Today, Cardinal Keith O’Brien is due to call on Catholics to make the cross more prominent in their lives. His homily, which was apparently made available in advance to the Catholic News Agency, is set to call on Catholics to wear the cross, to show others their willingness to love and serve others, as our Lord Jesus did.
In these days when Christianity, and particularly Catholicism, is under such constant attack, it is important for us to make it known to all that we are proudly Catholic. It should be beyond any doubt to everyone that we are not in the least embarrassed about being Christian and that we are prepared to boldly live, both privately and in public, as Christians, despite increasing secularism, which aggressively mocks us and seeks to ban Christianity completely from public.
Cardinal O’Brien is of course quite right in placing the emphasis on Christians showing their personal willingness to love and serve others, just as our Lord Jesus did. Christianity is about loving God and this is expressed most purely in the manner in which we love and serve others. Christians constantly strive to achieve this but, sadly, many of us repeatedly fail to do so. This failure is certainly a source of deep regret and sometimes even embarrassment for a Christian who takes his or her faith seriously.
Unfortunately, the importance of this requirement to love and serve others and the deep regret and embarrassment felt when we fail, has and is often misused by extremists, both from within and from outside the Church. In order to neutralise Catholics, who resist the extremist efforts to change the Church in accordance with their own preferences and ideas, extremists often shamelessly accuse the Catholics who resist them, of being uncharitable. An accusation, which despite its obviously specious nature, surprisingly often causes even the holiest of Catholics to cower from the accusation.
Common examples of where Catholics can find themselves on the receiving end of these specious accusations of lack of charity are when Catholics argue: against the right of a woman to be ordained; against the right of a homosexual to marry someone of the same sex; against the right of a woman to choose abortion; against the right of an adult to choose to die through assisted suicide; against the right of a person to use contraception. The extremists present all of their arguments on these subjects in an extremely disingenuous manner, which is deliberately designed to portray anyone who disagrees with them as completely unreasonable and uncharitable.
Since any serious Christian will obviously try to avoid being labelled as uncharitable, these disingenuous arguments either result in the Christian feeling compelled to support the extremist point of view or it causes the Christian to decide to cease any active resistance, so that conflict and negative branding is avoided. Both of these outcomes obviously suit the extremist. A Christian who offers no resistance is as good as one who decided to support the cause.
If we choose to respond to Cardinal O’Brien’s request to wear the cross, to show our willingness to love and serve others as our Lord Jesus did, we must never forget that it is not by accident that the symbol of Christianity is the cross. Our Lord did not shy away from suffering and death in order to love and serve us. The cross is our constant reminder of the extent of the commitment that is required of us if we are to love and serve others as our Lord did.
If we are to truly love and serve others, we will have to begin by being prepared to follow the teaching of the Church in all matters, even sometimes when it may seem impossible or unreasonable to obey its teaching. Like our Lord, we must be prepared to carry our cross all the way, never putting it down and, if we do, picking it up again immediately and continuing on the road, trusting the Church completely, because it was established by our Lord Jesus, who also promised St Peter to protect it. We trust the teaching of the Magisterium of the Church knowing, without a shadow of a doubt, that our Lord Jesus will never ever deceive us.