When I first became a Catholic one of the things I had trouble understanding was the Crucifix. In the previous churches I had attended, they often had just a Cross, or perhaps a dove descending down, and sometimes they had nothing at all but an American flag. The Catholic Church was different. It had a Crucifix and I would read Catholic books that would say “embrace the passion of Christ”, or “meditate on the suffering of Jesus”. To be honest I had trouble just looking at a Crucifix let alone embracing the passion. I mean our Lord is on there, He is barely clothed, He has a crown of thorns on His head. His hands and feet are pierced. This was hard for me to look at. So I asked God to help me understand. Now when I say God gave me an insight or spoke to me, I do not mean that the skies parted and a Charlton Heston type voice rang out. I simply mean that God whispered in my heart of hearts. My Insight was this: He allowed a crown of thorns to be mashed on His head to pay the price for all the evil thoughts, fantasies, wrong perceptions, and false imaginings that mankind deals with as a result of sin. His hands and feet were pierced to remind us of all the times we have run away from God, or turned our backs doing our own thing. He was fastened and did not run as he bore our chastisements and our iniquities. His side was pierced as a lance was thrust into His heart so that blood and water gushed out. The perfect, spotless Lamb of God did all this for one simple reason. He loves you. It was love that held the creator of the universe in place on a Cross. It was love for His children when they would say “you don’t know what it is like Lord to have a broken heart, or to be laughed at or made fun of. You don’t know what it is like to suffer and be in pain you don’t know what it is like to be me”. And maybe in one loud voice you in your desperation raise your voice and cry out “God, do you even care about me at all”. The image of the crucifix now comes back into your mind and He whispers to your soul, “I did all of this for you. Please stop running. I love you”. A Cross with no Jesus on it is just two pieces of wood.
In our Gospel reading we have what I call the “Sweet Sixteens” of Matthew. It is Matthew 16:16 and it is powerful. Jesus gives peter the keys and establishes His Church upon this Rock. He even changes Peters name into what we would call “Rocky”. Peter steps forward and declares Jesus is the Christ! The question remains for us: ” Who do you say that I am?” Christianity without the Cross and Resurrection is folly. So, this week, gaze at a crucifix and really meditate on it. How great is our God that He should lay down His life for His friends. Namely, you. Who do you say that He is? Something to think about. May God richly bless you always!