In recent years theologians have been reminding us of a much overlooked truth about Jesus: Jesus was truly human. For many centuries this truth was not adequately acknowledged. Many of us grew up with an understanding that Jesus’ divinity overshadowed his humanity and therefore he was not truly human. We more or less ignored the dogmatic teaching of the Council of Chalcedon that Jesus was not only truly divine but also truly human. Vatican Council Two in The Church Today, paragraph 22, reminds us of this important truth about Jesus: “He worked with human hands, He thought with a human mind, acted by human choice, and loved with a human heart. Born of the Virgin Mary, He has truly been made one of us, like us in all things except sin.”
Since Jesus was truly human he experienced the full range of human suffering. In today’s gospel we see Him experiencing an acute human suffering: the suffering of betrayal by a friend. Jesus was betrayed by Judas. Jesus had gathered his inner circle of friends around him for a last meal. He needed to be strengthened by their presence especially in light of the opposition arising against him. In the midst of the meal Judas betrays him. What loneliness and frustration Jesus must have experienced. His closest friends, the very ones he loved the most and had chosen to carry on his mission, did not understand him. One betrayed him, another soon denied him, and all eventually abandoned him.
Many of us have suffered the pain of misunderstanding and betrayal by close family and friends. I believe it is the human suffering most difficult to forgive. I struggled for years to forgive after a betrayal situation. But I just couldn’t. Even after I prayed for the grace to forgive in annual retreats and confessed regularly my lack of forgiveness, resentment and anger kept welling up, to my embarrassment. Yet I continued to pray the Lord’s Prayer: “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”
Then one day in prayer I was given a special grace: I realized that Jesus had been betrayed. Since He had been betrayed and he was truly human. He knew the pain I was going through! This was all I needed. As I bonded with Jesus in my hurt, my lack of forgiveness melted away and I was soon completely healed.
Holy Week is an important time for dealing with suffering. Suffering can be the occasion for bonding more intimately with the suffering Jesus and becoming closer to Him -- if we bring our suffering to Him. Paul calls this transformation “the wisdom of the cross.”
“We adore you, O Christ, and we bless You, because by your holy cross You have saved the world.”
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