The National Catholic Review
Throughout his letters, Paul’s statements display the enormity of his conversion experience. One of the starkest statements he makes occurs in Galatians 2:20: "I have been crucified with Christ; yet I live, no longer I, but Christ lives in me; insofar as I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God who has loved me and given himself up for me." Paul started with the heinous execution of Christ and then pondered how to experience that crucifixion himself vicariously. In a remarkable interpretation of that event, he understands that just as Jesus subjected himself to suffering so that he might conquer death, the followers of Jesus are given the gift of allowing their old selves to be crucified with Christ. It is important to understand that Paul means what he says. That sounds platitudinous, but sometimes the familiarity of the Pauline epistles can blind us to the radicality of his positions. For him, the transformation of the Christian is complete and total (cf. Romans 6:4, 2 Corinthians 5:17). To be a Christian means that what once was powerful (the flesh and its desires) has perished, and what seemed like weakness (Jesus’ willingness to die) has infused the human with the powerful spirit of God. When we view a crucifix, we somberly remember that Christ’s sufferings occurred on our behalf. But the Galatians passage adds a second dimension to the symbolism of the crucifix. Christ died so that we might also put to death our fleshly selves and thereby experience the transformation of the resurrection. The good news of the crucifixion, especially made clear in this passage, is that the most horrendous and ignoble death has become the instrument and the symbol of the most glorious and transformative life. Kyle A. Keefer