I had a flash insight this morning during my prayer time that I felt compelled to share. It came as a blend of reflecting on today’s Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross and the new Twenty One Pilots “Cover” release (yesterday), Cancer. Here’s my morning journal entry:
True to form, this new TØP release of a cover of My Chemical Romance’s “Cancer” takes us to the margins of social existence, to the shadowy edges of life that are inhabited by pain, fear, alienation. The lyrics tell us of a young person (I’ll say it’s a woman) in the last stages of terminal cancer, wasted away by chemo. She feels the burning agony of distance that illness brings, a thirst for love that can no longer be satisfied — it seems. This is so powerfully captured by her refusal to kiss and her acknowledgment she will never marry. So much in those lyrics. I’ll let them — and the stirring rhythm and melody — speak for themselves. Your heart breaks if you’ve known someone ravaged by cancer.
Today the Church celebrates the Cross. Exalts it! The solidarity of God with human alienation — the tearing of the heart, the burning thirst for water, the terrible and unromantic curse of death. Yet into this dark and dry valley, Jesus infuses something utterly new: love (Rom. 5:5). The natural human response to pain is self-preservation, inward turning into isolation and despair. But in Christ God has torn open heaven and flooded the earth with His self-less love that turns darkness to light, death to life, fear to trust, despair to hope, self-preservation to martyrdom. As He suffered on the Cross, Jesus’ thoughts were only of others’ welfare, even when He felt abandoned by His only source of hope: the Father.
God is hyper-extreme love, so even when He is dying, emptied, abandoned, parched, dead, He loves. Eis telos, “to the end” (John 13:1).
In Baptism we were plunged into that love, made capable of it, recreated by it, filled with it, called to become it.
God has brought the margins to the center by sending the center to the margins: the healthy He sends to the sick, the strong to the weak, the rich to the poor, the housed to the homeless, the living to the dying, the knowledgeable to the ignorant, the righteous to sinners… And they are all reconciled as one Body, with co-mingled tears and joy.
The Church is a subversive cycle, undermining and destroying death itself by invading its every stronghold.
Mother Teresa once said in an interview that if God has given her health, it is not a sign of His favor toward her but a sign of His favor toward the sick. She is healthy precisely so she can use her health to care for those who are ill. The joy of acquisition is being empowered to place what I possess in service to the neighbor in need. No man is an island, and the salvation of one is effected by the whole Christ loving each member of the Body with the love-of-God-in-Christ-Crucified.
The Cross celebrates God’s beckoning of all humanity to encounter Him at the margins, amid the skulls strewn on Skull Place: Golgotha.
That’s all. Here’s the song: