Jesus was betrayed, arrested, falsely accused, tried, scourged, and beaten. Jesus carried his cross, was crucified, and with his words, “It is finished” (Jn 19:30), Jesus died. The gift of a crucifix is that it represents for us the moment of the death of Jesus. Having a crucifix is not a morbid fascination with death, nor a rejection of his resurrection. The crucifix is not a magic talisman, but a sacramental, that helps us to remember the reality of what the Son of God, who became one with us, did. Jesus embraced humanity all the way even unto his death, giving his life for us that we might have the opportunity to be born again, to be one with him, and live with him forever. Without the crucifixion, there would have been no resurrection.
On this Good Friday, let us spend time in venerating Jesus on the Cross, meditating before a crucifix, before this expression of the most intimate act of Love ever expressed in human history. This icon expresses the wonderful bestowal of the grace of God upon humanity, in that it reminds us that we have a God who has experienced and understands betrayal, loss, suffering, pain, anguish, and even death. Jesus is relevant to our lives because he meets us in the chaos of our lives.
In making time to be still and look upon the cross upon which he died, seeing his body slumped and lifeless, we can call to mind the times we have been betrayed, the struggles, trials, pains, sorrows, loss that we have or are enduring right now. Through any of the above, with each conflict or experience of injustice, we can be comforted in knowing that Jesus understands because he has experienced them all.
Making time to gaze upon the crucifix in times of fear, anxiety, temptation or indecision, can give us the strength and courage to endure or go through what lies before us. Jesus with his arms outstretched represents for us his eternal welcome, that he loves us more than we can ever mess up and he loves us more than we can ever imagine.
When we resist running from our trials, our suffering, and our pain, and instead face them, we will find that Jesus is waiting for us with his arms outstretched and wide open. Jesus meets us in the midst of our chaos, in the depths of the whirlwind of our deepest hurts, struggles, and confusion, when and where we need him most.
This is why we venerate Jesus on the cross today, this is why today is Good Friday, so we remember that death does not have the final word, for Jesus conquered death. This is why we can say with St. Paul, “Where, O death is your victory? Where, O death is your sting” (1 Cor 15:55). Jesus did not leave us orphans when he died on the Cross. Jesus conquered death for us and became the first born of the new creation. We are not alone. Jesus is present with us in whatever we may be dealing with, now, always and forever.
Photo: Outside St Peter Catholic Church, Jupiter, FL after Holy Thursday Mass – “Where, O death, is your sting?”