Conquering by the Sign of the Cross

Happy Feast of the Exultation of the Cross. The instrument of the curse of Adam has been flipped right side up on its head and is now the means of the blessing bestowed by Christ. By the cross, Jesus destroyed the power of sin and death and uprooted the tree of death – – in its place stands only the tree of life. The poison transformed into the antidote…

It may seem strange to say so but I really do believe and know that this disease, Duchenne muscular dystrophy, backing my body and crippling my limbs, is actually a great blessing and not a curse. I used to think it was very much a curse, for years. Especially when I considered how it limited me from living like everyone else.

It’s true that sickness and suffering and death originally came into the world as a curse. But these things have been flipped on their heads when Jesus Christ, God in the flesh, freely embraced suffering and death. He destroyed their power and turned them into means of strength and life. The poisonous venom of the serpent was transformed into the antidote and serum of life-giving grace. Christ uprooted the cursed tree and now there is only the tree of life, the bloodsoaked branches shine in brilliant splendor. The curse is now the means of blessing – – suffering brings good into the world and death is the doorway to life.

For me, today’s Feast of the Exaltation Of the Cross, is my own personal feast day. My perspective was totally changed when I learned that suffering is redemptive if it is united to the suffering of Christ on the cross and offered for the sake of the good of others. It gave me a lot of peace and joy to know that my life, even my suffering, had a purpose. Suffering is not a curse, it is a blessing – – and I’ve seen countless blessings come forth from it (even when I don’t see it, I know blessings flow from it).

Suffering allows for closer conformity with Jesus Christ Crucified. It is thus a means of union with God. I mean, I am not always conscious of these things when someone annoys me or I can’t go out, but even poorly accepted suffering is redemptive. The cross of muscular dystrophy is my secret weapon even though I don’t always wield it very well.

that brings me to one more point, the cross is victory, not defeat. How is being nailed to a instrument of torture and death reserved for criminals, even close to being a victory in any sense of the word? The answer is love, stronger than death. The power of Divine Love completely devastated the evil that was being inflicted. It was never about the suffering itself but the love with which Jesus was loving from the cross. “Father, they know not what they do.”

“By this sign, you shall conquer.”

Those were words that the Emperor Constantine saw before he went into battle… They were inscribed on a cross. After having it placed on the shields of the soldiers, he defeated the co-Emperor and became sole Emperor. While he didn’t fully convert until later (questionable about how much he did convert before that), he issued the Edict of Milan tolerating Christianity and promoted several Christian ideals throughout the Empire. Constantine’s mother St. Helena, wanting to help make up for some of the sins of her son, went to Jerusalem looking for the Holy Cross – – long story short, she found it by having a ill woman touched to several crosses that were uncovered: the true cross must be the one by which the woman was completely healed, and so it was. Later, another Emperor went there to do penance and the feast day was subsequently instituted.

It is so true that, “by this sign [of the Cross], you shall conquer.” That is why Jesus tells his followers to pick up their cross and follow him. By doing so, we not only share in his suffering and death but also in his life and resurrection. I believe that, because I suffered, I will all the more appreciate having a glorified body and being able to walk, and run – – and yes, even fly. All things work together for good including suffering and death!

“We adore you O Christ and we praise you because By Your Holy Cross you have redeemed the world!”

– St. Francis of Assisi

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