Is the Cross difficult to behold? Do we question the why of it? St John Paul invites us to consider our worst moments. God invites us to compare these to the sacrifice of the Son on Calvary. The invitation is to a more profound belief after havng confronted the worst that could happen to a person: betrayal, torture, and death alone.
The cross is the most profound condescension of God to (humankind) and to what (humankind)-especially in difficult and painful moments-looks on as (an) unhappy destiny. The cross is like a touch of eternal love upon the most painful wounds of (human) earthly existence; it is the total fulfillment of the messianic program that Christ once formulated in the synagogue at Nazareth (Cf. Lk. 4:18-21) and then repeated to the messengers sent by John the Baptist.(Cf. Lk. 7:20-23)
People who experience suffering, who deem themselves bereft of mercy can consider the prophet Isaiah, and the promise Jesus made as the fulfillment of God’s concern for the needy.
According to the words once written in the prophecy of Isaiah,(Cf. Is. 35:5; 61:1-3) this program consisted in the revelation of merciful love for the poor, the suffering and prisoners, for the blind, the oppressed and sinners.
Jesus on the Cross goes far beyond what was expected in the Messiah, and well past what would be expected of the Son of God:
In the paschal mystery the limits of the many sided evil in which (humankind) becomes a sharer during (our) earthly existence are surpassed: the cross of Christ, in fact, makes us understand the deepest roots of evil, which are fixed in sin and death; thus the cross becomes an eschatological sign. Only in the eschatological fulfillment and definitive renewal of the world will love conquer, in all the elect, the deepest sources of evil, bringing as its fully mature fruit the kingdom of life and holiness and glorious immortality. The foundation of this eschatological fulfillment is already contained in the cross of Christ and in His death. The fact that Christ “was raised the third day”(1 Cor. 15:4) constitutes the final sign of the messianic mission, a sign that perfects the entire revelation of merciful love in a world that is subject to evil. At the same time it constitutes the sign that foretells “a new heaven and a new earth,”(Rv. 21:1) when God “will wipe away every tear from their eyes, there will be no more death, or mourning no crying, nor pain, for the former things have passed away.”(Rv. 21:4)
Christian eschatology points to the end things. At the end mercy will be fully experienced and all will realize the final result of the love of God.
Dives in Misericordia, the second encyclical of Pope John Paul II, is available online here, and is copyright © 1980 – Libreria Editrice Vaticana