There was once a time where I felt that the secret of who I had a crush on was the most important secret in the world. I confided the identity of the boy only to my dearest friend. Imagine my horror when that boy came up to me and grinning said, “So, I hear you like me.”
That betrayal I felt was the worst in the world. Granted I was only 12 at the time, but I found myself quite overwhelmed by feelings of anger, hatred, betrayal, and embarrassment.
An hour later, my classmates and I lined up for the weekly school Mass. I sat quietly in my pew and found myself looking at the enormous crucifix by the altar.
The longer I gazed at the cross, the more my anger and hurt dissipated. I understood that what I was looking at was the greatest sacrifice of love ever made, and it had been made for me. Suddenly, what seemed a transgression impossible to forgive became at once trivial and harmless.
What do my small sufferings compare with that of Christ on the cross? Has He not already bore my sufferings?
Since that day (a day I recall with much tenderness and gratitude,) I have laid my sufferings at the foot of the cross and found that that the practice transforms in three ways:
1. My relationship with God is different. When I contemplate Him on the cross, I feel the heaviness of what my sins have caused and I am humbled; I repent from them; I feel the immensity of love God has for me, and my love for Him increases.
Entire books have been written on the subject of the cross; people have been made into saints by its contemplation; miracles have occurred by its invocation.
As for me, I see One who has already suffered what I suffer, and my burden is lightened. I compare my sufferings with Christ and find that they are light indeed. I leave the contemplation consoled.
2. My relationship with people is different. I find it impossible to bear a grudge once I’ve contemplated the cross. How can I? How do the trespasses against me compare with my trespasses against God? And if God has forgiven my neighbor, what right do I have to withhold my forgiveness?
And if I love God so deeply, and He calls me to love my neighbor, then that’s that, isn’t it? There’s joy in the Gospel (which means good news, after all.) We are all loved and saved by God. We are not strangers, but brothers and sisters in Christ. That knowledge fills me with a great tenderness towards my neighbors.
I have also come to see Christ in others, and so how can I help but love them?
3. My relationship with myself is different. It’s so easy to have a distorted sense of self, whether it stems from arrogance or self-consciousness or low self-esteem. But to contemplate the cross and to see that Christ died for me proves that I am beloved by God. I have dignity.
To contemplate the cross and to see that Christ died for me is humbling and brings about repentance. I know that Christ has died for me and I have still committed a sin; it’s unforgivable, and yet the greatest of God’s divine attributes is His mercy.
That mercy flows out from the cross, and in contemplation I leave my sins at the foot of the cross and receive His grace and mercy instead.
Regular contemplation of the cross is a habit I’ve had to work at so that it happens naturally and often. It’s never failed me, and it’s an inexhaustible source of mercy. I encourage you all to take a moment to contemplate a crucifix and lay your sufferings at the foot of the cross. This transformative prayer will change you.
I’m Adrienne Luedeking, the college student, blogger, and solopreneur behind Fruitfully Alive. I help create a dream lifestyle for highly motivated young adults through the foundations of finance, faith, and self-employment.