Here’s a riddle: “What has to happen before Easter Sunday?”
(If you replied “color eggs” go to the back of the room. Do not pass Go. Do not collect $200).
Before we can get to the glory of the Resurrection (Easter), we have to go through the suffering of the crucifixion (Good Friday). You can’t get the rose without the thorns.
As Catholics we display, wear and process with a crucifix and not “just” a cross. We don’t “keep the body on the cross” out of a morbid desire to depress people. The Church has not forgotten the truth and glory of the Resurrection. There is no secret plot at play, no short term memory that wants to somehow “keep Jesus on the cross or in the tomb.” No, Catholics raise high the crucifix because we want to proclaim the bigger picture of salvation. Suffering is a beautiful and necessary part of salvation. Life is not just about the shiny golden cross of Easter, that’s only half the story. The reality is that life is also about the bloody, splintered cross of Good Friday. Before Christ’s crown was gold, it was thorns.
The crucifix ensures that we keep the proper perspective when life is more storms than sunshine. The crucifix is not a symbol of defeat, but of hope.
Suffering is one of the greatest gifts that God can bestow upon His children. It’s not a matter of “bad things happening to good people.” Quite the contrary, God allows His children to suffer precisely because they are good. Reread the book of Job, not for its literal truth but for its allegorical truths. (Note: allegorical is just a big way of saying that a story is not necessarily “historically” true can communicate truth, nonetheless.)
God knows well what His children can handle (1 Corinthians 10:13) and allows us to encounter various trials and sufferings so that when others see us endure them and not abandon God, they will seek to know (1 Peter 3:15) where we get such peace in the face of turmoil. That’s why St. James tells us to consider it a good thing when we go through hardship (James 1:2-4). It is a sign that God thinks more of you than you do of yourself. What is beautiful in the invitation to take up our crosses and follow Christ is that now, finally, our suffering has purpose. Suffering unites us with Christ.
In the eyes of God, the crucifix is the most glorious sight in the history of humanity. While calling the bloodied and destroyed body of our God “glorious” may seem confusing in the mind of society, it is the most accurate description from God’s perspective. The Corpus Christi (body of Christ) that we gaze upon in the crucifix is the highest sign of love this world has ever seen. It is so scandalous and uncomfortable that most would rather view the cross without the corpus.
The love of God is scandalous because it is untamed, unconditional, and unyielding. God the Father did not look down only to see the sin covering His Son, He looked down and saw the selflessness in the sacrifice. When He looked at how abandoned His Son was in the face of suffering, God’s heart could not help but be moved by the perfection of love.