by Ken Rolheiser
Under the shadow of the Cross

“Our Lord said to St. Bernard, ‘I will remit all of the venial sins and I will no more think of the mortal sins of those who honour the grievous wound on My right shoulder, which caused Me unutterable pain when bearing My heavy Cross to Calvary.’”

If you enter any of the Churches or Cathedrals frequented by the more than one billion Catholics in the world, the most prominent object you will see front and center is the Cross of Christ. The work of salvation, the reenactment of Christ’s sacrifice of the Cross, is carried on under the shadow of the Cross.

This same Cross is found in the living rooms and bedrooms of many of the two and a half billion Christians on earth. We live our lives under the shadow of the Cross.

Christ’s presence makes this a sacred space. This is the place where Saints are formed. The foot of the Cross is a good place to be.

We live our lives as Christian communities on ground that has been made sacred by Christ’s sacrifice. Every follower of Christ, regardless of church affiliation, belongs to the same community that is Christ’s Body on earth.

Henri Nouwen wrote about an encounter with a former student: “We sat on the ground facing each other and talked a little about what life had been for us in the last year, about our work, our common friends, and about the restlessness of our hearts. Then slowly as the minutes passed we became silent.
“The silence went on for some time, then the young man said: ‘It is good to be here.’
“‘Yes, it is good to be together again,’ I replied.
“And then a ‘deep peace filled the empty space between us …’
“The man said hesitantly, ‘When I look at you it is as if I am in the presence of Christ.’
“‘It is the Christ in you, who recognizes the Christ in me,’ Nouwen replied.
“‘Yes,’ the young man said, ‘He indeed is in our midst.’
“Then the former student spoke the words which entered my soul as the most healing words I had heard in many years, ‘From now on, wherever you go, or wherever I go, all the ground between us is holy ground.’
“And when he left I knew that he had revealed to me what community really means.”

The one universal condition we all share is that in our lives there will be pain and suffering. Christ, in his infinite goodness and mercy, offers us an opportunity to share in the salvation that his pain and suffering bring to the world.

Saint John Paul II said that all persons have a share in the redemption through suffering. Just as Christ promised Dismas who was next to him on Calvary, he promises to us in our final suffering on this earth, “this day you shall be with me in heaven.”

The light of the Resurrection overshadows all the darkness of sin and death. In that light we see the Saints, our Guardian Angels and those who have gone before us to meet the Lord.

There is a great community gathered under the shadow of the cross. It is indeed a sacred ground. There is much joy there, even among those offering up their pain and sickness. This is the place where saints are formed.

(566 words)