Why Did It Have to Hurt?

Jesus on the crossJust last week in my catechism class, the fourth graders and I were discussing Jesus’ life.  We talked about his parents, his childhood.  Maybe he played with his cousin or spent time with his grandparents.  Probably Joseph spent time teaching him carpentry and Mary made good meals for him and doctored his injuries.

Then we discussed his ministry and friends and how people eventually wanted him to die.  And he made that choice to die, so that he could save all of us from sin and death.  I told the kids that I had my notebook so that I could write down all the things they could tell me that Jesus did wrong to earn him a place on the cross.  At first, they were puzzled by my question, but then they realized that he did nothing!  He did it all for us out of selfless love.

But then one of my very astute fourth graders looked up at the crucifix and asked, “But why did it have to hurt?”

Stunned by the depth of this question and pleased that the kids were really getting it, we talked about all the things that we do to hurt God.  All of our sins – our mean thoughts, our selfish actions, our unkind words – put Jesus on that cross.  Everything we do against God hurts other people too.  Jesus, Our Savior, took all of that hurt and pain from people all over the world into himself – all the sins committed against others and against God throughout time – and offered them all up in a perfect sacrifice for our salvation.

If it had been an easy painless death, the emphasis of how much sin hurts others and damages our relationship with God would be diminished.  It would not mean as much.  If Jesus had just fallen asleep into death, his conquering of death through the Resurrection would not be as powerful.

In acknowledging the suffering that lead to Jesus death, we can find meaning in the pain and suffering in our own lives.  Chronic pain or bouts of discomfort can be offered up and united with the suffering of Christ in atonement for sins.  We cannot save others through our sacrifice but we can make our own suffering more meaningful and share in the struggles of Christ out of love.

So the crucifixion had to hurt because we have hurt and continue to hurt others.  When we look to the crucifix, however, we can be assured that Christ atoned for all that hurt and saved us from death!

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