By Canon Gerry Conroy
In the news recently there has been a lot of talk about increased spending on social care; Just about everyone recognises the need for it, but very few like the idea of having to pay extra for it. It’s a very human trait: We like the notion of things, the general idea of things but the realities are often unpleasant. We are open to the idea of helping people, but when it comes to individuals with all their messiness that’s when it becomes problematic. The realities of life are what makes things difficult: we like ideas but not the practicalities. That goes some way to explaining Peter’s reluctance to accept Jesus’ idea that the cross was a necessary part of his mission as Messiah. We all like the idea of a Saviour, but we don’t like the idea of the cross as part of that, especially because Christ made it clear that the cross is not just for him but for his disciples also.
The question why is never far from our lips. What is the reality of this life that makes the cross inevitable? In a word: SIN! This fundamental alienation in ourselves and among ourselves is the cause of the problem. But if he is God can he not just wave a wand and magic it away? But that would be like trying to sweep it under the carpet. It would not be the truth. It would be a pretend game. Can’t he wipe it all away and begin again? But that would be to ignore our freedom and with that freedom the same thing would just happen again.
Why did Christ have to die on the cross? Because people didn’t accept him. If they had accepted him the cross would not have been necessary – but it was because we are as we are – free to make a choice and our choices so often are for ourselves. It’s hard to break free from that selfishness even when we love. It creeps into so many things.
We know we yearn for fulness, for happiness, integrity of life, freedom from sin, call it what you will; and we also know how often we sabotage ourselves, how often we choose what is in opposition to our own good, either because we don’t fully understand our situation or others, or because we just rush in where angels fear to tread. Yet we all seek a way that will teach us the remedies for our moral infirmities and the means of obtaining these remedies, of living with integrity. We want a saviour to work a miracle but what Christ offers is himself on the cross and the invitation to follow him and take up our own cross. That is the reality of our life. No science, no other religion, with or without God, no other spirituality has been able to offer any other effective way to cure us of our moral ills. To say otherwise is to propose the way of Satan; in other words it is to be blind to the truth and the reality of our existence and of who we are.
It might sound strange to say it, but being invited to take up our cross and follow Christ is also a sign of the dignity of who we are. In being invited to join with Christ in carrying the cross, we are being invited to rediscover our lost dignity. We are being offered the chance to use our freedom to discover the truth of ourselves as made in the image and likeness of God. The fullness and happiness we seek is not given to us on a plate, but with God’s grace we are given the means to achieve it and know our true God given dignity. Through the Cross, suffering and struggle can be given a meaning and purpose in bringing us to the fullness of life here on earth and also in bringing us to eternal life.