The story of the crucifixion solemnly read out on the feast of Christ the King, reminds us, followers of Jesus, that his Kingdom is not a kingdom of glory and power, but of service, love and total commitment to saving human life from evil, sin and death.
Accustomed to proclaiming the victory of the Cross, we run the risk of forgetting that the Crucified Christ has nothing to do with a false triumphalism that renders meaningless the sublime act of humble service of God to his creatures. The Cross is not a kind of trophy we proudly display to others, but a symbol of the crucified Love of God that invites us to follow the example of Jesus.
We sing of, worship and kiss the cross of Christ because in the depths of our being we feel the need to give thanks to God for his boundless love. But we must not forget that the first thing Jesus insistently asks of us is not to kiss the cross but to carry it. This means simply following in his footsteps in a responsible and committed manner, knowing well that sooner or later it will lead us to share his painful destiny.
We may not approach the mystery of the cross in a disinterested way, that is, with no intention of carrying it. So we have to take great care that certain religious services surrounding the cross do not create an atmosphere that is attractive, but dangerous because it draws us away from faithfully following the Crucified Christ under the illusion that we can live as Christians without the cross. It is precisely when we kiss the cross that we have to hear the call of Jesus:
“If someone wishes to come after me, let him take up his cross and follow me”.
For the followers of Jesus to lay claim to the Cross is to be with the crucified of society in a spirit of service: seeking justice where the helpless are abused; calling for compassion where there is only indifference towards those who suffer. This will bring upon us conflicts, rejection, and suffering. It will be our humble way of carrying the cross of Christ.
The Catholic theologian Johann Baptist Metz has been insisting on the danger that the image of the Crucified Jesus may be hiding from us the face of those who are being crucified today. According to him there is a very serious phenomenon taking place in Christianity in prosperous countries: “The Cross does not disturb anyone any more. It has lost its impact. It has lost the eagerness it inspired of following Jesus; it does not appeal to our sense of responsibility; rather it releases us from it.”
Do we not all have to re-examine our real attitude to the Crucified Christ? Do we not have to relate to him in a more responsible and committed manner?