Ave Maria Meditations
Let us do penance and suffer with Christ :
Although the cross especially before Christ’s passion was in itself a horrible thing, it is nevertheless something to be sought after because it is the source of life. All men seek and long for eternal life. There is no one steeped in sin who would not say that he desires and seeks eternal life. Yet these men do not seek it the way they should because they want to have it along with their vices and the defilements of their sins.
Dear Friends, that is not the way to eternal life. The way to eternal life is through Christ, through the cross, through battle and victory over our enemies. Viewed on the surface of things the cross strikes us with terror, but viewed in proper perspective it is desirable. Viewed superficially the cross appears as the tree of death, but to one who views it in depth the mystery of the cross shines forth as the tree of life because of him who hung upon it. Since it is the source of life it gives life by infusing grace. In the epistle to the Romans we read: The wages of sin is death; the gift of God is eternal life. The cross is the tree of life-giving grace which makes us new men in Christ and brings us to repentance.
What kind of wood is it that has the power to bring man from a barren desert to a verdant garden, from death to life? It is the wood of Christ’s cross. Why did the Son of God suffer for men and not for angels? Because man is capable of doing penance, an angel is not. For man it is the wood which bears fruit through the moisture it receives from water, that is, the grace that brings one to do penance.
Therefore, because the cross is a tree of life-giving grace, let us who have died so many times by reason of our sins long for that tree do penance and suffer with Christ. Christ suffered in the flesh; therefore, arm yourselves with the same mentality, says Saint Peter. Unless we do penance how shall we be able to give an answer to Christ on judgment day?
If then you wish to bear spiritual fruit you must die in the flesh. In his Gospel John cites the words of Christ: Unless the grain of wheat falls to the earth and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat. But if it dies, it produces much fruit. To share the fruit of the tree of life with Christ who was crucified and died, we must be crucified with him.
Dear friends, whoever wished to find the Lord finds him on the cross. Consequently to forsake the cross is to abandon the Lord as well. He who longs ardently, and desires the cross and the Lord, finds the Lord there, not empty-handed but laden with abundant graces.
From a Sermon of Saint Bonaventure, bishop