to live love of all. Indeed, so as to reach even greater numbers with his liberating message he chose to go to Jerusalem for the Feast of Passover when there would be visitors from all the known world. In human terms it was a dangerous errand, and he knew it. Yet he freely chose to go, always unfalteringly obedient to the loving intent of his Father.

It was there in Jerusalem that Jewish leaders and Roman powers came together. First accused in the Sanhedrin of blasphemy, he was then presented to the Romans as a source of sedition. Tried and condemned, he was executed in the Roman fashion – by crucifixion. This public, torturous spectacle was intended to act as a deterrent to any other potential troublemakers. Yet he hung on that cross because of his filial love, his total commitment to the will of his Father that all should know of his universal love and forgiveness.

So, the cross of shame and horror has become the beacon of love, of a love that is stronger than death. God so loved the world that he sent his only Son, but he so loved his Son that he would not permit the darkness of death to hold him. God has raised him from death and given him the name which is above all other names. Jesus, risen from the dead, is with the Father in glory and with the Father breathes the Spirit of their love into all who believe in him. He was 'lifted up' on the cross so that 'everyone who believes may have eternal life in him'.