Now that Lent is coming to an end and Easter is on the horizon, it is time to reflect on the cross as our hope and salvation. After the fall of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, our intended permanent state of perfect holiness and perfect union with God disappeared which had catastrophic consequences for the rest of the generations of humanity that were to follow. You can read any book in the Bible and see that we have been sinning ever since Adam and Eve and things never turn out well until God steps in and does something about it. You can see the effects of sin all around you now, both in your own personal life and in the world at large around you.  It’s amazing how good we humans are at messing up, even when our greatest desire may be to never sin again. In our human weakness, we have no ability to break out of the shackles of our sins without God’s help.

God knew from the moment of Adam and Eve’s sin that we were going to need a lot of help.  As a matter of fact, He knew that we were going to need the ultimate form of help.  In what is known as the “Protoevangelium,” God tells of His plans to fix the problem that was created.  After their sin, God admonishes Adam, Eve, and the serpent who we know to be Satan (Gen 3:14-19).  He describes to them the wretched consequences that await all of them – and us – because of what they have all collectively done. However, embedded in this admonishment is the redemptive plan, or the Protoevangelium. “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise your head and you shall bruise his heel,” (Gen 3:15). God is speaking directly to Satan in this verse.  The woman refers to our Blessed Mother, Mary, the new Eve. Her seed is Jesus. Normally, we don’t associate seed with women, which is how we know he is referring to Mary. There will be no physical male seed involved in the Savior’s conception and the Father will be God Himself. The seed of Satan is sin. Jesus and sin will be directly pitted against one another which will result in an ultimate victory for us. So in other words, immediately after the original sin, God told us exactly what would be done to remedy it.

In the middle of an admonishment, God provides hope. At a time where everything must have felt like a catastrophe to Adam and Eve, He told them it wasn’t the end.  In what must have felt like a major victory for Satan, God set him straight with reality. Of course, it took a while for God to slowly prepare us over time for our remedy which you can read about in in the entirety of the Old Testament, but in God’s perfect timing, our hope arrived in the person of Jesus Christ.

When the Word became flesh, it was the fulfillment of God’s plan as He stated in the Garden of Eden. Just as He promised, He sent His Son through Mary, the woman, to save us from the seed of Satan, sin.  He spent His three-year ministry on Earth teaching us how to actively avoid sin, be virtuous, and to repent when we fail. This notion of repentance is an important one, especially during this time of Lent.  There is no greater sense of hope then to know you can be reconciled to your Father no matter how bad your sins may be. He will always welcome you back into His loving arms, time and time again.

Then, through His passion and death, the core of our hope and salvation is revealed.  You see, because of our sins which offend God so greatly, we owe Him a huge debt.  It is a debt we can never repay, so Jesus paid it for us.  He accepted such a horrific death because He loves each one of us so much that He chose to take the atonement for our sins onto Himself. Because of our sin, both personal and universal, the gates of heaven had been previously closed to us. It would have been impossible for us to even be worthy of being in the presence of God in such an intimate way.  However, through His suffering, Jesus opened the gates of heaven for us and gifted us the opportunity to now enter into heaven with Him.  The cross is our hope and our salvation.

I have a beautiful framed picture (artist unknown) in my home of the crucified Jesus on the cross with Mary, John, and Mary Magdalene at the foot. Underneath is the inscription “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends,” (John 15:13).  To meditate on this particular scripture verse in the context of the beautiful painting is profound. I highly encourage you to find your own favorite version of the crucifixion scene and meditate on this scripture.  The truth that this exercise reveals is that what Jesus did was, in fact, the ultimate act of love. It becomes even more profound as you realize he endured this painful act of love for YOU. If you are reading this reflection, Jesus suffered and was crucified so that you, personally, could be with Him in heaven.  If you were the only person on earth, He still would have done it, just for you. Think about the person or people you love most in this world and what you would endure for their wellbeing. Jesus loves you infinitely more than that.

The cross truly is the symbol of hope and salvation for Christians. As you gaze upon the cross, feel God’s unending love for you. Know and believe that Jesus so badly wants you in heaven with Him, that He laid down His own life for you to obtain it. The call to us now is to freely respond to that awesome gift which we could never repay. Look at what he has done for you and use it as inspiration to do better for Him.  Look at His suffering and choose virtue. When you do sin, repent and be reconciled back to the Father to not make Jesus’ suffering in vain. Go to the Sacrament of Reconciliation and receive all of the mercy and forgiveness God has to offer you. When you see the cross, see how it makes an eternity in heaven available to you.