Image: Diego Velazquez, Christ Crucified [public domain]
You may have heard the title Pontifex Maximus before in reference to the Holy Father. In Latin this phrase translates to “great bridge builder.” However, before we had our “papal bridge builders” we had the great bridge builder: Jesus Christ.
Why would we call Our Lord Pontifex Maximus? It’s because of what Jesus accomplishes on the Cross for us on Good Friday that we call him this.
Stranded by Sin
Saint Catherine of Siena is famous for her“Dialogues,” a series of conversations she had with God the Father during deep mystical prayer experiences. In one of her dialogues with the Father, he explained to her what was accomplished on the Cross through an analogy.
In the Father’s analogy, at the beginning of creation, there was a road to heaven that was open to humanity. Adam and Eve had full access to eternal life. However, through their sin, the road to heaven was completely broken.
“And, as soon as he had sinned, a tempestuous flood arose, which ever buffets him with its waves, bringing him weariness and trouble for himself… everyone was drowned in the flood, because no one, with his own justice alone, could arrive at eternal life.” —Dialogues, “Treatise of Discretion,” 7
This flood was the river of sin. No one was able to make the crossing back to God. And that’s not all. The Father told St. Catherine, “after sin had closed heaven and bolted the doors of mercy, the soul of man produced thorns and prickly brambles, and My creature found in himself rebellion against himself” (Ibid).
Humanity was cut off from God, the source of life. We were isolated from the Father and in a state of interior rebellion against our very selves.
Stop for a minute here. For the joy of Easter to be yours and mine, this story and these truths cannot simple be facts we learn and agree with. What the Father shared with St. Catherine is not just the story of humanity as a whole—it is my story; it is your story.
You and I, in our sin, were completely isolated from God. Isolated in a way we could never fix on our own. We experienced rebellion within our own soul. Our emotions, our decisions, our reason were all at war with one another.
Saved by the Cross
It is into this terrible situation that Jesus enters at his Incarnation. Jesus unites himself to our broken humanity. Not “broken humanity” as an abstract concept—your brokenness; my brokenness. Jesus chose to enter into our terrible reality so he could fix what we could never fix on our own.
The Father continued explaining to Catherine, “And, so, wishing to remedy your great evils, I have given you the Bridge of my Son, in order that, passing across the Flood, you may not be drowned” (Ibid). In the Father’s explanation, the Cross becomes this bridge that crosses the flood waters of sin and gives us access once again to eternal life.
Catherine has more in depth and beautiful reflections on the majesty of this analogy in her dialogues. However, think for a minute how profound this is. Jesus has made a way for you and for me where there was no hope. Jesus, through his sacrifice on the Cross, has opened a way to heaven for you and me.
And how do we return to the Lord? How can we be reconciled with God, the source of our every fulfillment? By choosing to walk on this bridge that Jesus has made for us.
The Father says, “And observe, that it is not enough in order that you should have life, that my Son should have made you this Bridge, unless you walk thereon” (Ibid, 8).
What is the Father saying? He is saying that Jesus’ sacrifice on the Cross does not magically teleport us to heaven. A way has been opened for us. But we will not have life unless we choose to walk upon it.
Crossing the Bridge of Salvation
Have you made the decision to take the bridge of the Cross? No one can carry you over it. Every person has to decide for themselves to make use of this great remedy God has created for us.
My invitation for you, right now, this Good Friday, is to make this decision.
It is the decision to turn away from sin and selfishness and to put Jesus at the center of your life. Not just another part, not just one aspect, but the center. It is the decision to put all your hope in Jesus—not in yourself, or your wealth, or your family—to save you and bring you fulfillment.
Maybe this is the first time you have made this decision as an adult. Or maybe this is the 100th time you have recommitted to this decision. Either way, every time we respond with an unconditional “yes” to the Lord, profound transformation occurs in us.
Will you make this decision with me and pray?
Jesus, I am so sorry for the ways I have rejected your love and chosen to sin. Please forgive me (list any sins you are particularly sorry for).
Jesus, I choose to make you the center of my life. I want to make use of the bridge you have made for me on the Cross. Thank you for the gift of the Cross. Please give me your Holy Spirit to help me continue on this bridge today and every day of my life. Amen.