We Christians have attributed to the Crucified One various names: «redeemer», «savior», «king», «liberator». We can come close to him being thankful: he has rescued us from ruin. We can contemplate him as we’re moved within: no one has loved us that way. We can embrace him in order to find energy in the midst of our suffering and pains.
Among the first Christians he was also called «martyr», that is, «witness». A writing called Apocalypse, redacted around the year 95, saw in the Crucified One a «faithful martyr», «faithful witness». From the cross, Jesus is presented to us as a faithful witness of God’s love and also of an existence identified with the least. We mustn’t forget it.
He was so identified with the innocent victims that he ended up like them. His word was upsetting. He had gone way too far talking about God and God’s justice. Neither the Empire nor the Temple could tolerate him. He must be eliminated. Maybe, before Paul started to elaborate his theology of the cross, this conviction was lived out among the poor of Galilee: «He has died for us», «for defending us until the end», «for daring to speak of God as defender of the least».
When we look at the Crucified One, we ought to instinctively remember the pain and humiliation of so many unknown victims who throughout history have suffered, are suffering and will suffer, forgotten by most everyone. It would be a mockery to kiss the Crucified One, invoking him or adoring him, while we go about indifferent to all suffering that isn’t our own.
The crucifix is disappearing from our homes and institutions, but the crucified ones continue on here. We can see them all, any day, in any daily news show. We need to learn to venerate the Crucified One not in a small crucifix, but in the innocent victims of hunger and of wars, in the women killed by their spouses, in those who drown when their boat capsizes.
To confess the Crucified One isn’t only to make great professions of faith. The best way of receiving him as Lord and Redeemer is to imitate him by being identified with those who suffer unjustly.
José Antonio Pagola
Translator: Fr. Jay VonHandorf