In Lent, Keep Your Eyes on the Cross
During Lent we accompany Jesus on his Passion journey. As we await the glory of the Resurrection at Easter, we must keep our eyes on the Cross, suggests JOACHIM ANAKWENZE.
The period of Lent reminds us of the Passion journey of Our Lord Jesus Christ. With him, through the 40 weekdays and six Sundays of Lent, we embark on a painful journey of his trial, denial, passion, crucifixion and death.
Christianity was modelled on this journey to Calvary. It is a pity that often we find certain Christians presenting the risen Christ in their messages without any reference to the crucified Christ. They present a Cross-less Christ to the world as they preach a “gospel” of prosperity and success without suffering.
I want to believe that in Catholic churches all over the world, the Gospel is different and the message is clear because we preach a Christ who is crucified and buried in a tomb before he can rise again on the third day.
Even without hearing the words of a preacher, upon entering most Catholic churches, the central image above the altar or the sanctuary is Christ hanging on the cross. He thus becomes a role model to all who are willing to follow him and become his disciple.
To anyone who wants to take this leap of faith, he says: “Whoever wishes to follow me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me” (Mt 16:24).
These three steps characterise a true follower of Christ. He bore the weight of our sins, a weight too heavy to bear, on his shoulders and journeyed through the rough and stony roads that led to Golgotha. Like a lamb led to the slaughter, he moved quietly to the place of his death (cf. Is 53:7).
This is an example given by a Messiah who disappointed the people who took him to be a political redeemer, one who had come to liberate his people from the political tensions of his time. To those people, he has this to say: “My kingdom does not belong to this world” (Jn 18:36).
Emblem of salvation
The cross, like the serpent lifted up in the desert, becomes an emblem of salvation to all who look upon it with faith (cf. Jn 3:14-15). Jesus accepted death on this cross in order to save all mankind, and bring to fulfilment the primary purpose of his coming into the world which was his death on this cross.
On this cross, he stretches out his hands and draws all men to himself (Jn 12:32), that they may come to have eternal life by believing in him and believing in the One who sent him (cf Jn 17:3).
We look up to this cross in our trying and challenging moments, and we get encouraged when we see Jesus who was one with us in every respect except sin (cf Heb.4:15).
This cross should, therefore, be the central image in our lives as we journey through Lent and always.
Jesus calls us time and again to give up ourselves in love for God and humanity, to accept whatever sufferings we pass through for the sake of God and the faith we have in him, and to follow him continuously and submissively as we look forward to the crown of unfading glory that awaits us in the end (1 Peter 5:4).
Cast Off the Flesh
In Lent, we deny ourselves by shedding off and casting away fleshly and carnal desires and habits that beset us, and put on a garment of righteousness by inviting God’s spirit to come and dwell in us. Lent is a period of sacrifice when we journey with our fellow Christians in prayer, penance, fasting, abstinence and almsgiving as our Lenten observances.
Just as Our Lord Jesus Christ sacrificed his life for our sake — he died for us while we were sinners (Rom 5:8) — in order to save us from sin, we, his followers, should also be ready to give up our lives for the sake of God’s kingdom.
It is not an easy journey, but Jesus Christ will always walk with us and we will always hear him speaking to us as he says, “My grace is sufficient for you” (2 Cor 12:9), and reassuring us that “I am with you always, until the end of time” (Mt 28:20).
With these consoling words from Our Saviour and with God’s Spirit living in us, there will be no road too rough or too stony to journey on.
As we bear the crosses of Lent, patiently and submissively, we look forward to that joyful time when the sad, moody and gloomy faces of Lent will be brightened up by the Light of Easter; when the mighty stone that sealed the grave of Christ will be rolled away; when the Angel will proclaim the long-awaited Easter message: “Do not be afraid… He has risen” (Mk 16:6); when we will receive the crown of unfading glory with the Risen Christ; a time when the Easter glory will fill the earth and sky; a time when the whole world will shout Alleluia once again with joy and gladness.
Let us then brace ourselves and get ready for a fruitful and worthwhile journey with the Lord and with his Church in this Lenten Season. I wish you a life-changing encounter with Christ in this Lenten Season and always.
Joachim Anakwenze writes from Klerksdorp diocese.