“He bowed His head and gave up His spirit.”
“There was no more terrible death than by crucifixion. Even the Romans themselves regarded it with a shudder of horror…It was originally a Persian method of execution. It may have been used because the earth was sacred to the Persians, and they wished to avoid defiling it with the body of an evil-doer. So they nailed him to a cross and left him to die there, looking to the vultures and the Carron crows to complete the work” (William Barkley.)
It is strange how someone hanging on a cross can inspire so much awe and respect. The distance of 2000 years from this form of public execution can soften its blow for us. What can anyone find attractive in someone hanging naked on a cross fastened by nails through His hands and feet?
The sight of someone dying in such an excruciating death robs that person of all human dignity. As if crucifixion wasn’t enough, it not only killed the criminal, its purpose was to kill the meaning and purpose He held in people’s minds and hearts as well. Its horror was meant to shock people with a lasting memory. “He looked like a worm, and not a man someone to be derided” (Isaiah).
Jesus gave up every last ounce of dignity he had as man and as God. Notice how many people, including His disciples, abandoned Him when they knew He was going to the Cross. Only a handful of people, primarily women, stayed by Him as He hung from the Cross for three hours. Peter’s denial lets us in on how embarrassing it was to be associated with Jesus during His Passion. He was a threat to their safety.
Abandoned, alone, Jesus embraced our sinful state in His Passion. It’s undoubtedly not the horror of the Cross that attracts us. It’s the love He has for us when we are at our worst. It’s the hope that with his help, we can finally turn things around, no matter how bad they are.
It would be good today to take stock of all that Jesus sacrificed as He hung upon the Cross. What makes me worth it for Him to give up so much? Let us ponder the words Jesus spoke to St. Faustina, “Behold the Heart that loves so much and is so little loved in return.”
IGNITE THE FIRE
Fr. Rick Pilger, IC