Fr Jim Cogley
Today the account of Christ’s entry into Jerusalem marks the beginning of Holy week that was to end in his Passion and death on the Cross. I read somewhere that what we understand as the Passion of Christ could be best understood as the passivity of Christ and it left me curious as to what the writer had in mind by saying that? It certainly makes a lot of sense. Up until the time of his arrest Christ was very much his own man. He went freely where he willed, he associated with those whom he wanted, he ministered to the sick, he preached to the multitude and he taught in the Temple. After the Last Supper all that changed. He was betrayed by Judas and arrested by the Temple guards, he was tried, he was sentenced, he was condemned and he was crucified. In all of those events he took a totally passive role. No longer was he doing as he had done before, as when in Nazareth the crowd wanted to stone him, but he just walked through them all unscathed. Here there is no sign of him doing anything miraculous, he is just allowing things be done to him, and taking a totally passive role.
However beneath all his apparent passivity there is his unconditional Yes to drinking the cup of suffering that the Father has given him. It is this incredible level of acceptance that allows him to take the very worst that is inflicted upon him and in the process to transform it.
First he had the betrayal of Judas that was probably motivated by disappointment that Jesus wasn’t the political messiah he was expecting.
There was the denial by Peter who feared being deemed guilty by association.
There was the desertion of his closest apostles because of cowardice.
Then he had a string of lies and false accusations leveled against him.
The crowd that once hung onto his every word were crying out for his crucifixion.
After that came his disgrace and condemnation to death as a criminal.
Next he was stripped and scourged before being forced to carry his cross.
Finally he was nailed to the cross where he was to breath his last.
All of that constituted his passion but during none of it was he any more than a dumb lamb that was being led to its slaughter. He never once opened him mouth to defend himself or to protest at the injustice of his treatment. So in effect his Passion was also his passivity, he just went with what was, he allowed it to be, and endured what needed to be endured.
My reason for presenting the Passion in this way is because it has huge implication for all of us in the way we deal with any form of pain, discomfort or suffering in our lives. Christ in his passivity and acceptance of suffering actually transformed it. When he arose on Easter Sunday morning he still had the wounds of suffering, they weren’t healed, but they were transformed and became sources of healing for others.
In our own lives we tend to run as far as we possibly can from every form of suffering or discomfort. The idea of being passive and sitting with our emotions seems quite foreign. However, is Christ not teaching us a radical alternative that to sit with what is, no matter how uncomfortable, is the path towards transformation?
Someone said recently that she was no longer praying to be healed from something painful in her life but she was praying for the grace to sit with it long enough for it to be transformed. That’s a radical truth that not many practice.
As a society we are all drug addicts in the way we try to block out pain. Every addict is trying to numb out emotional pain but it doesn’t go away.
Before Covit we were so busy that that we had no time to be in touch with how we were feeling. Plus we had so many distractions and going here and there that allowed us to run from ourselves.
Carl Jung once said, that all neurosis is an avoidance of legitimate suffering. With OCD it’s easier to keep checking the locks or wiping our feet than to stay with what is really causing us pain. With a phobia it’s much easier to talk about our fear of mice or spiders than to express the real cause of our suffering.
For all of us today the real distraction, and always at hand, is our mobile phone. The least trace of loneliness and we phone someone. A bit of anxiety and we look through texts or go to U-Tube. Instead of striking up a conversation with a stranger in a waiting area, it’s easier to pick up our phone and go virtual. In a younger generation this is beginning to express itself as new psychiatric disorder known as ‘social phobia’. This is where people can no longer engage in normal conversation, except via social media.
In life there is only one given apart from death and that is that we are all going to suffer in some form or another. This is something that no matter how much we try to escape from, we cannot avoid. No matter how much we put things off with our evasion techniques we cannot avoid it long term. However we can transform it and the radical message of Christ at his Passion is just how we transform it. It’s in the acceptance or allowing of what is, that change occurs. Emotions always want to be over and done with, they never want to be stay forever. However, what we resist will always persist, while what we face up to and embrace we can transform.
As Christ often said when he gave a teaching, ‘for those who have ears let them hear’. His Passion message is totally opposite to the way we normally operate so it’s not that easy to really hear and respond.