LENT is the journey of penance and penances to Holy Week, to the celebration of the great mystery of our faith: the passion, death and resurrection of the Lord.

As disciples of Jesus Christ, let us contemplate the mystery of the passion of Christ. What is the meaning of the Passion of Christ for us?

Before the Blessed Sacrament, we pray often: O Sacred banquet, in which Christ is received, the memory of his Passion is recalled, the soul is filled with grace, and a pledge of future glory is given to us. The memory of his Passion is recalled!

We remember Mel Gibson’s acclaimed film The Passion of the Christ.For some, the film is a bit too much: too much blood from Jesus. For many others, for us, the film is very close to reality, the dark reality of the passion and death of Jesus. Mel Gibson explains: “The passion of Christ is very strong. We are accustomed to see beautiful crucifixes hanging on the wall, and we say Jesus was scourged, carried his cross on his shoulders and then nailed on the wood of the cross … Through my childhood, I did not understand how that happened. The profound horror of what He suffered for our redemption did not shock me. To understand what He suffered, also at the human level, makes me feel not only compassion, but also the debt I owe him. I want to compensate him for the immensity of his sacrifice.”

We firmly believe in Christ:  in Christ Crucified. To believe inGod crucified is to recognize God in Christ crucified(J. Moltmann). Why the Only Begotten Son of God is crucified and dies on the cross?  He could have delivered us through his divine will!

Why Jesus’ death on a cross, which is a most humbling way of dying?  “There was no other more suitable way of healing our misery than by the Passion of Christ” (St. Thomas Aquinas).  Why? We are given four main reasons:

(1) In the first place, because through his passion and his crucifixion, Jesus shows us his infinite love: “God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten Son” – to save it, to save us all (cf. Jn 3:15).

(2) Moreover, Christ by dying on the Cross reveals to us the gravity of sin and our need of a Savior. Jesus dies on the cross to show us the evilness of sin and thus teaches us to refrain from committing sin: “He himself bore our sins, so that freed from sins, we might live for righteousness” (I Pet 2:24).

(3) Furthermore, by His Passion, Christ delivered us not only from sin, but also merited sanctifying grace for us and the glory of happiness: “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us” (cf. Gal 1:13).

(4)Through his passion, Jesus gives us an example to follow. We know that He is our Way, which includes necessarily the Way of the Cross. St. Peter says: “Christ also suffered for us, leaving you an example that you should follow in His steps” (1 Peter 2:21).

The sufferings of Jesus, who is the suffering servantof the prophet Isaiah,were incredible: his agony in the garden, the betrayal of Judas, the abandonment by his disciples; He is accused falsely, condemned unjustly, mocked, ridiculed, and scourged at the pillar. And thereafter, the way of the cross, his crucifixion and death on a cross. Through it all: the serenity of Jesus, his silence, his forgiving love, his obedience to the Father.

The saints love to contemplate Jesus on the Cross! A wooden crucifix presiding the main altar of a chapel removes the nail on his right hand to embrace St. Bernard. Christ on the cross in San Damiano asks Francis of Assisi to restore his Church. The preferred book of Saint Catherine of Siena was Christ’s death on the cross. St. John of the Cross, for whom the cross is the staff for the journey of life, heard from a painting of Christ carrying the cross these words: “You have done a lot for me, what you wish from me?” The incomparable mystic answers: Only to suffer and to be despised for your sake!  St. John XXIII writes in his Journal of the Soul: “My great book, from which I must draw, with great care and affection, the divine lessons of high wisdom are the crucifix.”

How may we respond to the passion and cross of Jesus?  We are authentic followers of Christ, true disciples if we follow him carrying our own cross: “If anyone wants to be a follower of mine, let him renounce himself and take up his cross and follow me”(Mt 15:24). We try hard to carry our own cross patiently, prayerfully –and, if possible, joyfully. Thus, we preach, like St. Paul, a Crucified Jesus (cf. 1 Cor 1-22-24), who is also our Risen Lord.

We are Disciples of Christ who long to be intimately close to him and to those who are close to him, and to God’s creation (cf. Gen 1:31; Mt 6:28-29).  Jesus identifies himself with those crucified. Where are we when others are crucified today? Like Simon of Cyrene, we are asked to help the wounded on the roads of life bear their heavy cross. We have to practice love for the needy and poor, who are for us Christ carrying his cross today: “I was hungry, and you gave me food; I was thirsty and you gave a glass of water……” Jesus is telling us: “This is me, love me! How radical and how simple” (Henri Nouwen).

We thank you, Lord, for your wounds, for your cross, for your death: for your love We love you, Lord; we are sorry for offending you and others, and creation. We ask you, humbly and prayerfully, for your continuing grace and mercy.