I have always believed that we Catholics should keep the image of Christ crucified on our crucifixes in our churches. Our Protestant brethren prefer that our crosses remain empty of such a corpus, or that the image on the cross should be of Christ risen and triumphant in glowing robes.
We need to remember that the cross of Christ transcends all time and place, that it is through the suffering and death of Jesus that we are saved, justified and reconciled with God. To move too quickly from the image of a bloody, broken image of Christ on the cross to an image of him in glory, is to run the danger of minimalizing his suffering, and thereby of minimalizing the consequences of sin and the incredible depth of love shown by Christ in submitting to being “crushed with pain.”
Our first reading this Sunday takes us to the harrowing description of the “Suffering Servant” who willingly offers himself on our behalf as an atoning sacrifice for our sins, while allowing that, through his suffering, he will see glory and resurrection and exaltation. We want to run to the picture of glory and triumph, while bypassing the picture of suffering. It cannot be done. It was not so for Jesus, nor will it be necessarily for us. We want to sit on the right hand of Jesus in glory, like James and John request in our gospel today. However, this requires us first to “drink the cup” and be “baptized with the baptism” of suffering of Jesus. As St Thomas of Aquinas reminds us, many people want to sit at table with Christ at the banquet, but not many want to stand with him at the cross. Do we want a nice, comfortable life above all, or are we ready to follow the naked, poor Christ to the cross?