In the lead-up to the commemoration of Holy Week and Easter, Pope Francis has urged Christians to see the crucifix not as an piece of jewelry but rather as a profound symbol of faith in Jesus.
Commenting on the gospel reading March 18, where Jesus says that when he is “lifted up” he will draw all people to himself, the pope said that the passage invites us to contemplate the crucifix, where Christ’s glory is revealed.
“Those who want to know Jesus must look inside the cross, where his glory is revealed,” Francis told pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square on Sunday before reciting the Angelus prayer with them. “Look inside the cross.”
The gospel, he said, “invites us to direct our gaze to the crucifix, which is not a decoration or a fashion accessory.” It is, rather, “a religious symbol to be contemplated and understood.”
“The image of Jesus crucified reveals the mystery of the death of the Son as the supreme act of love, the source of life and salvation for humanity of all times,” he added. “In his wounds we have been healed.”
The pope warned that like other holy objects, the crucifix is sometimes “abused” by people who treat it simply as a piece of jewelry, disregarding its deeper religious significance.
Francis invited his hearers to ask themselves, “How do I look at the crucifix? Like a work of art, to see whether it is beautiful or not? Or do I look inside, entering the wounds of Jesus even to his heart? Do I look at the mystery of God brought low to the point of death, like a slave, like a criminal?”
The pope also encouraged his audience to meditate on the wounds of Christ, which he suffered for the salvation of the world.
In this way, “we will learn the great wisdom of the mystery of Christ, the great wisdom of the cross,” he said.
Despite his criticism of wearing the crucifix as a piece of jewelry, on the following day the pope told a group of young people that he has nothing against tattoos, even in the form of a cross.
“Don’t be afraid of tattoos,” the pope said, noting that for many years Eritrean Christians and others have gotten tattoos of the cross on their foreheads.
“Of course, there can be exaggerations,” the pope said, remarking that people who get too many tattoos cannot give blood because of a “danger of blood poisoning.”
Francis added that the problem is that some people exaggerate by covering their body with tattoos, but “the problem is the exaggeration, not the tattoos.”
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