Preaching Christ Crucified

Scriptural Foundations Fall 08 - Personal Approbation Paper by Carlo Juanola

 

Some people wonder why Catholics display the image of Christ’s crucified body.  Some also question, “If Jesus was raised from the dead, why should we depict him still on the cross?”  Saint Paul’s letter to the Corinthians gives reference to the importance of the cross as a sign of Christ’s victory over evil and sin (Thigpen P-1 [1]).  In this same letter, Saint Paul says explicitly “we preach Christ crucified” (1 Cor 1:23).  It was prophesied in the Old Testament of the coming of a messiah who would be wounded and sacrificed on behalf of the sins of the world.  Therefore, we too are called to follow Saint Paul in preaching to others the meaning of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross.

According to Saint Thomas Aquinas and the early Church Fathers, God decided to save man in a remarkable and paradoxical way, which is the preaching of the Cross (Navarre 36 [2]).  Saint Leo the Great conveyed that the cross of Christ is a stumbling block for those who base their faith solely on how they perceive with worldly senses (Navarre 35 [3]).  For these people it is confounding how one obtains grace through preaching of the Cross because they have imposed limits as to how God works (Navarre 35 [3]).  The work of God transcends human strength and wisdom for God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong (1 Cor 1:27).  Therefore, a follower of Christ must be conscious of their weaknesses because God alone empowers us to do what the world cannot do. 
                 According to St Paul, we cooperate with Christ’s redemptive suffering by bearing the trials God sends us so that we too become like Christ (Navarre 142 [4]).  When we reflect on the meaning of the Jesus Christ’s crucifixion we are drawn to the meaning of suffering in our lives.  Through our sufferings we see our limitations and weaknesses come to light.  In the darkness of our lives we can hear God whispering in our hearts to rely on Him.  God allows the darkness of suffering so that God’s glory can be manifested through its triumph.
Sometimes I cause suffering upon myself by abusing my free-will on selfish and worldly things. For example, I sometimes spend too much time in front of the computer playing games or writing emails.  As a consequence, I suffer when my family suffers from the lack of time I spend with them.  I needlessly burden my family members when I fail to carry out my duties as a father, husband, son, and brother.  Therefore, the crucifix is a reminder to me that Jesus died to free me from the bondage of sin, including spiritual sloth and indifference.  Examining our sufferings in the light of Christ's passion is humbling. 
                In my ministry with the youth, we reflect on Christ crucified when we examine our sufferings before the Blessed Sacrament.  We see many youth turn to God when they realize how their own sufferings open their eyes to the life and passion of Jesus Christ.  They realize that they are not alone in their sufferings, and that Christ is beckoning them to rely on Him during these times.  They too begin to see that God allows these sufferings for a reason, which is to bring about a greater good.  Through their sufferings they begin to see what is most important in life.  They begin to see that they can only do so much to alleviate suffering by their own power, but through faith in God there is hope and meaning in life.  
                The power of Christ crucified lives on through His word and through His Church.  It continues to free us from the shackles of sin and shows us the way to Heaven.  The prophet Zechariah said that God “will pour out on them a spirit of grace and petition” on those who look upon the one they have pierced (Zec 12:10). In addition, St Paul assures us that the forces of darkness have been defeated by Christ’s death on the cross (Col 2:13-15). However, as long as sin exists in the world, the message of Christ crucified must be proclaimed to the ends of the earth.  To the casual observer, the cross is simply an instrument of death.  To the believer, the cross is the instrument of reconciliation, hope, and life. 

 

 

References

[1]Thigpen, P. and D. Armstrong. The New Catholic Answer Bible (NAB) “Why Do Catholics Have Crucifixes?” Commentary on 1 Cor 1: 17-18”. Wichita: Fireside Catholic Publishing, 2005. P-1.

[2] The Navarre Bible (RSV).  “Corinthians: Commentary on 1 Corinthians 1: 21”. New York: Scepter Publishers, 2005.  Pg. 36

[3] The Navarre Bible (RSV).  “Corinthians: Commentary on 1 Corinthians 1: 20-25”. New York: Scepter Publishers, 2005.  Pg. 35

[4] The Navarre Bible (RSV).  “Captivity Letters: Commentary on Colossians 1: 24”. New York: Scepter Publishers, 2005.  Pg. 142

The Holy Bible: Revised Standard Version, Second Edition. San Francisco: Ignatius Press 2006. 1 Cor 1:23, 27; Zec 12:10; Col 2:13-15.