Grace: A deep desire to have sorrow and compassion for Jesus, to suffer with Him because He is going to His Passion for me.
Text for Prayer: Mt. 27:27-50
Reflection: In today’s passage from Matthew’s Gospel, we are confronted by the scandal of a God who stoops so low as to allow Himself to be stripped naked before a crowd of soldiers, whipped and wounded without mercy, and then hung up on a tree to die.
Through all of this, what causes Jesus the most pain? Is it the physical suffering, which approaches the very limit of all that a human body can take before falling unconscious? Is it the shame of being completely naked before a host of one’s enemies, of feeling entirely vulnerable and helpless? Is it the pain of being abandoned by one’s closest friends, a group of men who all promised their unwavering fidelity only a few hours before?
In addition to all of those sufferings, Jesus also finds Himself mocked and ridiculed by the chief priests and the guards, who sarcastically call Him “King of the Jews.” Here, the hope of the Jewish people is crucified and their King is destroyed before their very eyes, on a hill just outside their most holy city, on a roadway where every passer-by cannot help but see. Worst of all, it is the Jewish people themselves who do this, all the while taunting God the Father to repent of His merciful plan and take Jesus down from the cross. This is the abomination par excellence in all of human history, an offense crying out for God’s action such that the world has never before seen and will never see again. How could God the Father remain silent and allow this to happen?
Such is the cry of many people even today when they are confronted by abominable suffering, and we have no answer to offer in response to their cries. Before such suffering, such injustice, such offenses in the sight of God, there is no adequate response. There are no words of explanation. Here, we are confronted with more than human beings can understand or explain.
All that we can do is watch and bear witness to all that is happening. Through the eyes of faith, all that we see is not meaningless, even in the very moment when all our explanations and attempts to find meaning fail us. In that failure of our understanding, God’s wisdom—which is forever beyond our wisdom—shines through to show us His infinite, self-giving, sacrificial, redemptive love. Christ’s Passion is not merely the greatest horror the world has ever known; it is also the greatest love the world has ever known. And in the perfect wisdom of our good God, love always wins, even when it is faced with the horrors of death on a cross.
Questions: As Jesus tells us elsewhere, those who crucify Him do not know what they are doing. They have lost sight of who they are because they have lost sight of who God is. As I stand with Jesus at the foot of the cross, what does His Passion tell me about myself? As I watch the Lord suffer death in order that I might know Him and be with Him forever, how do I feel moved to show my gratitude? What does His self-giving love call me to in my life right now?