Saint Ignatius of Loyola in the Spiritual Exercises, in the third week of the month retreat which is dedicated to the contemplation of the Passion, suffering and death of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ accentuates the fact that Jesus suffered all in His Passion for me… This is very intimate and personal!
In other words instead of viewing the Passion from afar, 2000 years back buried in history, Saint Ignatius brings it to us right now. Jesus suffered all of the details of His bitter passion for me. The Agony in the Garden, the scourging at the pillar, His crowning with thorns with the insults, spitting, buffeting, punching and pounding, the carrying of the cross, the brutal crucifixion, the hours of agony as He hung on the cross, the profuse loss of His Precious Blood and suffocation—all of these excruciating sufferings and many more, He suffered for me!
If that were not enough, if you and I were the only person in the entire world, Jesus would have become Incarnate, lived and died accompanied with all of those gruesome and excruciating details and just for me and just for you. Still more Jesus would be willing to do it over and over, simply for love of me! How great is the love of Jesus for all, but especially for you and for me.
Saint Faustina highlights in the Diary that love can be measured by one measuring-rod—the willingness to suffer for the loved one. No greater love ever existed than the love that Jesus manifested that Holy Thursday night and Good Friday—the day of His passion, crucifixion and death on the cross.
In moments of desolation it is very propitious for all of us to recall how much Jesus really does love us by reflection on His Passion that he underwent for me individually. Furthermore, most salutary is the contemplation of Jesus shedding His Precious Blood for the salvation of my immortal soul.
How precious and valuable is your immortal soul! Saint Peter reminds us with these penetrating words:
That you were ransomed from your futile conduct, handed on by your ancestors, not with perishable things like silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ as of a spotless, unblemished lamb.(I Peter 1:18-19)
Your immortal soul was saved by Jesus and the Precious Blood that He shed especially as He hung on the cross that Friday that we call “Good!” Overwhelmed by the awesome and fathomless reality of the Passion, suffering, shedding of Blood and death of Jesus, we might ask ourselves how can we plumb the depths of the greatest love story ever penned, not with regular ink, but with the Precious red Blood (INK) of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ! Time and time again Jesus invited Saint Faustina Kowalska, if she really wanted to plumb the depths of the love of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, then to contemplate the Passion of Jesus. “No greater love has a man that to lay down His life for the ones He loves.”
The following are ten helpful suggestions so that we can at least start to plumb the depths of the love of Jesus who died on Good Friday for love of you and for me and for the salvation of my immortal soul!
1. Read the Biblical Passion Account. First of all we should become familiar with the Biblical narratives of the Passion of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ; there are four and each one of the accounts has specific details that differentiate them one from the other. They can be found in two chapters of the four Gospels: Mt. 26-27, Mk. 14-15, Lk. 22-23, and finally Jn. 18-19. Read them; meditate on them, learn them; assimilate them and take them to heart!. Let them transform your life!
2. Crucifix. Spend some time in silent reflection and contemplation before a graphic and moving crucifix. An important difference between most Protestants and Catholics is that the Catholics emphasize having the Corpus or Body of Jesus hanging from the cross. Look deeply into Jesus eyes, wounds and Sacred Heart pierced with the lance and derive abundant spiritual fruit. He died for you and me!
3. Way of the Cross. Make the pious practice and devotion that is called The Way of the Cross. Jesus suggested to Saint Faustina in the Diary that if her obligations did not block it that at 3:00 p.m. every day (The Mercy Hour) that she make the Way of the Cross. The past Popes have given public witness to the Way of the Cross by making them in the Coliseum in Rome on Good Friday. Slowly and prayerfully move from one station to the next (there are 14 in total) and talk to Jesus as your best friend; accompany Him as did His Mother Mary. Help Him to carry the cross like Simon the Cyrene. Wipe Jesus’ tired and dirty face as did the valiant Veronica. Be a real and active participant in the Passion of Jesus through the pious practice of the Way of the Cross.
4. Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary. Always and at all times that we are free for a few minutes it is very profitable to pray the most Holy Rosary. Especially important is it to pray and meditate the mysteries of the Holy Rosary, especially the five Sorrowful Mysteries in Lent and Holy Week. They are: The Agony in the Garden, the Scourging at the Pillar, the Crowning with thorns, the Carrying of the Cross, and the Crucifixion of Jesus. Right now, which of these mysteries touches your heart and life most? Talk to Jesus about this; He is waiting for you!
5. Good Confession. Making frequent and heart-felt confessions is a common practice among the saints and all of us are called to become saints. Jesus said: “Be holy as your heavenly Father is holy.” However, Holy Week is a most opportune time. Saint Pope John Paul II was seen often in the confessional reconciling sinners to God especially on Good Friday. The Sacrament of Confession is a clear and practical means to apply the Passion, Precious Blood and death of Jesus to our own lives. Why? For the simple reason that by making a good confession we die to sin and rise to the new life of grace; also it is the Precious Blood of Jesus that He shed for us on Calvary that first Good Friday that washes and cleanses our soul from the dirt and ugliness of sin.
6. Meditate on the Seven Last Words of Christ. Venerable Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen, for many years preached on the seven last words that Jesus uttered from the cross. Sheen, with his typical eloquence, stated that Jesus ascended the pulpit of the cross to preach His best and most eloquent sermon. Do you know the seven last words of Jesus from the cross? If not, now is the time to make an effort to memorize them…
- “Father forgive them for they know not what they are doing.”
- “I thirst.”
- “My God, my God why have your forsaken me?”
- “Woman behold thy son; son behold thy mother.”
- “Amen I say to you: today you will be with me in Paradise.”
- “Into your hands I commend my spirit.”
- “It is finished.
Which of these words or short sentences that were the last words that Jesus uttered from the pulpit of the cross seem to touch you most? Enter into a deep conversation with Jesus over these words; He is longing to talk to you!
7. The Passion of the Christ. View the classic film by Mel Gibson, The Passion of the Christ. This film has turned out to be one of the greatest classics of Hollywood. View this film, but not simply as a Hollywood rendition, but rather as if it were a contemplation, a deep prayer. As Saint Ignatius would suggest, try to enter into the Composition of Place and truly be present. Be not present simply as a passive spectator, but rather as an active participant. If you like, accompany the Blessed Virgin Mary during the whole trajectory of the Calvary climb. Walk with Jesus; console Jesus; have compassion on Jesus and love Him who loved you so much that he went through all the bitter moment so His Passion for love of you and me!
8. Penance. Given that Jesus sacrificed and suffered so much for you, why not offer up some form of sacrifice even if it be something very small. Jesus does not look so much at the exterior greatness of the action but in the love that accompanies even the smallest of actions. The love of the sacrifice of Jesus demands love on our part! What are you willing to give the Lord?
9. Good Friday Liturgy. Participate fully, actively and consciously in the moving Liturgy and ceremony of Good Friday. There is no Mass, but there is a moving and profound Liturgy that can be divided into three parts:
- 1) The Reading (like on Palm Sunday) of the Passion of Jesus, from the Gospel of Saint John
- 2) The veneration of the Holy cross. Draw close to the Holy Cross and reverentially kiss it as a sign of your gratitude and love for the suffering that Jesus underwent for the salvation of your immortal soul
- 3) Holy Communion. The most important part of the ceremony of Good Friday is the Rite of Holy Communion. If you are well-disposed, receive Jesus into the depths of your heart with burning love!
10. Our Lady of Sorrows. Of enormous help in plumbing the depths of the Passion, suffering and death of Jesus is the person and the presence of Our Lady of Sorrows. Aside from Jesus Himself, nobody ever suffered or loved as much as Our Lady. There she was “Stabat Mater”, the Mother who stood valiantly at the foot of the cross as she watched her Son, shed every drop of His Precious Blood that she gave to Him in His humanity. She heard and meditated on His last words. She saw Him die and breathe forth His spirit into the hands of the Father. Our Lady even saw and experienced the piercing of His Sacred Heart from which flowed Blood and water—the birth of the Church, the Mystical Body of Christ. Beg for the grace to be able to contemplate the Passion of Jesus through the eyes and heart of Mary, our life our sweetness and our hope! May our meditation on the Passion, suffering, and death of Jesus transform our whole lives and being into a living sacrifice of praise to our all-loving Savior and Redeemer!