This morning I his words when he visited Benin in November of 2011 (I told you I was behind). As I read through the various addresses, I was particularly struck by these words:
It is the crucified and glorious face of Christ which ought to guide us, so that we may witness to his love for the world.He addressed these words to the Bishops of Benin to remind them of their principle task as shepherds of the Lord's flock, but they are words no less suitable for you and for me. How different would our lives be if we began each morning contemplating the image of Crucified Love?
Each of us surely has a favorite depiction of the crucifixion of Christ Jesus (if not, now is as good a time as any to search for one), be it a crucifix - however simple or decorated - hung on the wall, or a painting from an altar piece, or an illumination from an ancient manuscript. I have always been partial to images from the Middle Ages; whether they be in stone, on fresco, wood, or page matters little to me.
Without doubt, however, my favorite is the image so greatly loved by Saints Francis and Clare, the crucifix of San Damiano:
In a profound way, it encapsulates Pope Benedict's reminder, as well as what he said only two days later: "Christ reigns from the Cross and, with his arms open wide, he embraces all the peoples of the world and draws them into unity."
Yes, let us always "look upon him whom they" - whom we - "have pierced," let us allow his love to reach deep into our hearts, and let us look upon the world with his own love (John 19:37, cf. Zechariah 12:10).