Sponsa Christi April 14th, 2014
Superior General’s Easter Message – 2014
Dear Brothers, Sisters and Friends in the Passionist Family, Greetings to you in the Passion of Jesus!
As I pen these words, we are beginning Holy Week – a time which is so meaningful to us, Passionists, as we commemorate and accompany Jesus in the final hours of his Passion, leading to his Death and Resurrection. We enter this Week after having received the grace of Conversion – a renewal of mind and heart – during the period of Lent. Hopefully our response to this time has brought us more under the influence of Christ and leads us to see, understand and respond to all of life more clearly under the light of the Holy Spirit. Yes, each one of us is a NEW, or rather RENEWED person! This necessarily will have its impact on how I live my life and relationships as a disciple of Jesus today.
It is from this standpoint that we now enter into the experience of Holy Week, which is not simply a ‘remembering’ of the events that took place in the life of Jesus of Nazareth over 2000 years ago. Rather, through the liturgical (prayer & symbols) celebrations and listening to the accounts of the Passion of Jesus, we ‘re-live’ the memory once again and walk with Jesus, learning from the manner of his approach and response in his Passion.
While we must naturally appreciate the human pain and brutality suffered by Jesus as a consequence of his proclamation of the kingdom values and in obedience to the will of the Father, let us aim to contemplate the deeper mystery of the Passion which is given meaning in the light of the Resurrection. Our Founder, St Paul of the Cross, in his contemplation of the Crucified, came to appreciate the Passion of Jesus as “the greatest and most overwhelming work of God’s love” and “the door to union with God”.
What is it that moves you as you contemplate the Passion? Fr. Richard Rohr says:
Those who “gaze upon” (John 19:37) the Crucified long enough with contemplative eyes are always healed at deep levels of pain, unforgiveness, aggressivity and victimhood. It demands no theological education at all, just an “inner exchange” by receiving the image within and offering one’s soul back in safe return.
I believe we are invited to gaze upon the image of the Crucified to soften our hearts toward God, and to know that God’s heart has always been softened toward us, even and most especially in our suffering. This softens us toward ourselves and all others who suffer.
In these days of Holy Week, we will be challenged by some of the actions and responses of Jesus in the events leading to his death on the Cross:
- his selflessness and obedience in desiring to please his Father….”Father, if you are willing, take this cup away from me. Nevertheless, let your will be done, not mine.” (Lk 22:42)
- his act of generous and humble service in washing the feet of the disciples….”…you also must wash one another’s feet. For I have set you an example, that you should also do as I have done to you.” (Jn 13:14-15)
- his concern and focus on others, not on himself….”Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me; weep rather for yourselves and for your children.” (Lk 23:28)
- his attitude and prayer of sincere forgiveness for his persecutors….”Father, forgive them; they do not know what they are doing.” (Lk 23:34)
- his complete confidence and trust in the Father despite the silence to his question and seeming absence of God….”My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” (Mk 15:34)
- his complete surrender and total self-giving in love on the Cross….”Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” (Lk 23:46)
As we celebrate the Paschal Mystery – the saving Passion, Death and Resurrection of Jesus – in these days, let us allow our renewed minds and hearts to be so shaped as to reflect the actions and response of our Saviour whose Passion and Death continue in the world of today. As stated in Article #65 of our Constitutions (editor note: this is the Constitutions of the Passionist Men):
We Passionists make the Paschal Mystery the centre of our lives. This entails a loving commitment to follow Jesus Crucified, and a generous resolve to proclaim His Passion and death with faith and love. His Passion and death are no mere historical events. They are ever-present realities to people in the world of today, “crucified” as they are by injustice, by the lack of a deep respect for human life, and by a hungry yearning for peace, truth, and the fullness of human existence.
St Paul of the Cross said: “The world lives unmindful of the sufferings of Jesus which are the miracle of miracles of the love of God. We must arouse the world from its slumber.”
As Passionists we have what it takes to show the world another way, and to present a different charter for life and relationships, i.e. the way of the Cross and a charter of suffering-love.
Let us not lose heart! Rather, may our participation in this Holy Week/Easter inspire and strengthen our hope to live and witness our Passionist vocation in union with the Crucified Lord and with a renewed commitment for ‘the crucified’ in our world.
I wish each one of you every blessing this Easter. May you know the joy of the presence of the Risen Lord!
May the PASSION of Jesus Christ be always within our minds and hearts; so the LIFE of Jesus too may be in us.
- Fr. Joachim Rego, C.P.