“A band of evildoers has encompassed me; They pierced my hands and my feet. I can count all my bones.” Psalm 22:16-17
I have a prayer book, a Catholic Missal, that was given to me as a child. I have favorite prayers in it that I pray daily. One of them is entitled, “Prayer Before A Crucifix.” (See the words to this beautiful prayer at the bottom of this post.) This special prayer has been close to my heart from a very young age. I have always prayed it right after receiving Jesus in the Eucharist.
I know the prayer by heart and no longer turn to that particular page in my missal. Instead, I often open it to a page that has a larger rendition of Jesus on The Cross. Bookmarking this page is a beautiful little holy card with an image of Jesus, The Shepherd, holding a lamb. Today, I am struck by the stark difference between the two images side by side. One is the loving, guiding, healing Shepherd of His flock, His people. The other is the tortured, ravaged, bloodied body of that same Shepherd, killed by His own people.
The realization of the startling opposing images, side by side in my prayer book, moves me in several thought provoking ways. One being empathy; empathy for Jesus and His story – His rise to fame from His most humble birth; His healing and teaching ministry to lead His people; and then the ultimate betrayal of the very same people He sought to serve, His own people.
I also feel an overwhelming compassion, and sadness for His sufferings, His Passion – being beaten and scourged, a crown of thorns brutally pushed deep into His skull; being forced upon and unmercifully nailed to The Cross; and then His side and Heart pierced by the angry thrust of the lance.
Most of all, I feel sorrow. I feel sick with sorrow that my own sins contributed to His pain and suffering, that I am one of those He died such a horrific death for. I feel uncontrollable sorrow and remorse, and a deep desire to repent for my sins.
However, even through these very strong emotions of empathy, compassion, and sorrow, I feel joy. When I see the image of the Shepherd and the Crucifix side by side, I feel infused with a deep sense of inner joy. These images remind me that I have a Father in Heaven who loves me enough to send His only begotten Son as a sacrifice on my behalf. They remind me that His Son, Jesus, is ever there to show me the Way, and the Truth, that I might share in Life Eternal with Him.
This deep inner joy comes from knowing Jesus as both my Shepherd and my Savior. My prayer is that you too can know Him in the same way.
Prayer Before A Crucifix
Look down upon me, good and gentle Jesus, while before Thy face I humbly kneel, and with burning soul pray and beseech Thee to fix deep in my heart lively sentiment of faith, hope and charity, true contrition for my sins, and a firm purpose of amendment. Meanwhile , I contemplate with great love and tender mercy Thy five most precious wounds, pondering over them within me, calling to mind the words which David in prophecy made Thee say concerning Thyself, my Jesus: “They have pierced My hands and feet; they have numbered all My bones.”