For your sake I
and shame covers my face.
I have become an outcast to my brothers,
a stranger to my mother’s sons,
because zeal for your house consumes me,
and the insults of those who blaspheme you fall upon me.
R. Lord, in your great love, answer me.
There is a crucifix front and center in every Catholic
Church; it is often the first and most outstanding visual event upon entering the
sacred space. The height of the ceiling may be inspiring and its imagery
amazing; the windows may be colorful and their pictures exciting but the eye
is directed forward toward the crucifix.
In Saint Clare’s abbey chapel it was the only image and she
urged her sisters, “Gaze on him.”
We gaze on him with love and wonder even as, on that
dreadful day, his tormentors mocked his nakedness and hurled insults, mud, sticks
and stones at him. He bore insults as shame covered his face; he was a disgrace to his family, a stranger to his relatives, and an outcast to his fellow
Few Christians have known his suffering; not many are called
to martyrdom; but everyone knows the agony of his abandonment. It comes as one
becomes a person, separated and isolated from others.
No matter how much I care for others and they care for me, I
realize that no one knows what goes on in my heart; no one can fathom my
isolated experience. Nor can I bridge the other's apartness from me. Every person is unique and radically unknowable.
What did it mean to Jesus to be so alone in that terrible
moment, with nothing but his unbearable pain for companionship? The sky did not
split open as he suffered; there was no thundered shout, “You are my beloved
son!” There was nothing but the catcalls of his tormentors and even they were
fading into silence.
When we gaze on him
we allow the dreadful beauty of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit to
invade our consciousness and rearrange our existence. God opens within us space
for others to occupy our hearts even as we realize no one and nothing can ever
fill our emptiness. We are doomed,
cursed and invited to an eternal receptivity before the unfathomable mystery of
Inspired by Jesus' open arms on his cross, we invite others to come live in our
hearts, taking what appears to be limited space. We feel
threatened that, “There may not be enough for me.” But we cannot resist their
need for love, reassurance and companionship – even when we have so little to
give. In fact we have nothing to give but, to our amazement, that nothing is more than satisfying when they gaze on him
within the sanctuary of our hearts.