INRI

My cousin and his niece Facebooked me this image with the following question:

INRI

“What do the letters INRI stand for?”

I wrote back and told them that the letters stand for “I’m Nailed Right In.”

Ba-Dum-Bump… But seriously, folks…

Now, I didn’t have to make a joke. But I did. My cousin, who, like me, is part of the lost (poorly catechized) Catholic generation, will sometimes turn to me for answers to Faith questions. He has always encouraged my theological studies and posts. His niece, my other cousin’s young daughter, has that sweet faith potential of little girls who love the pretty and the theatrical. Kneeling beside her small Mary statue at bedtime, sincerely praying for loved ones before sleep, she has an open readiness for God – which I hope the world never makes her close. Certainly, I could’ve answered their question seriously right off the bat. But, I decided to lead with a joke. Perhaps I did so in order to express and share the fact that being religious doesn’t mean being humorless. However… I think I may also have led with humor because I want to be seen like everyone else – you know… flippant about the sacred.

Ridiculing

When a friend of mine had first told me that joke about being nailed right in, I cringed a little. It wasn’t a fear of sacrilege that made me wince. It was more like a feeling that I was making fun of someone good and innocent. Like, if he heard us, it would make him feel bad – and that would make my heart break. I smiled with my friend, however, and I did try to appreciate the humor because it was a pastor that had first told her the joke. But, I wished that she hadn’t shared it with me. I was afraid that every time that I would look up at a crucifix, I would think of those words, I would think of the joke. And, for me, the crucifix is no joke. It’s an exquisitely profound symbol of God’s love… God’s humility… God’s selflessness. The truth of abiding love, and the excruciating pain that love is willing to endure, held up as a sign of victory over death and destruction… Oh, Mystery of Mysteries….

It is Christ on the Cross that answers this common human question:

If God is loving, then why does God allow suffering?

Answer:

“Look to the crucifix.”

We suffer. God knows. But, He doesn’t allow us to do anything that He isn’t willing to do with us, that He isn’t willing to do Himself. God knows.

I didn’t write any of this on Facebook. Instead, I shared a joke about the initials written above the crucifix. I did go on to write that the letters stand for the Latin of “Jesus the Nazarene, King of the Jews”.[1] But, now, my cousins and my Facebook friends may think of the sarcastic alternative when they look at a crucifix. Instead of being overwhelmed by the humility of God in contemplating the depths of divine love, as I have been so overwhelmed, many times, they might only smirk at the little humor.

Before I could be too hard on myself, however, I began to think about that joke a little more… about those words…

I’m Nailed Right In

How many times in your life so far have you been held back or frustrated by your own limitations? Have you ever wanted something with your whole heart, something good and beautiful, and been unable to reach it? Have you loved something, or someone, and watched it get stripped away from you? Have you ever found yourself in an undesirable situation and felt trapped?

These are the times when you are nailed right in.

I’m nailed right in.

God knows. God doesn’t allow us to suffer anything that He hasn’t willed to suffer Himself.

He was beaten, tortured, and stripped. Iron spikes were driven through his flesh, securing his hands and feet with searing pain to the wooden beams. He was caught by the fear and greed of others. He was imprisoned upon a cross, no mercy, no escape.

God knows what it feels like to be weak, to be fragile, to be at the mercy of others who have no mercy, to be unable, to be physically helpless. And whenever we are so – and all of the other little times when we feel trapped, when we feel stuck – we need only to look to the crucifix to know love… real love… and to sense the power in our limitations, the strength in all of our cannots. We are nailed right in, pinioned, held fast – but we are pinioned by grace and held fast by divine love. See His arms opened wide, see His heart bursting open…?

“And so did I follow him who could not move,

an uncaught captive in the hands of Love.”[2]

I am bound to you, O Christ. And my loving will to be so bound is my freedom.

© 2014 Christina Chase


[1] Iesus Nazarenus Rex Iudaeorum John 19:19

[2] from a poem made famous by Archbishop Fulton Sheen. See: http://livinginthetwohearts.wordpress.com/2009/01/15/fulton-sheen-part-iii/

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