Faith in His Sacrifice for Us
“It is finished” our Savior, Jesus Christ proclaimed after hanging for hours on the cross. We know it took much effort for any words to leave his lips, however he spoke those words and shortly after, he bowed his head, took his last breath and gave up his spirit here on earth.
Each year on Good Friday we have the ability to remind ourselves that although he gave up his earthly spirit, his spirit would forever be carried on in our lives. He proclaimed these words as a victory over sin and human death and made true the promise of the gift of Salvation. After his brief life, here on earth, he ascended into Heaven as was planned by God. His life was lived out in complete accordance with His Father’s plan. Jesus tells his disciples in Matthew, “If you want to save your own life you will lose it; but if you lose your life for my sake, you will find it”. He offers his own life as the first example of these words and today people all over continue to try and live their lives for Him so they too can reach the promise of his eternal salvation with him.
The three words he speaks in his final moments on the cross, “it is finished” are so powerful, so full of meaning, so concise, that many of us don’t begin to grasp them fully until we have carefully read the scripture, studied the Bible and listened to numerous scholars and theologians. This was true for me. Until recent adulthood, I believed this proclamation was simply Jesus’ utterance to note that his suffering on earth was over and that his time bearing both the figurative and literal crosses of physical life were coming to an end.
The three words sealed the promise our Savior made in choosing to die on the cross. His death is the single greatest gift we will ever receive allowing us to join him in Heaven for Eternal Life.
Salvation. Wikipedia states that “ In religion, salvation is stated as the saving of the soul from sin and its consequences. It may also be called "deliverance" or "redemption" from sin and its effects.[“
During the past few weeks, this preparation for Easter, we call Lent, reminds us to work to deepen our understanding, gain a stronger sense of faith and grow into a closer bond with our Savior, Jesus Christ. We are also called to recognize the gift our Savior freely chose to give each and every one of us. His life.
For many of us, we struggle with the gift of Salvation. We consider the pain and suffering Jesus went through from the Garden of Gethsemane through his crucifixion feeling each and every sin ever to be committed. We question our own worth of the gift of Salvation. We struggle to accept the fact that although we are never truly good enough for the gift of Salvation, Jesus chose to die for our sins anyway. To better prepare our hearts to accept this gift of Salvation, we must remain open to what the Lord has in store for our lives at all times. During Lent, we are afforded the opportunity to reach into ourselves and answer the call to spiritual growth. Through that growth, we are welcomed to come to the Easter Celebration cleansed, renewed and reborn with hope that should we live the life that was prepared for us, as Jesus did, that we will reap the benefits He promised to us in his dying on the cross.
To grow, often we are presented with opportunities. They arrive in our lives in many ways but sometimes by pushing us through trials and tribulations allowing each one of us to feel the changes as they arise. We have the opportunity to leave that growth and feel a true gift of renewed strength and spirit. Each one of us, when called should gladly accept our trials and tribulations in life just as Jesus did along the path to his crucifixion. These trials didn’t just come in the final hours of Jesus’ life but through his entire journey here on earth. He welcomed these challenges knowing that he was living out the plan Our Heavenly Father had for him.
The Plan. As humans, so often we believe that we have the best plan in place for ourselves. Sometimes we find ourselves unable to hear the words of the Holy Spirit in our daily lives. We believe that paired with our own plan that if we try to live as good Catholics, attending mass, receiving sacraments, working diligently and living in love for others, that we are living His plan. That being said, the plan we have for ourselves isn’t always the road God has in mind for us.
We are blessed in our lives with a purpose. We must learn to listen and use His purpose for our lives for good. He has the perfect plan for each one of us, just as he had a path planned for his only son. As we travel the road in which we have planned, we may encounter something God has in store for us that we consider to be unplanned or even unwanted. We see this portrayed through Jesus’ life and should expect that God’s plan for our lives is helping us reach our goal of Salvation. It is very difficult at times to accept His plan and sometimes we find our physical body and critical mind turning away from these challenges, believing instead, our goals, dreams and realities are the right option for us. These bumps in the road are often a life changing event. These events can even become a cross in our life that draws us one step closer to our Lord and living in eternal salvation with God. When these events arise, we are called, like Jesus to accept the burdens with grace, dignity and strength. Instead of turning away we must fight our humanly urge and live the way Jesus showed us to live. We must take up our cross because in doing so we grow closer to Jesus. I am sure you are familiar with the poem Footprints, “it is in time of difficulty when I carried you” Jesus tells us.
This concept has always been difficult for me and I expect it’s something that challenges us all. However, in the past two years, I have been blessed to deepen my own faith and understanding of my purpose in life by witnessing the beautiful faith of my young cousin Clare. Like Jesus, and so many other faithful followers, our Clare traveled a road she didn’t plan. You see, Clare was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer when she was just 12 years old. Like Jesus, this child took up her cross and through her experience said “yes” whenever God asked her to follow his lead. With the grace of an adult, a faith like Jesus, she stood firm in front of certain death empowering others and teaching them how to live. Like Jesus, she saw her death as a triumph. In December, it was finished for her here on earth. Her triumph over her own battle was won as her body would succumb, but her spirit, her faith, her teachings, her legacy would linger in the lives she touched. As Angels stood before her, calming her fears, I am certain she danced joyfully into our Father’s Arms after having bore the yolk God had for her here on earth.
Her life has taught me to accept the challenges God has chosen for me and live them with grace, strength and perseverance. Live them as an opportunity to serve Him and to be more like Jesus. Earlier this month, as I began to wander away from my focus of Lent, I was once again reminded of Jesus’ “yes” for me and for each of you. I was reminded that like Jesus we are called to say “yes” to His plan when he chooses to use our lives as a cross. In doing so, he strengthens us, he helps us to grow in our faith and perhaps those who watch us endure may grow closer to Him as well. The words that called me back were simple but have meant so much to me. Today, I wish to share them with you.
If these are the small crosses we must bear to get ourselves into Eternal Rest with our Heavenly Father, we should gladly carry them. This was said to me during the week of the three month anniversary of our family losing our beloved 14 year old, Clare. It was spoken to me by her mother. We wept. I wondered exactly how we were to bear the burden of losing someone who taught so many so much. That was until later that day when the Holy Spirit spoke to me as I was driving and still feeling the pain of her loss. I wondered, “How GOD, am I supposed to move on with the pain I have in my heart?” He answered shortly after, with a church sign that said “If the burdens are heavy, I strengthen your shoulders”. At that moment, I thought of Jesus outstretched on the cross, in physical and emotional agony, dying for each one of us, and the pain subsided. If our Savior could say “yes” to death, to dying for each of us, then how can we not say “yes” to Him? Always? How can we not choose to remember his words “It is finished” and work to live a better life to serve God and each other?
Because of the words Jesus spoke on the cross, Clare knew and trusted in the Salvation he set before her. The salvation he promised was waiting for her, at the end of her journey which she had so bravely accepted and lived for. In her dying, she reminded us to live the life He planned for us, to accept the crosses we must bear and to say “yes” to all that He has in mind for our lives just as she did. When Jesus died for us, He reminded us that “It is finished” isn’t the end of life but the beginning of Salvation with Him.