Hi there. Welcome back! If you’re new here, we all grab a cup of something hot or glass of something cold, then find a comfy place to relax for a few minutes.
Last fall, I began classes to join the Catholic Church. That’s been quite a journey for a staunch Protestant of 40 years. You can read about it in earlier blogs. The shortest version is “Drawn to Rome“.
At Mass on the Sunday after our second class, they invited us up and gave us each a crucifix. The Catholic church uses the cross with the corpus (body of Christ) on it. Personally, I’ve always liked the crucifix. It reminds me of the real sacrifice Jesus made for me. You can read more about my love of visual cues for devotion here.
I already had a couple of crucifixes in my home. Nice attractive wooden crosses with metal figures. One was a gift from a friend, one was carefully selected at a local Catholic bookstore. They got the point across if one looked closely, but they were still ‘tasteful’ for decor. The one they gave us at Mass that morning was a little different.
About 7″ tall, it’s big enough. It’s more realistic in color – Dark wood for the cross, the INRI sign hand painted at the top, and Jesus is flesh-colored. You can see the strained muscles, just about count the ribs, notice some bruises. The crown of thorns is plainly visible. So are the nails in His hands and feet. Likewise, the gash in His side from the spear. And the blood.
The image is jarring- raw, bloody, uncomfortable. Hard to look at, but impossible to ignore. This is not a sterile, easily ignored piece of home decor. This one speaks. It shouts. The crown of thorns is jammed into His head, with blood trickling down his neck. Blood is coming from the nails in His hands and feet, and where the spear pierced His side. And there’s blood on the skinned knees and legs from the times He fell under the weight of the cross. He looks like He’s suffering. It’s graphic, it’s real. It still stops me in my tracks.
Then there’s the most astounding detail, if you know what to look for. His hands, literally nailed down to a wooden crossbeam. Hands held in the sign of peace. Peace?
Historical accounts of crucifixion tell of men swearing in rage, struggling with everything in them to escape. Often, it took days for victims to die. It usually took three or four Roman centurions – the cream of the crop – to hold the victim while they were nailed to their cross, especially after the first hand was nailed down and they knew what was coming next. Soldiers would often literally sit on each limb so the victim could not move while the nails were driven in. This form of execution was so brutal that many centurions drank excessively to numb their own horror. Crucifixion was no game.
Go here and get the full-sized picture. Jesus willingly suffered this for us. He gave us His sign of peace – peace with ourselves and peace with Himself- peace with God. He is not an angry, vengeful God, just waiting to strike us with a bolt of lightning when we accidentally stumble, or when we’re deliberately defiant. He’s infinitely patient, infinitely kind, infinitely forgiving. Even as He suffered this most brutal form of torture and death, He prayed that His Father would forgive His executioners. He freely accepted and forgave the repentant thief on the cross next to His.
Most folks know John 3:16 “For God so loved the world…” but few know the next verse: “Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him.” (NRSVCE)
Maybe you’ve never considered the price He paid for you; maybe you’ve always thought of God as the vengeful and exacting disciplinarian. While truth is truth, and sin is sin, Jesus freely provided for our escape. His mercy endures forever. As long as we are breathing, there is hope, no matter what we’ve done or failed to do. That truth is also truth.
Maybe you’d like to explore His mercy, but don’t know where to begin. I encourage you to find a pastor or priest. Just talk to them, they are just as human as the rest of us. Any clergy would be more than happy to help you find the mercy and peace you’re looking for. That’s why they entered the ministry!
Maybe you’re familiar with the cross and just want to spend a few minutes saying “thank You”, or maybe “I’m sorry”. If you need a little help, you can also find a pastor or priest. His mercy and peace are waiting for you.
He’s waiting for you. What are you waiting for?