His Sorrowful Passion

shutterstock_26224891Catholics seem preoccupied with the sufferings of Christ–The Crucifix, the sorrowful Mysteries, the Stations of the Cross.  As if all this were not enough, Catholics must stand at attention one Sunday each year as they listen to the entire passion narrative read aloud.

Careful, repeated meditation on the Passion of Christ is important because the Passion is the climax of the entire history of Revelation and Redemption.  It the ultimate Revelation of two intertwined realities: human sin and divine love.

First let’s talk about sin.  People often think of sin merely as a transgression of God’s arbitrary law, as a blot on our heavenly driving record.  Meditation on the Passion makes us know better.  Sin not only alienates us from God, it corrupts us, debases us, enslaves us.  The fickle crowd that carpets his way into Jerusalem with palms drives him out with a cross on his back.   One of his own betrays him to his enemies, another denies him.  The Roman soldiers, to whom he did no wrong and was no threat, took diabolical pleasure in brutalizing him.  Hard to believe that human beings are capable of such cruelty?  Auschwitz reminds us that such evil really does lurk in the hearts of men.  Then there is Pilate, who seems to be a much more reasonable figure.  Maybe more like us.  He just wants to keep the peace, preserve his relationship with the Jewish leaders and the Emperor.  If it means allowing an innocent man to be tortured to death – well, it’s regrettable, but that’s the price of living in the real world.  Ultimately, Pilate’s sin is an act of cowardice.  Remember, sin is not just commission but omission.  It involves what we do and what we fail to do, as we say in the Confiteor.

But, you say, it had to be so.  God planned it this way.  It was all predicted in the Scriptures.  Yes, but God’s foreknowledge does not mean he predetermined it.  All the actors in the drama were free and responsible.  Their sins are our sins.  Indeed, they represent all of us, Jew and Gentile, male and female, black, white and yellow.  That’s why Mel Gibson made an appearance in the Passion of the Christ – it was his hands that held down Jesus’ hands as they were nailed to the cross.

But the story of the passion is even more importantly a revelation of who God is.  The First Letter of John 4:8 says God is love.  The passion shows us what love means.  Love cannot sit idly by in the face of suffering.  It instead leaves comfort behind and risks itself to mount a rescue mission.  Love, therefore, must first empty Himself of glory at the Fathers right hand, and take the form of a slave (Phil 2:6-11).  From the splendor of heavenly glory to the squalor of a stinking stable.  As if that were not enough, Love surrenders himself into the hands of those who torture him to death.  He saw their torches coming in the valley as he prayed on the hillside in the Garden.  He could have walked over the mountain and disappeared without a trace in the Judean wilderness.  Or he could have used his divine power at any moment to scatter the Temple Guard and the Romans.  Till the very end, he could have come down from that cross, as the crowd taunted him to do.

But that’s just it.  He had to love till the very end (John 13:1).  Love to the max. The fullness of love in a human heart means a love that was absolutely unstoppable by anything that hell and fallen humanity could hurl against it.  And no love, no commitment is total unless it entails the supreme sacrifice of one’s life.

That’s what was necessary to redeem us out of slavery to evil, to get us out of Egypt and through the Red Sea, across the Jordan, and into the Promised Land.  It was for our freedom that he died; let’s not again willingly submit ourselves to the bondage of sin.


Image credit: Shutterstock.com

Marcellino D'Ambrosio, Ph.D.


Dr. Marcellino D’Ambrosio writes from Texas. For info on his resources and pilgrimages to Rome and the Holy Land, visit www.crossroadsinitiative.com or call 800.803.0118.

Subscribe to CE
(It's free)

Go to Catholic Exchange homepage

  • Agreed that God’s foreknowledge of events doesn’t mean he predetermined them. But no event takes place without his consent. So every evil act happens with his consent. Isn’t that tantamount to agreeing it must happen?

  • NYCFiredog

    When we meditate on the Stations of the Cross, and the Sorrows of Mary, which the worst pain she felt were the pains that Her Son felt, and more, the helplessness we have when we see someone we love carry their cross. When we meditate on the Passion, we have to know that at some time of our lives we will play each of the roles in our own initiations. Sometimes we will be the reluctant Simon or the eager Simon. Sometimes we will be the Pilate buying our peace with the Powers that be, or Peter denying Our Lord and hide our discipleship out of fear of condemnation or persecution. We ALSO get to chose our roles as we live our lives. And we will also carry OUR cross when our time comes. When we meditate on how Our Lord carried His for us, we can attempt to carry ours for Him and offer up our suffering for Him who suffered so much more than we could imagine or fathom. To know what He suffered for us helps us to love Him more for the price He paid FOR US. When He was praying “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do” He was praying for us, and we are supposed to imitate Him in forgiving those who betray US. Are we the mocking thief, or the mocking crowd, or Veronica? Sometimes if we live long enough, we are all of them. I’m a transplanted New Yawka now in Texas btw.