My parents received a crucifix as a wedding gift. It was a fairly traditional design, richly stained maple wood with a bronze corpus. A little bronze plaque with the abbreviation I.N.R.I. hung loosely above. So loose that I remember spinning it around as a young boy. I can still see the circular scratches. The cross was almost always adorned with dried palm branches from the previous year’s Palm Sunday Mass.
Being part of a military family, I moved around a lot. Though each house differed, this crucifix remained a constant fixture in my parent’s bedroom.
When my mother died, my dad divided up her treasured possessions among the children: her jewelry, some furniture, some knickknacks, and her fine dinnerware. My sisters received most of this since they were ‘the girls’. I received this crucifix. It’s continued to hang on the wall of every home I have lived in as an adult.
I was eighteen years old when my mother died. She and I were very close. I was her “golden boy”. When she died, I lost my way. As described in Peter Pan, I “fell out of my pram” and became one of the “lost boys”.
One of the few constants I’ve had in a life filled with change and grief was this crucifix. Throughout the years after her death, I would look upon the cross and remember the comfort it brought me when I was growing up, especially when I was with my mother (sometimes playing hooky from school so we could play cribbage.)
I look at it now and see more than memorabilia. I see hanging on my wall two profound Christian symbols of hope: palm branches and the cross.
The palm branches greeted the Lord’s entry into Jerusalem to conquer the dark forces oppressing the people at the time. If I open my gates, the Lord can enter the Jerusalem of my heart and do the same.
At the foot of the cross, the centurion responsible for the crucifixion uttered profound words of hope: “Truly this was the Son of God.” His guilt and regret were replaced by faith. As a ‘lost boy’ I would occasionally look up, and the crucifix would remind me that no matter badly I’ve behaved, the words the Lord utters to the Father are meant for me too: “Forgive them.”
I believe the crucifix ended up in my possession because I most desperately needed these constant reminders of hope, two symbols that have been following me throughout my life. God knew that every once in a while I would need to see the palm branch and recall that God can and will triumph over the dark forces in my life. God knew that every once in a while I would need to see the crucifix and recall that the outstretched arms of Jesus are meant to embrace a ‘lost boy’ that had at one time lost hope.
What unlikely signs has God placed before you to give you hope?