The tree of death and life

- Fr. Roy Cimagala - The Freeman

I am referring to the cross. More specifically, the cross of Christ. It is the tree that symbolizes all our sinfulness and all its awful effects and consequences, as well as our own salvation, that is, if we look at it the way Christ did.

The cross in all its forms should be seen in its proper perspective, and that is the perspective of our faith, as articulated by Christ himself not only in words but most especially in deeds. The cross is not an afterthought of God. It is part of his eternal plan for us.

We should avoid regarding it based solely on our own estimation of things. Such attitude can keep us in an unholy captivity, since it can only give us its dark, negative side, and not its redeeming and supernatural character. In this, we have to help everyone to overcome the common and improper tendency.

We need to see the cross in all its entirety. It certainly is not simply bad news. It actually is good news, deserving of being loved and of looking forward to. We should not be afraid of it.

The cross is the symbol of our sinfulness and all its effects and consequences that ultimately include our death. That's because our very own nature, which is not only biological but most especially spiritual with the capacity for the supernatural, would involve these effects when we misuse the gifts God gives us, especially that of our freedom.

It is therefore unavoidable. But Christ shows us how to suffer it and to convert it into our way of salvation. He has assumed all our sinfulness and all its effects and consequences, especially death. But he has turned them, with his death in obedience to his Father's will, into our way of salvation. This is the secret of that happy conversion-suffering in obedience to the Father's will.

Thus, the cross becomes a tree of life, a source of grace and joy. That's why we should not be afraid of it. We should rather welcome it and be most eager to embrace it. We need to overcome our natural fears and resistance, and in fact train our natural systems, with God's grace that's given to us in abundance, to conform to this wonderful truth of our faith.

We have to be wary of our tendency to be easily taken up simply by our feelings when crosses come our way. While we cannot avoid them, we should not allow them to lead the way in reacting and accepting these crosses. We have to react in a spiritual and supernatural way.

God's grace in the form of faith, hope and charity can certainly enable us to bear all things. We may not be able to understand the mechanism involved. But what we know is that what is impossible with us is always possible with God.

And what is usually feared and resisted by us becomes an object of extreme interest when done with God. Christ has shown us the way, and the saints have continually given testimony to this truth.

On our part, we have to take advantage of the many little discomforts, disappointments, frustrations, problems, etc., we meet everyday to cultivate this love for the cross. This is how we can prepare ourselves to face the ultimate big cross of our life-our death.

We have to be quick to see the opportunity and the invitation God is sending us to identify ourselves with Christ when suffering, in one form or another, comes our way. Yes, for this, we need to discipline our emotions and thoughts, even as we quicken our faith, making many acts of faith, hope and charity.

We should never belittle these practices that may appear childish to some but actually are clear manifestations of human and Christian maturity. This is another challenge to tackle, an erroneous mindset that needs to be changed.

We have to reassure everyone the crosses, when seen from the point of view of our faith, are actually welcome events with great potentials for our own purification and atonement for our mistakes and sins, and ultimately for identifying ourselves more and more with Christ. In fact, in this life these crosses guarantee that we are dealing with Christ.

These crosses attract graces and occasion spiritual growth. We should always relate them with the abiding and never-failing providence of God. Our problem is that we usually fall into relying on our own estimation of things that no matter how brilliant can only take so much. We need to change that attitude.

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