THE PAIN OF THE PASSION
Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ" has served as a profound reminder for Christians everywhere of the terrible price that our Lord paid for our redemption. I believe that, as graphically demonstrated in the movie, the Lord was tortured to a greater extent than any individual in all of history. Though the corporal source of the punishment was the Roman soldiers, the force behind each blow, each merciless lash, was satan himself. Satan's reign was threatened and his very survival was at stake. Perhaps one more blow would be all that it would take for the Lord to forsake His mission. If His body would be sufficiently weakened, perhaps His Spirit would submit.
Never in all of eternity or human history would the devil have an opportunity to physically punish God himself. You can be certain that the great unquenchable wrath of satan was behind the spitting, the punching, the kicking, and the verbal abuse that our Lord endured "as a sheep led to the slaughter".
All who have seen "The Passion" leave horrified at the abuse to which our Savior was subjected. This is right, as each of us bears a personal responsibility for His pain.
Though it would be wrong to in any way minimize our Lord's physical suffering during the Passion, it is likely that for Him it was completely overshadowed by the unimaginable spiritual suffering he underwent. The purpose of this reflection is to further contemplate the "spiritual" passion of our Lord Jesus Christ.
(1John 4:19) We love, because he first loved us.
Each of us is made in the image and likeness of God. As such, we are graced with the ability to enter into relationships with others and with Him. Such relationships include motherhood, fatherhood, marriage, parenthood, deep friendships, and spiritual relationships (advisors, priest, etc.). These relationships are characterized by bonds of great intimacy, trust, and above all, love.
Often when we look at the importance of these relationships, we place a great value on their length of duration. "We've been married fifty years". "I have known him since he was a baby". "I first met him when I was in college". The depths of relationships is measured then in the level of devotion of those involved, that is, the level of intimacy achieved, and the duration of that intimacy.
Each of the above relationships is a human mirror of the relationship within the Trinity. We are able to "know" fatherhood, marriage, friendship, only because the God and His Son knew them first. They are the Authors of all relationships.
How deep is the relationship between the Father and the Son? Jesus answered this quite simply in the Gospel of John: "I and the Father are one" (John 10:30). There can be no greater intimacy than this.
How long has this relationship between Father and Son existed? Again in the words of Jesus: "Father, I desire that they also, whom thou hast given me, may be with me where I am, to behold my glory which thou hast given me in thy love for me before the foundation of the world" (John 17:24). Before there was time, before creation, God and Jesus were one.
As humans we have all experienced the pain of separation. Even though as imperfect sinners we can never love as completely as God loves, we are hurt when we are separated from those with whom we share intimacy. The greater the intimacy, the greater the pain that is caused by being apart.
LAZARUS- FORSHADOWING THE SPIRITUAL PASSION OF CHRIST
(John 11:3-6) So the sisters sent to him, saying, "Lord, he whom you love is ill." But when Jesus heard it he said, "This illness is not unto death; it is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified by means of it." Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Laz'arus. So when he heard that he was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was.
On the way to His final Passover in Jerusalem, the Lord is told of the illness of his friend Lazarus. Rather than go to him immediately Jesus lingers, not arriving until Lazarus had been in the tomb for four days.
It is clear then that Jesus allows Lazarus to pass away, knowing that by raising him from the dead He would glorify God and His Son. The scriptural account supports the interpretation that the eventual raising of Lazarus was planned and not an impromptu act.
(John 11:33-36) When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled; and he said, "Where have you laid him?" They said to him, "Lord, come and see." Jesus wept. So the Jews said, "See how he loved him!"
Why the would Jesus cry over the death of His friend when He knew that within moments His friend would be standing before Him in unwrapped burial cloths?
Certainly there was an element of compassion- Jesus shared the grief of all those throughout time who would lose a loved one. But perhaps Jesus was anticipating His own soon separation from the Father on the cross. Perhaps the agony in the garden had already begun.
THE AGONY IN THE GARDEN
(Mat 26:37-38) And taking with him Peter and the two sons of Zeb'edee, he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, "My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with me."
As we consider the infinite love and intimacy between the Father and the Son, the source of the agony in the garden becomes clear. Jesus knew that for the first and only time in all of time and eternity He would be separated from the Father. The sins of mankind throughout all of human history would be placed on the spotless Lamb on the cross. And that sin would be an impenetrable barrier between beloved Father and Son. A communion more intimate than any human can imagine would be severed by the will of the Father and the obedience of the Son.
(John 3:16-17) For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God sent the Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him.
In Mel Gibson's "Passion" we are shown the devil in the garden attempting to convince Jesus to forsake his mission. "It is too much for one man to bear the sins of all mankind" he says. Certainly the devil, who had been an eyewitness to the relationship between Father and Son since his own creation, knew well the price the Lord was being asked to pay. He knew also that the consequence of obedience would be the redemption of mankind and his own eventual downfall. One can only imagine the intensity of satan's attacks. Couple these ferocious satanic attacks with the intense anxiety that the Lord was suffering over His impending separation from the Father and there is little surprise that the Lord sweat drops of blood. How could a human heart endure such suffering?
THE TRANSFIGURATION AND MARY: GOD'S GIFTS OF HOPE TO HIS SON
(Luke 9:28-31) Now about eight days after these sayings he took with him Peter and John and James, and went up on the mountain to pray. And as he was praying, the appearance of his countenance was altered, and his raiment became dazzling white. And behold, two men talked with him, Moses and Eli'jah, who appeared in glory and spoke of his departure, which he was to accomplish at Jerusalem.
The appearance of Moses and Elijah, as scripturally required two witnesses, must have provided great consolation to Jesus both at the Transfiguration and afterwards during his struggles. The very fact that Moses and Elijah could appear before the Lord in glorified bodies proved that the Lord would indeed be successful in redeeming mankind. Only through the Lord's death and resurrection could Moses and Elijah escape an eternity of separation from God. There appearance meant that God had accepted the Lord's upcoming sacrifice on their behalf.
(John 19:25) .... But standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Mag'dalene.
Similarly, Mary provided a witness to the Lord of the successful outcome of His passion throughout her life but especially at the foot of the cross. Looking at his immaculate mother, Jesus knew, at the height of his despair, that His sacrifice was worth the price. The "new Eve" was the first fruit of his redemptive sacrifice.
Catechism 492: The "splendor of an entirely unique holiness" by which Mary is "enriched from the first instant of her conception" comes wholly from Christ: she is "redeemed, in a more exalted fashion, by reason of the merits of her Son". The Father blessed Mary more than any other created person "in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places" and chose her "in Christ before the foundation of the world, to be holy and blameless before him in love".Mary, redeemed from conception, had lived a life of complete submission to the will of God. It was her "fiat" that resulted in the conception of our Lord in her womb. Her presence at the foot of the cross could only have served to strengthen His resolve in his own "fiat".
Looking down from the cross at his suffering yet resolute mother, Jesus did not have to convince Himself that He could overcome His inconceivably painful separation from His Father. No, his perfectly pure mother was absolute proof that salvation for mankind was as certain a reality as the tears streaming down her cheeks.
O MARY CONCEIVED WITHOUT SIN PRAY FOR US WHO HAVE RECOURSE TO THEE!
THE CROSS- ULTIMATE DARK NIGHT OF THE SOUL
(2Co 5:21) For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
According to Saint John of the Cross the "dark night of the soul" is that stage on the mystic path when "spiritual persons suffer great trials, by reason not so much of the aridities which they suffer, as of the fear which they have of being lost on the road, thinking that all spiritual blessing is over for them and that God has abandoned them since they find no help or pleasure in good things". It refers to a state of intense personal spiritual struggle, including the experience of utter hopelessness and isolation.
If a human, even a saint like Saint John of the Cross, can suffer so at the loss of intimacy with God, it is beyond comprehension to fathom our Lord's suffering on the cross.
(Mat 27:46) And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, "Eli, Eli, la'ma sabach-tha'ni?" that is, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?"
LIKE SIMON WE CAN JOIN JESUS IN HIS PASSION
(Luke 22:40-43) When he arrived at the place he said to them, "Pray that you may not undergo the test." After withdrawing about a stone's throw from them and kneeling, he prayed, "Father, if you are willing, take this cup away from me; still, not my will but yours be done." And to strengthen him an angel from heaven appeared to him.
Prayer connects time and eternity. In our present time we can dedicate our prayers to our suffering Savior in Gethsemane. Each time we say the sorrowful mysteries of the Rosary we join Jesus in the garden. The angel that appeared to him, aware of our still unspoken prayers, can whisper our love, encouragement, and gratitude to Jesus in his grief filled hour.
Likewise, through a pious recitation of the Way of the Cross, we can comfort our Savior on the road to Calvary and through his final anguish on the cross.
Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen: "The Mass is that which makes the cross visible to every eye; it placards the Cross at all the crossroads of civilization; it brings Calvary so close that even tired feet can make the journey to its sweet embrace; every hand may now reach out to touch its Sacred Burden, and every ear may hear its sweet appeal, for the Mass and the Cross are the same. In both there is the same offering of a perfectly surrendered will of the beloved Son, the same Body broken, the same Blood flowed forth, the same Divine Forgiveness. All that has been said and done and acted during Holy Mass is to be taken away with us, lived, practiced, and woven into all the circumstances and conditions of our daily lives. His sacrifice is made our sacrifice by making it the oblation of ourselves in union with Him; His life given for us becomes our life given for Him. Thus do we return from Mass as those who have made their choice, turned their backs upon the world, and become for the generation in which we live other Christs living potent witnesses to the Love that died that we might live with Love".
Salvifici Doloris (JPII): These are the words of the Apostle Peter in his First Letter: "You know that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your fathers, not with the perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot".
And the Apostle Paul in the Letter to the Galatians will say: "He gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age", and in the First Letter to the Corinthians: "You were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body".
With these and similar words the witnesses of the New Covenant speak of the greatness of the Redemption, accomplished through the suffering of Christ. The Redeemer suffered in place of man and for man. Every man has his own share in the Redemption. Each one is also called to share in that suffering through which the Redemption was accomplished. He is called to share in that suffering through which all human suffering has also been redeemed. In bringing about the Redemption through suffering, Christ has also raised human suffering to the level of the Redemption. Thus each man, in his suffering, can also become a sharer in the redemptive suffering of Christ.
Perpetual Eucharistic Adoration is the adoration of Jesus Christ present in the Holy Eucharist. In the many Churches that have this adoration, the Eucharist is displayed in a special holder called a monstrance, and people come to pray and worship Jesus continually throughout the day and often the night. Christ’s great love for us was shown when he was crucified on the cross to pay the penalty for our sins and give us eternal life. He loves us without limit, and offers Himself to us in the Holy sacrament of the Eucharist. Can we not give Jesus a few minutes of love and adoration in return?
We adore you, O Christ, and we praise you; Because by your holy Cross you have redeemed the world.
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2000: Bringing the World to Jesus