I was recently accused of holding up Jesus to shame by displaying him on the Cross by a non-Catholic Christian. I was also falsely judged as being a worshipper to a “dead” God, rather than a worshipper to a Risen God. And of worshipping an “idolatrous image” (the Crucifix). It’s sad that a Crucifix to some non-Catholic professing Christians is a “dead” God an “idolatrous image.” And a threat.
But what is a Crucifix to a Catholic?
Jesus says, “Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”
Jesus displayed on the Cross, displays Jesus’ unconditional, passionate love and the infinite mercy he has for each of us. Although Jesus is no longer on the Cross, his offering of himself to all of us as our Merciful Savior, continues to this day. Jesus also says we cannot be his follower unless we pick up our cross to follow him. (Matthew 16.24) Jesus never promised his followers a life free from sufferings and trials. He promised us the very opposite. He promised we too would have a cross to carry; and unless we endure our sufferings and trials in faith for him as he has done for us we cannot be his follower. St. Paul says, “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. CONSIDER HIM WHO ENDURED SUCH OPPOSITION FROM SINFUL MEN, SO THAT YOU WILL NOT GROW WEARY AND LOSE HEART”. (Hebrews 12:2) Here St. Paul says Jesus is our example in enduring the Cross and we must fix our eyes on the Cross of Jesus so we to do not grow weary and lose heart. How then can we be followers of Christ carrying our cross without fixing our eyes on Jesus?
One of the false allegations made by some non-Catholic Christians is that Catholics downplay Jesus’ Resurrection by putting too much emphasis on Jesus’ Crucifixion. Their false allegation implies Catholics reject the “risen” Christ and worship the “dead” Christ. Their allegation is not only false, but also totally absurd. Catholics worship both the Jesus who died for our sins and also the Jesus who rose from His sacrificial death for our sins. At Mass Catholics profess, “Christ has died, Christ Is Risen, Christ will come again.” For non-Catholic Christians to falsely assert that Catholics do not profess Jesus is Risen, apparently have never been to a Mass or know Catholicism. Their so-called knowledge of Catholicism comes from other sources other than Holy Mother Church. According to these non-Catholic Christians Jesus’ Crucifixion is a past event only, and displaying Jesus on a Cross supposedly suggests Catholics want to keep Jesus dead or continually dying as if they want to deny His Resurrection. Catholics do not deny Jesus’ Resurrection. If they did, there wouldn’t be church on Sundays to commemorate Jesus’ Resurrection, nor the celebration of Easter!
Although Jesus is risen and no longer on the Cross, what Jesus gave us on the Cross two thousand years ago, He continues to give us to this day. Jesus gives us His passionate and unconditional love, His infinite mercy, His shed blood, Salvation, His friendship, and new life in God. We cannot rise in Christ to new life without first dying with Christ on the Cross. Everything Jesus gives to us is through the Cross. In our journey, on the way Home to the Lord, we, like Jesus, our Merciful Savior and Role Model to faith in God, carry our cross. Catholics not only preach Christ Risen, but also Christ Crucified. The heart of the Gospel message is Jesus, our promised Messiah, died for our sins, and for our salvation. St. Paul preached Jesus’ Crucified and tells us, “WE PREACH CHRIST CRUCIFIED, a stumbling block to Jews, and folly to Gentiles, but those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God. (1Corinthians 1:23-24) He again says, “When I came to you, brethren, I did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God in lofty words or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.” (1Corinthians 2:1-2) True, our faith is in vain without the Resurrection of Jesus, (1Corinthians 15:17) but it was the CRUCIFIXION of Jesus that paid for our sins. We cannot preach Jesus’ Resurrection without also preaching Jesus’ Crucifixion. For the Resurrection to have happened, it had to begin with the Crucifixion. How can we worship the risen Jesus without also worshipping the Jesus who died for us?
Jesus also does not want us to look at His Crucifixion as only a past event. When He appeared to the apostles after His Resurrection and in His glorified risen Body, He showed them his wounds from the Crucifixion. (Luke 24:39-40 & John 20:20) Why would Jesus keep those wounds from His Crucifixion if He didn’t want us to remember His Crucifixion and everything He gives to us through His Cross. What would some of these non-Catholic Christians say to Jesus, if Jesus appeared to them in His glorified risen body and showed them His wounds? Would they say, “Your Crucifixion is of the past, so why should we look at your wounds?”
Another false allegation that is made, is the Crucifix is an “idolatrous image for Catholics to worship.” This is another allegation that is absurd. It’s not the image itself that is worshipped, but the Person the image represents. When Catholics genuflect before the Crucifix at church, they are genuflecting before the Person of Jesus. The venerated Crucifix represents what took place on the original Cross. The accusation that has been thrown at me in past debates about worshipping this “so-called idolatrous image” is false. It makes me wonder how anyone can be so ignorant and judgmental that they really believe they can read a person’s heart and know what’s taking place between that heart and God. I also find it ironic that the same non-Catholic Christians who assert that the Crucifix is an “idolatrous image for Catholics to worship” also have crosses (without the Corpus, of course) displayed at their churches and also around their necks. Using their logic, does this mean they too are guilty of “idolatrous images and worshipping them”?
I’ve also been asked why I need a Crucifix to be reminded of Jesus’ passionate love and self-giving sacrifice for me. So I ask the same question to non-Catholic Christians. Why do you need empty Crosses in your church and around your neck? Do you need the empty Cross to remember Jesus’ Resurrection? Personally, I wear a Crucifix to publicly preach Jesus’ Crucified. The heart of the Gospel message is Jesus Died for our sins and conquered death. St. Paul also says, “the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” (1Corinthians 1:18) I’m proud to wear my Crucifix. The Crucifix displays God’s passionate, unconditional love and the infinite mercy He has for each of us. It is sad that some people, especially non-Catholic professing Christians, are offended when they see a Crucifix and have this need to criticize and attack.
Pax et Bonum!
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