The Wounds that Heal
We adore You, O Christ, and we bless You, for by Your Holy Cross, You have redeemed the world. Amen.
A crucifix makes us uncomfortable, and well it should. We squirm before it—and our discomfort has nothing to do with any anti-Catholic bias. It is simply painful to look upon our Lord as He suffers and to know the reason for His suffering. Earlier in Lent we sang: “Mine, mine was the transgression, but Thine the deadly pain.” In the darkness of that first Good Friday, the totality of human sin—from the first sin of our first parents to the very last sin—all of it was gathered up and loaded on to Jesus. He bore the whole weight of it as if it was His own, including its penalty: death.
Look upon His cross. See His wounds, the nails fixing His hands and feet to the beams. See the blood continuing to run down His face from the cruel crown of thorns. Behold the gory mass of His mutilated back. And as you look, understand this: the wounded Man, dying in agony, is not suffering for a single wrong that He has done. His whole life was one of love. He was the only man who completely loved the Father with all His being, who perfectly loved His neighbor. And yet, it is because Jesus is love that He is now upon the tree of the cross. Love will not leave the sinner in his sin. Love takes that sin upon Himself. Love is wounded to grant us healing. Love is offering atonement for all the wrongs that we have done.
Yes, it is hard to look at a crucifix, because it is hard to accept the truth that this is the penalty our sins deserve. It is hard, and yet, it is salutary to look, to contemplate. It is salutary to pray that Christ would imprint this image on our hearts, so that we might carry it with us wherever we go, so that it can also be before our eyes in the moment of our death. You see, when the moment of death comes, Satan, who played down the importance of sin when he was luring you into temptation, will emphasize those sins in your memory in the hours of despair. When death is coming to you, he will replay in your mind the many sins you have forgotten. He will taunt you, saying that you are no Christian, that you are unfit for the Kingdom. He will tell you that you are his and that you have wanted to be his with every sin you have committed. And all the while, all those sins will be playing, in vivid detail, before your eyes, as you are struggling in the throes of death.
That is why it is vital to train yourself now to look upon the crucifix, to behold your Savior’s wounds, to hold them close to your heart. In the hour of your death that will be your only weapon against the despair of the enemy. You will be able to look at all your sins as the accuser brings them before your eyes, and you will be able to acknowledge their hideous nature as testimony to your countless failures. But foremost in your sight will be another image: the image Isaiah holds before us of the Crucified One. And it is this image that will shatter the devil’s attempts to draw you into despair. That is why we pray:
Be Thou my Consolation, my Shield when I must die.
Remind me of Thy Passion when my last hour draws nigh.
Mine eyes shall then behold Thee, upon Thy cross shall dwell,
My heart by faith enfold Thee. Who dieth thus dies well.
The image you want before your eyes as they are closing in death is the image of the Son of God in His last agonies, where He answers for your every sin, pouring out His blood to blot out the accusations that Satan would use against you. Each sin, no matter how awful, has been covered over in the blood of the innocent Lamb, your Jesus. In the Book of Revelation, St. John writes: “And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the Word of their testimony.” In that final hour, you will say with boldness: “Lord Jesus, You are my righteousness. You have taken upon yourself the sin that is mine and have given to me the holiness which is yours. You have become sin to make me a saint.”
In this way you will indeed be prepared for death: when the image of the Crucified One hangs before your eyes. His life is your righteousness; His death is your forgiveness; His wounds are your healing; His sufferings are your crown and glory. You are beloved of God. That is what this day is about and nothing else! God in human flesh, Jesus Christ, has proved to be your dearest Friend, and He would make you His forever. Look upon His cross boldly and with confidence, and live.
We adore You, O Christ, and we bless You, for by Your holy cross You have redeemed the world. Amen.