Over the past few weeks, I have received a number of questions about the crucifix.
- Why do I wear one?
- Why focus on a dead Jesus instead of one risen from the dead?
- Why do I have to always be reminded of His death on a cross? It was a horrific act of violence!
Frankly, the questions are not usually from you, the youth, but from adults. Usually it is phrased like this:
- Don’t you know that we are a resurrection people? He rose from the dead! Why are you stuck in the past?
All of these are great questions which today’s second reading allows us to consider. So why the crucifix? Well, simply put, Catholics prefer crucifixes not crosses! But not just because we have a need to see Jesus on the cross. Traditionally, our separated brethren have preferred crosses because of the resurrection. Catholics focus on the entire paschal mystery that includes the resurrection whose doorway is the crucifixtion.
The first step to answer the question is to realize that we live in a fallen world. The sin of Adam and Eve ushered into the world suffering, sickness and death. None of these were part of the original plan of God the Father, but here we are.
I have to admit that when I look around in the world I do not see the fullness of the resurrection. I do not see a world that is teeming with resurrection glory. I see a world that struggles with sickness, sin and suffering. Many times the suffering is so deep we have no words to vocalize its misery.
In the midst of the suffering we are “comforted” by family and friends. Their words are usually careless and unhelpful. There is though something more to suffering if we dare to pierce the veil.
Our suffering in the body reveals man’s dignity unequivocally. Why? Because suffering reveals to us the possibility of a dialogue with God. When we are in the depths of our suffering we do not blame the world and ask why I suffer. When we cannot take the atrocities and deep human pain we expereince around us – we do not yell at the world…We instinctively cry out to the Creator and Lord of this world:
- Where are you?!
- How could you let this happen?!
- How is it possible for an all-loving and good God to allow suffering?!
It is hard enough for me to grasp a perfect God in an imperfect world. But even worse, would be a God who does not understand my life and the lived experience of my…our humanity.
The answer to the why of suffering is hard to stomach but true nonetheless:
The Father in His desire to grant us the gify of love and choosing to be loved necessitated that He grant total freedom. In order to be free and thus love, He had to allow the possibility that we would abuse our freedom and unleash sin, suffering and death. Even by own hand.
As much as we seek for the answer to suffering, at the end of the day, the reason many times doesn’t matter. What we really want is a remedy. Yet, the only solution to the ills of this world and the twistedness of my heart is the crucified Christ. It is for this reason that we hear St. Paul proclaim,
…but we preach Christ crucified… (1 Corinthians 1:23)
For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. (1 Cor 2:2)
It’s not that He doesn’t know Christ rose from the dead but, he knows that it is through the power of Christ on the cross that the bonds of suffering, sin and death are understood and broken.
The cross that bears the beaten, battered, and bloodied body of Jesus Christ, however uncomfortable it makes us to see and feel – is our salvation. Scripture proclaims,
- By His stripes we are healed. (Isaiah 53:5)
- And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up; that whoever believes may in Him have eternal life. (John 3:14-15)
This is why, we “keep Jesus on the cross,” because we, too, preach Christ crucified. The Crucifix reminds us not only of God’s power, but also:
- His love for us – giving His only begotten Son up for suffering and death
- His salvation – a perfect offering of atonement for our sins
- the power of sacrificial love – it explains what it means to love
- an understanding of compassion – for to be compassionate is to suffer with another
What is revealed about the body through suffering is its openness to the world in the form of vulnerability. This openness guides us to solidarity with our fellow men: the body becomes a place of communion by means of compassion.
As St. Louis de Monfort said,
“Willingly or unwillingly, all must carry the cross, both who serve God and those who don’t…”
We who are called the Body of Christ, not Hisen we physical but His mystical, make up in our flesh the sufferings that Christ lacks. We participate in Christ’s redemption by uniting our sufferings to His. Even our liturgical actions betray this theology of redemption. Think of when we make the sign of the cross. Where is the corpus? You are the corpus.We are meant to become what we liturgically symbolize.
We wear our crucifixes to say,
- I am a Christian who is looking to become another Christ to you and the world.
- Am not afraid of suffering with Christ as my companion.
- Greater is He that is in me than he that is in the world.
- I know how to love – even if it includes suffering. The cross shows us how to love.
St. Francis told us to preach Christ and if necessary use words. And if we follow the Gospel command, then we must preach Christ crucified. This is done through our sufferings by offering them up as a sacrifice for an intention or to suffer with one of our brothers and sisters in Christ.
Roses are only found among thorns. It is the cross alone that nourishes our love of God, as wood is the fuel which feeds the fire… (St. Louis de Monfort)
You have heard, “Be Christ to one another.” But to be Christ is to smile on suffering and to hold close to your heart those who suffer. Don’t run away from it. Embrace it and discover what it means to that Christ crucified is the Power and Wisdom of God!