As a Protestant before, I was told that Catholics crucify Jesus again and again since his body is still on the crucifix even He had already risen to Heaven. For this reason, non-Catholic Christian communities have crosses in their churches, but you would never see the “corpus” or the representation of Christ’s body on it.
When I entered college, things started turning out differently. Through the silent and faithful witness of many Catholics in my University and my study of the Church’s teaching and history, I slowly regained my respect for Catholics and gradually realized how its teachings are sensible and most of all, true and biblical.
I want to share with you three points that we could pray about.
The meaning of the cross
Death, punishment, darkness, damnation – those are just a few words that one would associate with the crucifixion, the most excruciating punishment for the worst criminals in the ancient Roman world. Isn’t it ironic that it would also be Christianity’s greatest symbol of Life, Liberation, and Love?
How come this cursed wood brings a message to humanity today that is very far from how the ancient world viewed it? The reason lies in one man, the greatest one who was ever tormented on that tree – the God-man Himself, Jesus Christ.
The Lord was not the first and only one to experience the pains of that morbid execution. He was not the first and only one who was humiliated with indescribable nakedness and defilement, but among the thousands who have been nailed on that wood, Christ was the first one who changed how the cross will be seen by humanity forever. Through His death, we find life. Through His sufferings, we find peace. And indeed, as it was written, “he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him, and with his stripes, we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5).
The nails that drove through the hands of our Savior didn’t mean pain anymore, but a freedom from the prison of sin. The wood that was stained by the innocent blood of the Lamb ceased to speak of unutterable hate and sorrow but only of love and eternal joy. When for hundreds of years the cross was the gateway to death, on Good Friday, Christ made it the Door to Life-a passageway to Heaven that united once again man to the Father.
The meaning of our sufferings
Many non-Catholic Christians believe that in the Holy Mass, the priest kills Christ again and therefore desecrates God’s sacrifice once and for all (Hebrews 10:10) by redoing Christ’s death – deeming His sacrifice unfinished and unworthy.
That is a sad misinterpretation of Catholic teaching because the Church has always affirmed that Christ’s sacrifice was already sufficient to save humanity. We keep the wounded body of Christ on the crucifix not because we want to crucify Him repeatedly, but we always want to remember His passion and death for mankind, the greatest expression of His Divine Love- “greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:13).
The Cross became significant only through Christ Jesus our God. This is the reason why we, as a Church and as a family of God, remember the Passion and Death of the Lord by venerating the Cross of Christ. This is not an act of idolatry as I have explained in another article.
As we contemplate on the Body of Christ on that Cross, we remember our personal struggles, sufferings, and pains. Seeing that our Lord endured and became victorious over evil and death gives us hope and “a peace that surpasses all understanding” (Philippians 4:7).
When we see His wounds, we remember His pain and realize His Love. When we see his bruises, we recall His falls while on His way to Calvary. When we look at His eyes, we hear once again his gentle invitation: “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me” (Matthew 16:24).
We preach a crucified Christ
Indeed, Jesus, through His Apostle Paul, taught us to remember the crucified Christ. Paul said, “We, for our part, preach a crucified Christ; to the Jews indeed a stumbling block and the Gentiles foolishness, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ, the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men” (1 Corinthians 1:23-25).
Elsewhere, the same Apostle told us, “And I, brethren, when I came to you, did not come with pretentious speech or wisdom, announcing unto you the witness to Christ. For I determined not to know anything among you, except Jesus Christ, and him crucified” (1 Cor 2:1-2).
For us Catholics, the Cross of God, which represent both our struggles and our salvation can only be meaningful when in union with Christ. The crucified Jesus in our altars invites us all to see everything in light of the Passion of our Lord. It invites us all to embrace the life of Christ lived in complete obedience to the will of the Father even unto death (Philippians 2:8). And most of all, the Cross invites us all to reflect on the true meaning of Mercy and Love which Christ so selflessly poured out for entire humanity to freely receive.
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Cover photo taken at the Holy Family Parish, Marikina City.
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