A quiet house, and no early morning Mass because truly, the only time to celebrate the Lord’s Supper is in the evening, and nothing on my calendar until 10:30 this morning – it’s an ideal combination for reflection, and reflection almost always leads me here to write, or at least to capture a few notes for writing later.
My thoughts, this morning as I went around doing my morning things, turned to how Jesus might have spent this last “normal” morning of His life on earth. We know from the synoptic gospels only that Jesus, on Thursday morning, instructed His disciples to prepare the place for them to share the Passover meal. John’s gospel is even less revealing, saying only that after talking to the crowds on the first day of the week, after His triumphal entry into the city, “Jesus left and hid from them” (John 12:36). What began to occupy my thoughts, in the absence of specific information about what Jesus did that day, was the idea that as the hours wore on, He knew what was coming. There was no formless dread or anxiety for the unknown; as the Son of God, He knew exactly what would happen, moment by agonizing moment – every mockery, every humiliation, every excruciating pain of the torture of scourging and crucifixion. As the Son of God in fully human form, He knew all that His human body would suffer in all possible intensity of detail. I think of Him going about what should have been an ordinary day, with all of this knowledge churning and churning in His human mind while He considered the divine will that He also carried within Himself. He knew it was going to be bad, and He knew that in the kind of detail that none of us ever knows when we are dreading the events of tomorrow.
And He went on and did it all anyway. He chose to submit Himself to questioning, and mockery, and physical abuse and torture that went on, if I think of it conservatively, from perhaps 9:00 Thursday evening until 3:00 Friday afternoon. Eighteen hours; 1,080 minutes; 64,800 seconds – each spent in the intimate and detailed knowledge of what suffering the next seconds and all of the coming minutes and hours would bring, while suffering in the present moment as well.
He went and did it all anyway. And there it is – there is “the greatest love,” the love with which He loved us. He chose to go through that kind of suffering because He loved the Father’s creation, mankind.
And because He is God, He did it while holding each and every single person ever created in His heart and mind. Personally. And even if we can get some grasp of what that means, it still doesn’t begin to touch the fullness of His infinite love for us.
Forget, for a moment, all of the specifics we know about the tortures Jesus suffered and about His death. What truly astounds me, in my reflection today, is the gut-wrenching, heart-bursting, soul-searing love that Jesus felt in His human self – an echo, no, a full reproduction of the world-filling, all-amazing, eternal love that God carries for His creation. He could have chosen any of a multitude of ways to show this love and to reconcile His sinful, stubborn people to Himself. And He chose a way to do this that was sure to engage us in all of our senses, a way that would create empathy and gratitude in even the hardest of hearts, if they only open themselves to that kind of grace.
As I prayed the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary yesterday, I considered how I would feel about someone I know and love being treated so horribly and suffering such pain and indignity. It’s then that I realized just how little I really have progressed in my relationship with Jesus – how great His love is for me, and how small is my own ability to love Him. Knowing what I know about Jesus and His merciful love, I must allow Him to reach me at my center and change me from the core of my heart and my being so that I can begin to love Him in at least some small semblance of the way I ought to love Him.
There is this, in the suffering and passion and death of our Jesus: that the very fact of His pain, His bleeding, His excruciating burden of sin and guilt – the burden that He took on for all of us, the burden that so weighed Him down that Simon of Cyrene had to be forced into carrying His cross so that He could even survive to then be crucified – all of this acted to spur on His tormenters in their viciousness. The act of causing Him pain dragged, even drew them deeper into the pit of sin and depravity.
I think, as I consider the very monstrousness of this idea, that one of the greatest gifts of His merciful suffering and His willing sacrifice for our redemption is that we are given a new lease on our free will. We are given back the ability to fully and wholeheartedly choose Jesus, a choice whose meaning and import are forever affirmed and validated by the choice that Jesus Himself made. Because the choice Jesus Himself made – the choice to suffer and die out of a deep personal love for me and for every person who ever lived or ever will life – was forever affirmed and validated by His Resurrection, everything that I do in service to Him or to “the least of these” has new meaning. My choice and my quest to walk with Jesus, Who is always near and waiting for me to follow Him, has new meaning.
This, to me, is the fullness of Holy Week. It is a matter of seeing what Jesus did in the full context of His humanity and His divinity – this is what brings redemption fully into my soul.
And I can live with that.
Leave a Reply