On one’s knees, like a true king

Although dignified and powerful men are usually shown standing, Jesus Christ is most often on His knees, at the level of the poor – a posture that Pope Francis calls us to adopt.

Dec 08, 2023

By Arnaud Alibert

Human dignity... We talk about it when it’s threatened, and there’s no shortage of opportunities at the moment. But let’s also look at human dignity when it is exalted. It is illustrated in the human being’s ability to stand tall, even in the face of trials or threats. Images that come to mind are the Ukrainian people still standing or a woman standing up to demand justice. And there are so many more. Even the presence of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother that “was standing” at the foot of the cross — the Stabat Mater.

Standing is not only a sign of dignity. It is also a sign of power. The man standing in front of the camera, the army commander standing in front of a parade of his troops, and so on. This is undoubtedly how the Jews imagined their Messiah ruling over his Kingdom: standing.

Throughout the Gospels, however, Jesus — who we have just celebrated as Christ the King — adopts an entirely different royal posture. He kneels to care. In a way, He stoops to meet those on the ground.

The Seventh World Day of the Poor, which the Catholic Church celebrated on November 19, was overshadowed by the clash of arms in the Middle East. But the reality is there.

In our world, there are people kneeling under the weight of precariousness. Some 700 million people live on less than €2.15 (RM11.00) per day, the threshold which defines extreme poverty. Admittedly, the relative proportion of the world’s population living in extreme poverty is declining. But 700 million people is not a negligible number.

Caritas France (Secours Catholique), in its recently published annual report, noted the damaging impact of inflation on the standard of living of people that come to their centres. More than half of them live on less than €18 (RM92) a day.

The prevailing culture is deceptive in two ways. First, it dangles before us — especially young people — the idea that true happiness is found in possessions, which is just a mirage. Second, it cleverly keeps the unseen poor and needy invisible to us.

“Haste, by now the daily companion of our lives, prevents us from stopping to help care for others,” Pope Francis warned in his message for the Seventh World Day of the Poor.

That’s why we need to learn how to get down on our knees, as thousands of volunteers do when they’re out on the streets, and just as Jesus did at the feet of His disciples. As Pope Francis says in this same message, “We are called to acknowledge every poor person and every form of poverty, abandoning the indifference and the banal excuses we make to protect our illusory well-being”. --LCI (https://international.la-croix.com)

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