Jesus Christ is the central figure in the Catholic faith. Catholics believe Jesus is the Son of God, equal with God and the second person of the Trinity. They view the biblical account of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ as wholly accurate. They believe Jesus’ crucifixion was a sacrifice made as an offering for sin and that it provides for the salvation of human beings. Catholics believe the resurrection proves to all that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and that he defeated death and the grave.
God's Purpose for the Crucifixion
Catholics believe that the death of Jesus Christ on the Cross went according to God’s plan. Catholics believe that in doing so, God allowed Jesus Christ to accept the punishment for the sins of humanity. The sacrifice of Christ on the cross demonstrates God’s love for human beings. Jesus’ obedience to God’s will, even though it included crucifixion, is a model for Catholics to follow.
Stations of the Cross
The crucifixion is so central to Catholic belief that the Catholic Church has developed a ritual around it. Known as the "stations of the cross," this ritual consists of 14 images or crosses situated around the interior of a Catholic Church. Each station represents a portion of Jesus' time leading up to and including the crucifixion. It begins with Jesus' condemnation by Pontius Pilate and ends with Jesus' body laid in the burial tomb. Catholics pray and meditate as they visit each of the stations. This ritual is most common during Lent (the time leading up to Easter) but is practiced throughout the year.
The Resurrection of Jesus Christ
Catholics believe Jesus rose from the dead on the third day. They teach the biblical narrative, which reports that the risen Christ appeared to many witnesses, including the Virgin Mary, Mary Magdalene, Mary the Mother of James, the Apostles and several groups of women. Catholics also believe that Jesus spent time visiting with the Apostles, giving them instructions on how to build the Church and spread the gospel.
The Ascension of Jesus Christ
The biblical narrative describes Jesus ascending to heaven 40 days after the resurrection. Catholics teach that Jesus sent the Holy Spirit 10 days later, at Pentecost, to empower the Christian church. The Catholic Church believes that Jesus Christ now sits in heaven at God's right hand, and that he serves to judge the living and the dead.
Catholic Holy Days
Several Catholic holidays developed from the crucifixion and resurrection: Good Friday, Easter and Pentecost. For Catholics, Good Friday commemorates the day Jesus was crucified. Good Friday services are typically somber, and one of the few dates on the Catholic calendar where the Catholic Church does not serve communion. Easter Sunday commemorates Jesus' resurrection. Pentecost occurs 50 days after Easter Sunday for Catholics, and it serves to celebrate Jesus sending the Holy Spirit to earth.
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