Last night, I went to the cross. I watched our Lord sold for 30 pieces of silver. I watched his best friend turn his back on him. I watched his blood stain the ground as his flesh was ripped from his body. I watched men of God call for his death. I watched them hammer nails into his hands. I watched his heart break. I watched his mother weep. I watched him suffer and die. And I watched in horror. For the first time, I watched the Passion of the Christ. I have avoided it all these years. I had no desire to see my Lord suffer. I did not want that visual image to haunt me like I know it will.
I felt the nudge to watch it when I ran across images from the movie on YouTube. I was preparing a presentation on salvation for the middle school youth and I was looking for an inspirational video that would grab their attention. The attention that was grabbed was mine as images of the movie kept rolling across the screen. I resisted. I told Jesus that if he wanted me to watch that movie, then it better be easy to find- like be on HBO when I happen to be flipping channels. I wasn’t going to go to great lengths to watch my Lord tortured and killed. He has been answering a lot of my prayers lately and this one was no exception. My dear friend just happened to bring up the subject of the movie on our way out of mass on Sunday. I promptly shared my reservations about watching it. She empathized and said that she was thinking about watching it again but was pretty sure she would have a hard time renting it during holy week. I told her that if she happens to find it, then maybe I would be interested in borrowing it- maybe. To my shocking surprise, she arrived at my house 30 minutes later with the movie. She found three copies at the video store and promptly rented two and told me it was a sign. So I was trapped. I couldn’t say no anymore.
In my Baptist church, we really didn’t talk about how Christ suffered. I can’t recall a preacher standing at the pulpit describing how Christ suffered. In fact, my Baptist church uses a cross instead of a crucifix because they don’t want to focus on the suffering Lord but rather the risen Lord. My first encounter with our suffering Lord happened in the Catholic Church where I came face to face with the crucifix. It took me a while to get comfortable with this image. But once I did, I realized that by knowing more about his suffering, I could know more about his love. I went from the crucifix to the sorrowful mysteries of the rosary and stopped there. That was the extent of my knowledge of his suffering- until now.
Horrified is not a big enough word to describe how I felt through the entire movie. Although I knew how it was going to end, I found myself pleading for someone to make it stop. How could they do this to a person- any person? How could they call themselves priests of our loving God and murder someone like this? One emotion I was surprised to feel was anger. How could Judas betray my Jesus and sell him for 30 pieces of silver? How could men of God incite a crowd to kill their messiah? How come no one came to his senses and called for the torture to end? I am angry. This was my Jesus. And they tortured and killed him. I know that I will go through many different emotions as I try to unwrap myself from this movie. At least that is what I keep saying to myself. I hope that the anger will give way to something different soon. I feel guilty taking this anger with me into the Triduum. However, I do feel a little peace with my anger so maybe that is what Jesus wants me to feel before I enter into Holy Thursday.
It has helped to talk it out with my husband. He pointed out to me that the society Jesus was born into was a lot more brutal than what we know today. This is how he is able to justify some of the torture. But that got me thinking. God could have brought his son into any point in history. Why did he do it at such a brutal time? Or if he did choose modern times, would we do the same? Would Jesus meet the same end? Would he suffer like he did? Where would I be in the story? Would I be anointing his feet with oil and drying it with my hair? Would I be weeping with Mary? Or would I be standing in the crowd and calling for his death? There is a reason I was born 2000 years after his crucifixion. He knew I couldn’t handle it. He knows that had I been there, I may not be with him. Had I been there, I may not have heard him call me. I may not have recognized who he was. I may have been standing in the crowd like all the rest of them. He knows me so well.
I am blessed to have been born at this point in history where I can experience him with my spirit while surrounded by the sacraments and holding hands with my brothers and sisters in Christ. And the reason I can experience him is because of his willing crucifixion. He can call me to himself because his suffering and death won the salvation of mankind. All I have to do is step out of the crowd and live in his love. And that love has so much more meaning and depth now that I have seen his passion and watched him suffer. I am completely unworthy of that suffering, but he did it anyway. He loves me anyway. And in return, all I can do is give myself to him. Since his heart stopped beating for me, mine must beat for him.