While the national flag
is a symbol of a nation, the cross is the most important and powerful
symbol of Christianity. Like all symbols, it evokes more than what we can
understand. It is the very heart of our Christian faith. While the cross
reminds us of Jesus’ suffering and death, it also reminds us of His
victory over death and His glorious risen life.
The power of the sign
of cross is beautifully expressed in many of our Catholic rituals. In
baptism, for instance, the parents and the sponsors trace it over the
candidate’s ears, eyes and other parts of the body. We make the sign of
the cross at the beginning of a liturgy or prayer and before the Gospel is
We find the cross on mountaintops around the world and on the
walls of Christian homes, on church tops and dangling around our necks. We
find rugged wooden crosses and ornately jeweled crosses, images of the
suffering Christ and images of the risen Christ affixed to the cross. The
cross speaks to what we believe about Jesus and about how we understand
our lives in relation to Him.
For many centuries in
which the cross has been revered as a sacred symbol, it is difficult for
us to imagine the utter horror associated to it. It is the world’s most
hated instrument of torture, the most horrible form of punishment. It
expresses some of humanity’s deepest fears: pain, betrayal, abandonment,
Crucifixion was an early form of capital punishment, comparable
to our electric chair, gas chamber, or lethal injection. By intent, it was
cruel and unusual punishment. Yet, our Christian faith has turned this
disgraceful instrument of torture into something that we Christians
are proud of.
The cross is also the symbol of humanity’s greatest hope
– that suffering and death are not the end; that life does arise from
death and that better life is yet to come. The passion and death of Jesus
on the cross is the heart of our belief. Jesus humbled Himself, becoming
like a slave and obedient even to death. His death was stupidity in the
eyes of the world, a scandal for many, yet it is God’s way of wisdom and
The cross reminds us
that God is with us even in pain, tragedy and seemingly hopeless
situations. Many of us consider our suffering an opportunity to be united
in the love that Jesus showed us. Though suffering is often senseless and
irrational, many of us believe that we do not suffer alone. Such
realization allows us to endure and accept what is part of our human
condition and the pain that comes in every life; it gives us hope that God
is true to His promise of a better and happier life.
Oftentimes human suffering
is not inevitable nor irrational; it is the result of human wickedness.
People are oppressed by others and by the human systems that prevent us
from living with dignity. We often hear the words exploitation and undue
influence in our surroundings. They simply mean abuses, all for the sake
of self-centeredness, struggle for power and self-recognition which in
most cases, destroy the love
Cross is a wonderful
symbol of human resistance to abuses; to the choice of living happily in
spite of life’s hardships, to the hope that suffering will be transformed
into something better.
His death on the cross was not just His final act;
it expresses Jesus’ entire life of sacrifice for others, of laying down
His life out of love. Our life as Christian is
following in His way: “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny
himself, take up his cross, and follow me” (Mark 8:34).
The logic of the cross
seems to fly in the face of common sense. Why are suffering and death the
way to life? Why is the dreaded cross a clearest sign of hope which
inspires many people? What does the call of Jesus to take up the cross imply for
The cross is a great paradox and we will never fully understand it.
But certainly it symbolizes God’s triumph over sin, death, meaningless
existence and clearly, His unconditional love for us.
By Tim Pedrosa
also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces
perseverance; perseverance produces character; character, hope. Romans