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  • Writer's pictureDr. Anthony Lilles

Why We Need the Cross

Only by grace does God's love become the basis of all genuine communion in the world. There is no substitute for his love because out of his love alone were we created and endowed with sacred purpose. Only His love can help us realize the sacred purpose entrusted to us. Every day, the enormity of this eternal reality crashes against the absence of love in our hearts, and we spend most of our time distracting ourselves from a deep ache for something that we know ought to be there and is not. Without the gravity of Divine Love to anchor us, the wild undercurrents of our hearts in the stormy swells of the untamed ocean of this life pull at us. Without His love we are completely subject to the irrational forces of the world of human affairs. God does not want us to be desecrated by our own urges and drive-ness any more than he wants us to be subject to the irrationality of others. Yet we fear the love He has for us. If we are content with our fragile existence, we can try to ignore the manifestations of this love breaking in all around us at our own peril. Or, we can surrender our lack of love and seek out the Triune love that pulls us and promises a fullness of life. Hans Urs von Balthasar explains, once you choose to surrender to the overwhelming love of God, be advised: you are entering a vast wilderness – it is at once the unfamiliar but enchanting garden of your very self in whom the unfathomable mystery of the Trinity dwells, and at the same time it is the vast horizons of God in whom alone your true personal freedom to love is realized.

The Cross of Christ opens up this space for each of us. It is on the Cross where the reality of sin is revealed - we see the pain in God's own heart over our rejection of Him. We also see that deeper than this pain is his hope in us, his desire to give us a second chance. He so wants us to know him personally that He would suffer anything for us, including the full consequences of our rejection. We are invited to believe in this love and by prayer to experience it, to be immersed in it, to live in it. When by baptism into his death we become members of his Body, the Body which the great sacrament of Christ in the World. Whenever we renew our baptismal promises by choosing to act in this love by faith, the spiritual space this love engenders becomes realized in our hearts. Theologians love to debate how this choice can be truly ours and at the same time truly a gift from God – but it is possible to live in this choice, because this is what God most wants for us. When we do, the personal freedom that God deigned us to have in Him through Christ Jesus grows and allows us to become, like God himself - the praise of His glorious grace.

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