instruere...inlustrare...delectare Disputations

Monday, April 02, 2007

The Action and Death of Our Lord

I have a way of praying the Divine Mercy Chaplet that I'm inordinately proud of. Each decade, I meditate on how Jesus was betrayed or abandoned, first by Judas, then by Peter, then the Sanhedrin, then Pilate, and finally the whole world. It emphasizes the mental and spiritual suffering Jesus endured, and tends to leave me feeling like the disciples in Gethsemane who have no answer to His question, "Could you not watch one hour with Me?"

But the other night, quite unintentionally, I prayed the Chaplet the other way around. Instead of looking at Jesus' encounters with Judas et al. from the perspective of His passion -- that is, of what happened to Him -- I looked at those encounters from the perspective of His action, of the Father's love Jesus brought to everyone he met on that last day.

To Judas and to Peter, He brought a question and a look, respectively, both invitations to repentance and to rejoining Him in His glory. To the Sanhedrin and to Pilate, He brought the witness of Himself, of the Just One Who spoke the word and did the will of the Father. To those who crucified Him, He brought prayers for mercy, and to the good thief, He brought the promise of Paradise.

And, in His last moment before death, Jesus brings back to the Father His Spirit.

While Jesus' suffering, what He received from the world as punishment for loving it so much, plays no little part in the liturgies and traditions of Holy Week, we should not mistake Him for a purely passive figure, even as He stands silent before those who condemn Him. We misread the Passion Narratives if we lose sight of the love with which Jesus acts throughout.

St. Paul wasn't exaggerating when he wrote, "If I hand my body over so that I may boast but do not have love, I gain nothing." When Jesus says, "Take up your cross and follow Me," He doesn't mean to follow him only in the way of suffering. We must not only bear our crosses, we must do it with love, as He did.