I have not seen Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ.
I do not feel I need to ‘see’ the brutality Jesus suffered for me in order
to strengthen my faith, but I do believe I need to understand the brutality
so that I (and the rest of humanity) will not perpetuate that brutality
on each other. In multiple places in the world today there are people
who are enduring the very same abuse and brutality that Jesus endured.
It is the brutality that humans have inflicted on each other throughout our
history. It is a brutality that is not confined by national boundaries.
It is not limited by culture, or religion, gender, or age. It is the
total absence of love.
Jesus’ passion though was full of love, full of compassion.
Compassion in its simplest definition means to ‘suffer with’. Jesus
suffered with all humanity, past, present and future in his passion.
It is not the endurance of the suffering that has saved us, rather it is
the love and forgiveness Jesus showed throughout his life, seen explicitly
in his last hours of life, that is the source of our salvation. He
was accepting of Judas’ betrayal. He was understanding of Peter’s denials.
He bowed to Pilate’s rule. He shared his Mother’s sorrow. He
was thankful of Simon’s help. He rewarded Veronica’s courage and self-sacrifice.
He consoled the women of Jerusalem. He surrendered all his human dignity.
He reconciled the good thief. He forgave his tormentors.
Jesus’ life is about love and forgiveness. Jesus’ death is about love
and forgiveness. Jesus’ resurrection is about the love and forgiveness
that God showers on us daily throughout our lives; the love and forgiveness
that God has provided in abundance to humankind throughout history. God is
accepting of our betrayals. God is understanding of our denials.
God gives us free will. God shares in our sorrows. God thanks
us for our service. God rewards us for our courage and self-sacrifice.
God consoles us. God reconciles us. God forgives us. We are to
show this same love and forgiveness to all others in imitation of Christ.
“For this I was born and for this I came into the world, to testify
to the truth” (Jn 18:37); the truth of who we are and who God is.
Our true identity is that we are the sons and daughters of an all loving,
all merciful God who wishes that we would live together in peace and harmony
as brothers and sisters. Jesus gave his life for us. We are called
to give our lives for each other.
Jesus, help us to understand the greatness of your love.
You transformed your suffering into love. Transform our selfishness
into self-sacrifice. “Replace [our] hate with love, mistrust with understanding,
and indifference with solidarity. Open our spirits and hearts even wider
to the concrete needs of love for all our brothers and sisters.” (Paul VI)
Help us to recognize your presence within us and within everyone we meet.
May our homes, offices, relationships, meetings be the altars where we can
offer ourselves in love.