We continue with St John Paul’s exhaustive examination of the Crucifixion as we conclude section 7 today. He reminds us that Good Friday alone does not complete this new/renewed covenant with all humankind.
What else, then, does the cross of Christ say to us, the cross that in a sense is the final word of His messianic message and mission? And yet this is not yet the word of the God of the covenant: that will be pronounced at the dawn when first the women and then the Apostles come to the tomb of the crucified Christ, see the tomb empty and for the first time hear the message: “He is risen.” They will repeat this message to the others and will be witnesses to the risen Christ. Yet, even in this glorification of the Son of God, the cross remains, that cross which-through all the messianic testimony of the Man the Son, who suffered death upon it – speaks and never ceases to speak of God the Father, who is absolutely faithful to His eternal love for man, since He “so loved the world” – therefore (humankind) in the world-that “he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”(Jn. 3:16)
Optimist-Christians may have some difficulty here. It is part of the human personality to emphasize the joyful (I would not diminish the impulse by labelling it “happy”) over the sorrows (likewise, the “bad” or “sad”). A proper context for the believer is balance. We cannot avoid the sacrifice of the Lord, and its sorrowful aspects.
One vital point follows:
Believing in the crucified Son means “seeing the Father,”(Cf. Jn. 14:9) means believing that love is present in the world and that this love is more powerful than any kind of evil in which individuals, humanity, or the world are involved. Believing in this love means believing in mercy. For mercy is an indispensable dimension of love; it is as it were love’s second name and, at the same time, the specific manner in which love is revealed and effected vis-a-vis the reality of the evil that is in the world, affecting and besieging (humankind), insinuating itself even into (our) heart(s) and capable of causing (us) to “perish in Gehenna.”(Mt. 10:28)
Having difficulty with the Cross? St John Paul and many saints would urge us to look more deeply. Does it seem too horrific or difficult? Remember that Christ triumphed anyway. The Cross reminds us that God’s mercy–another name for love–remains constant and covenantal.
Dives in Misericordia, the second encyclical of Pope John Paul II, is available online here, and is copyright © 1980 – Libreria Editrice Vaticana