Prior to the Celebration of the Lord's Passion this Good Friday afternoon, the Ligaya ng Panginoon community had a recollection. I was there because Lingkod and CYA usually joined them, as partners-in-mission, every Easter Triduum. Together we pondered and meditated on Jesus' seven last words, which was presented in different media, all aimed at leading us into deeper reflection on the Lord's passion.
It seemed to me that I was seated on the middle seat of the theater, and I was standing directly under the Cross. I thus came face to face with Christ, and while listening to His words, they echoed in my heart. I did not know what to say. Really, I did not. I could not find the words. I felt my words could diminish the meaning of His act of love. I did not know what to think. There was so much I did not know, and so much I could not understand - His suffering, His love, and all for my salvation? Who was I to deserve it? I rested from thinking and just dwelled in His presence, letting His Spirit in me bring my prayers to Him, with sighs too deep for words.
I did not know how to act. I was thankful that there was a stage, and that I was a spectator. Yet a response was called for. My heart was moved. My mind was challenged. My soul was stirred. I sang when we were asked to sing. I wrote down questions - those that led me to ask "My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?" I jotted down concrete ways in answering Jesus' thirst - through helping the least of my brothers and sisters. I prayed for those who had not yet turned to the Lord, who went on with life ignoring His love, and asked how I could be an instrument to bring them closer to that love. I listened to a sharing of a man whose past life was so worldly his wife almost gave up on him, and how the thought of losing his son brought him back to his senses, and led to his conversion. I prayed for more stories like that, of families reunited and lives transformed. For poverty, I had seen and known, was not only manifested in physical hunger. Even those who were rich in material possessions suffered of poverty of love, of joy, and of peace, in their homes. And their suffering was no less painful.
Fr. Vic Salanga, SJ, in his homily on the Lord's passion, said that with the benefit of time, a revisit of the message of the film "The Passion of the Christ" was possible. He said that one major criticism of that movie was its over-fascination with the sufferings of Christ - through the instruments of torture, the gushing of blood, and other graphic depictions of pain. He said that Christ did suffer much, but he suffered out of love. If we would listen to the gospel today, taken from John 18:1—19:42, and compared how it was depicted on film, we would see a difference in treatment. Fr. Vic said that a movie should be made with emphasis on Christ's passion in loving.
For the Easter Triduum I was assigned by my confessor to read and study Paul's Letter to the Romans. I guess that was where it started, the feeling that I knew so little, and could respond with so little. Yet as I carefully went through the chapters, I heard Jesus asking simply what I could understand, and what response I could give. He did not expect a scholarly approach to my study, in fact, Paul's letter was about salvation not through the law but through faith in Jesus Christ.
I heard many people saying they did not want anything to do with Christ's suffering, as it was all in the past anyway, He had already risen, and they could no longer identify with it anymore, given the way their lives were going. In fact, they most likely chose not to be identified with His suffering. I prayed for them tonight, that they might eventually come into a personal relationship with Christ, as someone who could save them - from sin and death - and who expressed His great love on the Cross.
Like all humans, I simply do not want to suffer. As much as possible, I try to avoid any form of pain and suffering, as if there was any other way to be transformed! A timely reminder came through my penance. Of all the sixteen (16) chapters of Romans, I was struck by Romans 5:3-5 (NAB), which says:
"Not only that, but we even boast of our afflictions, knowing that affliction produces endurance, and endurance, proven character, and proven character, hope, and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the holy Spirit that has been given to us."
Only through Christ could I say after reading the passage above that it is possible to rejoice in my suffering. There is redemptive value, if I join it with Christ's, and I see to what end I suffer. The realization also was that after laying down my suffering at His feet, the burden was eased, although the causes still existed.
I do not know what to think, say, or do apart from what Christ has revealed to me, done for me and, inspired me to do. As I kissed Jesus' feet during the Veneration of the Cross earlier today, I became aware of deep love, flowing from His heart, to mine. And for that moment, nothing else mattered.
I sometimes want to accomplish too much, but thank God for this moment to pause and reflect, to be reminded that I cannot give what I do not have. The Jesus I can share to others is only as real as the Jesus in my heart.