This is the great mystery of life: That a man must die mystically before he can live really in and with God. It is a divine paradox which few have been able to fathom. Only those who have embraced the mystery of the Cross and have faithfully persevered understand the words of Our Lord when He invites souls to become His disciples.
There are only two kinds of people in the world: Those who are with Christ, and those who are against Him. Jesus Himself pointed this out when He said: "He who does not gather with me, scatters."
There are the saved and there are the damned.
Among those who are constantly told they are saved, you will find that most of them are lost. You will find more saved among those who think they are lost. This paradox works itself out in a most startling way. The secret to solving this conundrum lies in the virtue of humility.
The proud man stands before God boasting of all that he has done for God - he reminds God of his fasting and his sacrifices. As if God were short on memory. Or, as if God did not know the secrets of every man's heart.
There are many who pray thus, when they pray at all. Few there are who stand in the back of the temple with head bowed, imploring God to be merciful to him because he is a sinner. This attitude in the sight of God is called `humility'. It is this attitude of truth that calls down upon the humble the exhalting grace of God. That grace which picks up the humble penitent from the dust of desolation and raises him to the glory of the sons of God.
Good Friday teaches us more about ourselves than we might care to learn. Not only does it teach us of the sufferings and death of Jesus on the Cross for our redemption. It also teaches us something that most of us miss: It teaches us that we, too, hang upon a cross all our lives. This is the mystery of carrying one's cross daily.
Our crosses are of our own making, unlike the Cross upon which Innocence was nailed. Our crosses are crosses upon which we deserve to hang in humiliation because we have been justly sentenced by a Just Judge.
Every human being coming into this world eventually ends up hanging on a cross. Which cross it will be depends upon the individual and cooperation with God's merciful grace.
Humanity hangs on two crosses, one on each side of the Cross of Obedience. Each cross flanking the Cross of Innocence is a cross of guilt.
Each human being will sooner or later hang between heaven and hell just before final sentence is passed by the Crucified and Glorified Christ.
Consider the first cross. Consider the cross on the one side: One of the robbers was abusing Christ saying: "If thou art the Christ, save thyself and us!"
There was no hint of repentance for a life of crime of every sort. There was no sigh of repentance even when the moments separating this man from eternity were short breaths away. This man lived an enemy of God and man, and he is ready to die blaspheming God.
The other robber hanging on the cross does two things: He rebukes his fellow sufferer and then he turns to Him Whom grace has revealed and asks for mercy: "Dost thou not even fear God, seeing that thou art under the same sentence?
And we indeed justly, for we are receiving what our deeds deserved; but this man has done nothing wrong." Imagine for a moment! In the eyes of the sanctimonious world, this robber is a social outcast well worth getting rid of by hanging him on a cross. Those who put him there are all the socially acceptable and politically correct Pharisees who plague every generation and age. They are the `white-collar' thieves, robbers and murders who despise the `blue-collar' thieves. Repentance seems to come more quickly from the `blue-collar' sector than the `white-collar' sector.
Ignoring the jeering `white-collar' murderers, this robber turns his gaze upon the suffering Jesus and whispers that most beautiful of all human phrases: "Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom."
A life of evil brings this man to the cross where he is suspended between heaven and hell. The grace of God purifies his soul, and in his final human act this side of eternity, he sighs his act of humility: His reward is not long in coming. The divine Victim says to him: "Amen I say to thee, this day thou shalt be with me in paradise."
What greater guarantee can anyone hope for? We are all thieves and robbers and murderers. We have stolen God's glory and made it our own. We have robbed Him of His glory; we have robbed our neighbors of life, limb and land; we have destroyed with our evil tongues the lives of our victims. We have done all these things, and we still persist in our lying innocence; we still fancy ourselves in a delusion of delusions, that we are innocent like unto Our divine Lord! Shamelessly, we continue to serve Satan, while expecting a glorious reward from Jesus Whom we cheerfully crucify in our brethren. It is He Who has said: Whatever we do to the least of those who believe in Him, we do it to Him. How often, then, are we guilty of our brother's blood and that of our divine Redeemer and Savior!
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