No Greater Love: Reflections on the Way of the Cross
Palm Sunday, April 14, 2019: No Greater Love
Session Four Sharing
Today, as a fitting start to the holiest week of the year, we discussed Our Lord’s Way of the Cross and the Crucifixion. One thing that Dr. Sri especially emphasized in the study was the life-changing effect wrought by even chance encounters with the Suffering Christ. He listed several examples of this – the “good thief” (“Jesus, remember me when you come into Your kingdom”), the Roman centurion (“truly, this was the Son of God”), and, very probably, Simon of Cyrene. One Sister, especially struck by this point, took it a little further: if one meeting with Christ can change someone so dramatically, then what about we who receive Him daily in Holy Communion? Do we sometimes forget just how powerful even a single reception of the Holy Eucharist is?
Another Sister was very inspired by the extent of the Old Testament prophecies that are fulfilled in Christ’s Passion. Dr. Sri cites texts from Exodus, Leviticus, the Psalms, Isaiah, Zechariah, and Amos, and shows how they all tie in to the Paschal Mystery. Then a Sister wondered aloud at how, despite all this, it was the highly trained “Scripture scholars” (the scribes, Pharisees, and chief priests), who refused to acknowledge Christ as Messiah. In fact, it was mostly the common, uneducated people and even some of the Gentiles who truly believed in and accepted Him. In our own age of countless commentaries and Bible studies, we have even more background and understanding of the Scriptures– but we have this sobering example to warn us that, even with extensive knowledge, we can still “miss the point.” It is only through humility and purity of heart that we receive the grace to truly understand God’s Word and what it has to say for us and our times.
We also discussed Dr. Sri’s striking insight about the mockery Jesus endured on the Cross. All three groups who are mentioned as deriding Christ (the priests, the crowds, and the crucified criminals) use some form of a particular phrase: “If you are the Son of God . . .” An attentive reader of the Gospels might remember someone else who had used this same phrase earlier in Christ’s life – “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to turn into bread. “ (Matt. 4:3) These taunts thrown at the Crucified Jesus are no mere human spite; they are fueled by the Devil, the Accuser, the Tempter himself! This reminds us that the Cross of Christ was truly a battleground between the forces of light and darkness. However, even the worst that the evil one could throw at Jesus ultimately led to the triumph of God, for it was through this very suffering and death of God’s Son that redemption and victory was won!
Finally, we shared the fruits of a beautiful prayer exercise suggested by Dr. Sri in our workbooks: read the famous “hymn to love” in 1 Corinthians 13 and then ponder how Christ exhibits each of these qualities in His Passion. “Love is patient,” even when dealing with headstrong Peter and slow-to-understand Philip. “Love is kind,” even towards the traitorous Judas. “Love bears all things,” whether insults, mockery, scourging, or crowning with thorns. “Love endures all things,” “even death – death on a Cross!” (Cf. Phil. 2:8). This passage from 1 Corinthians, especially in conjunction with the Passion, can also help us to examine our own lives – “Am I patient in my sufferings, as Christ was? Am I kind to those who hurt me? Do I rejoice in wrongdoing and vengeance, or do I rejoice in truth and mercy?” As we enter the Sacred Paschal Triduum, it is our prayer that we may all become more deeply conformed to Christ in His Passion, so that we may have a greater share in the joy of His Resurrection this Easter!