by Laura Kazlas
One of the first things people notice about a Catholic crucifix is the figure of Jesus on the front, and Christians who are not Catholic, often question why we don’t use a plain cross since Jesus rose from the dead? Also, why do we call a cross, a crucifix?
A crucifix for Catholics is a visual reminder of Christ’s crucifixion. It is a teacher, a source of guidance, a reminder to trust in the Lord, and is a much revered object of devotion for many reasons. A terminally ill person may find great comfort in gazing at a crucifix with a figure of Jesus on the front, trusting that their sins are forgiven and that Jesus Christ died, but rose from the dead into eternal life in heaven. They too, can be assured that there really is life after death and that a place is waiting for them in heaven as well.
Many people gaze upon the figure of Jesus on the cross, calling to mind the great suffering he endured and find solace in knowing that Jesus can identify with the sufferings they are going through as well. Still others can sympathize with how Christ was mistreated or that he was innocent of the charges against him. Or perhaps they remember that the Lord did not respond back to the abuse and accusations made against him, but forgave even those who put him to death.
There are many lessons that Christ’s example on the cross can teach us. But, the most important reason a crucifix is so important to Catholics, is because we remember the human side of Christ, who suffered greatly so that we can be forgiven of our sins. We gaze upon the figure of Christ in his suffering with love, for what he of his own free will, did for us. Jesus had such a huge heart that he embraced death for the sake of his love for us, not just the whole world, but for each one of us individually.
The image of Jesus dying on the cross also reminds us that a person can be forgiven and receive salvation, even in the last hour of life, the same way that Christ forgave the good thief, assuring him a place in paradise. This is reassuring for us and for those we love as well.
The Good News is that Jesus rose from the dead, that death doesn’t have the final say. Christ’s willingness to die for us is the greatest act of love the world has ever known. He set the example for our own lives and this realization also helps us, to die to ourselves, to die to our own selfishness, for love of others too. We pick up our own cross daily and follow in the footsteps of Jesus, keeping fresh in our mind who he was and what his life meant, when we gaze upon the figure of Christ on the cross. We do not notice the wood of the cross, as much as we do our Lord Jesus Christ.
Article by Laura L. Kazlas
© A Catholic Moment 2015