To many the Passion of Christ is a lesson in history where we sympathize with Christ for the sufferings he went through before he died. We find it hard to believe how the people can be so cruel as to inflict the most severe form of pain on a man who we know was innocent.
For Christians the Passion should be more than a lesson in history. It should become a lesson in life, teaching us how to stand up for truth and justice. The Passion we commemorate is based primarily on biblical accounts of the arrest, trial, and crucifixion of Jesus Christ. From these accounts we know Jesus was falsely accused, convicted and sentenced, not by fine or imprisonment but to death by crucifixion, the severest form of sentence a man can possibly get. As if that was not enough, before he was crucified he was humiliated, severely persecuted, whipped, scourged, crowned with thorns, dragged up a hill carrying a heavy cross, stripped of his clothes and then nailed to the cross, watched by many, like a hardened criminal.
What crime did Jesus commit that deserved to be punished in that most inhumane way? It was for proclaiming the TRUTH. Yes, Jesus was tortured, humiliated and killed not for lying, corruption, rape or murder but for telling the truth, the truth which caused so much fear among those in positions of power and comfort. He was a threat to their social security and had to be eliminated at all cost. Throughout the journey of his passion, what was astonishing was the way Jesus humbly accepted his punishment which he knew was unfair and unjust. However, he accepted all that willingly without fighting back or defending himself. He did not show even the slightest anger or retaliation for being victimized, falsely accused and sentenced by the kangaroo court that tried him. He did not get angry with those who accused him, Pilate who sentenced him and the Roman soldiers who executed him. Instead he had the great magnanimity to forgive all of them who took turns to insult, torture and kill him. It was the highest level of humility that no ordinary man can have. This was in keeping with what was written “He was oppressed, yet when he was afflicted he did not open his mouth; as a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and as a sheep that before its shearers is mute, so he didn’t open his mouth” (Isaiah 53:7). Jesus taught us to love our enemies and to offer the other cheek when struck on one. He demonstrated that he really meant what he said by accepting his Passion so willingly.
We call ourselves Christians, the followers of Christ, but how Christ-like are we in accepting humiliation and pain for speaking the truth? How Christ-like are we when we are accused of offences we did not commit? Are we humble enough not to strike back? Do we forgive those who accuse us? What lesson does the Passion of Christ provide us in our own lives? We too in small ways are often falsely accused, humiliated and punished for standing up for truth, by the authorities in the government, our places of work, families and even in the church. When we are denied our rights we fight back fiercely, sometimes with vengeance. We organize protests, demonstrations, hurl verbal abuses…. we may resort to violence and wars. Many of us behave like those who made false accusations against Jesus and wanted to get rid of him. We too make false accusations against those who are against us in order to get them out of our way. We resort to all forms of tactics to succeed. We fail to realize that our efforts cause pain and suffering to the person involved and sometimes to his or her family. There may be others among us, especially those in positions of power, who behave like Pilate, refusing to stand up to public pressure for fear of losing their power.
Due to our greed, we succumb to the wrongful demands of the public and wash our hands of the problems of those in need or those who stand for truth. Like the Roman soldiers who crucified Jesus, there are many among us who carry out the “execution” of others without empathy or compassion, by gossiping, backbiting, telling half-truths and destroying one’s good name.
As we make the final way of the Cross and read the Passion of Christ this Good Friday, let us reflect on its relevance in our own lives, of Jesus’ actions during his agonizing times. Let his Passion not be just a lesson in history to commemorate Christ’s suffering at the hands of his own people. His passion is not only something to sympathize or be sorrowful about but a real lesson for us as we encounter the many challenges in our own lives. Christ’s humility and forgiveness even towards his adversaries is infinite. That is an invitation to us. That kind of love is not just what Christianity is meant to be but what humanity is about. The Cross is a sign of love, freedom and hope not sorrow and despair as we often make it to be. Let us pick up it up on Good Friday with the One who transforms into an instrument of transformation and infinite love.