Passion of Christ by Matthias Stom
For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. Matthew 16:25
By: Ashley Blackburn
I was recently reading a book of writings by Blessed Henry Suso who was a Dominican priest. He lived a life of wonderful labors and sufferings and died in the fourteenth century with a reputation for sanctity which the Church has solemnly confirmed. Gregory XVI granted to the order of St Dominic the offering of the Mass yearly in his honor on March 2nd.
Blessed Henry Suso talked about the importance of meditating on the passion of Jesus Christ. He said that graces abound when we reflect and meditate on the passion. This stood out to me in my reading and so I put the book down and took this to prayer. While reflecting and praying on these words, so much more came to light.
First of all, in taking a huge step back and trying to see things from a broader vantage point, I noticed that God IS the passion. The passion was revealed to us through Jesus Christ who is the Word made flesh. Jesus was conceived and born from the womb of a woman, grew up in a family with a mom and a dad, was in ministry as a healer and teacher, and had the authority to cast out demons and forgive sins. All of his life was a leading up to and a preparation in order to reveal God to all of mankind through the passion. Since God always was, is and ever will be, this revelation of the very nature of God is reflected in all of his creation. Thus when we meditate on the passion we are able to better understand who God is and in turn who we are, or better yet, who God created us to be.
By the passion I mean the process or journey that Jesus took from the garden to the resurrection. This process is reflected in all things by their very nature. Created by God, all things will naturally reflect their maker, including humans, plants, animals, nature, the universe, etc. It’s the cycle of all things and the life of all things. Don’t get me wrong, this is not a literal definition of God because he can’t be put into a box. More so it is an endless living witness of the revelation of God’s very nature. So by meditating on the process of the passion that is reflected in all of God’s creation, we are given the grace to draw closer in our own unique way to the mystery of God. This is why we can have an experience or revelation of God through our experiences in nature. At the core of it all, God is reflected in nature and so we can also come to understand him through our meditating upon HIM through nature. But nature in itself is not God, just as we as humans are not God. Instead, nature is God’s creation, just as we humans are, and thus we reflect our maker.
But there is one major difference between humans and the rest of God’s creation. Humans have been given free will, which is what sets us apart and gives us dominion over the rest of creation. For instance when you look at a tree or a lizard, these things are both given life by God and can survive in this world through this life that was given to them by God. The tree and the lizard do not have free will, but live based upon natural instinct, which is always a reflection of God. They cannot choose to NOT reflect God or be something other than what God created them to be. They are always perfectly ordered toward God, naturally through their instinct. So the nature of God can always be revealed through God’s creation because his creation, other than humans, cannot choose to do otherwise.
This uniqueness of humans, that we have been given free will, not only sets us apart from the rest of creation, but it also means that we have a bigger responsibility than the rest of creation. Free will is an incredible gift of faith by God. He knows that our will, due to the fall, is drawn to things other than Him, namely the pleasures of this world. But God also knows our potential. Our potential is greater than all creation because of the choice we are given to either turn away from God or to turn toward him and align our will with his. All other created things do not have the choice to be something other than what they were created to be. The tree cannot choose to be a lizard and the lizard cannot do anything other than to be, look, and act like a lizard.
So what is it that God asks of us. Are we certain He wants us to be something other than what He created us to be? If we are questioning this then we are attempting to be God. We are trying to operate outside of our authority. We as humans have been given authority over all of God’s creation, but the one thing we were not given authority over is God. This was what Adam and Eve were tricked into thinking by the serpent in the garden. God told them where their authority was, but the serpent convinced Eve that they could be like God. Eve believed the serpent and ate the fruit and the consequences of this act remain with us today… the first reflection of the passion.
So when we as humans, who have been gifted with free will, meditate on the passion, we are aligning our will with God. We are understanding and becoming more fully who we were made to be… tapping into it so to speak. But since we as humans can choose whether or not we want to be who God created us to be, we have the potential for either a fuller union with God or complete separation from God. We can choose to deny the will of God and follow our own will, or we can surrender our will to him and live to our full potential of who we were created to be. This is what Jesus means when he says that those who lose their lives will save it. Ultimately God is asking each one of us to hand over our will to Him. This gift of our free will that was given to us at our conception, He is actually waiting for us to choose to offer it back to Him. Not so He can lord it over us or make us slaves, but so we can freely live in perfect union with Him. So we can actually be who He created us to be.
Although we as humans are also capable of reflecting God, it is not automatic or instinctual, as it is for plants and animals. This is because of original sin and it also is based upon our choices and our actions. In every decision we make we are choosing to either act in alignment with the Will of God or we are choosing to act upon our own will. So how do we know what is the Will of God? Well I believe Blessed Henry Suso would say that we come to know the Will of God by meditating on the passion. This is the revelation of God that he has spoken to us through his Divine Word, Jesus Christ. It is the center of all things and thus is reflected in all things. It is the spring of everlasting life, in which we will never go thirsty when we drink of it.
The passion endlessly reveals to us who God is and so when we know God more fully we will in turn love Him and thus be able to serve Him. Our life here on earth is our learning to choose God. For when we are standing face to face with Him at the end of this life we want to be firm in our faith so as to be able to choose God one final time. Our final judgement is a revelation of our entire lives. Laid out for us in the presence of God and in the light of the Savior. All will be revealed and all will be known. A life spent in preparation for this moment is what we are called to. A life spent choosing, by our own free will, to know God and to lovingly surrender our will back to Him is how we prepare for our eternity. We will see the battle that took place for our free will.
Many of us will know in this moment how much we clung to our own will and did not fully surrender to God because perhaps we didn’t fully know how, but we did sincerely seek Him. This is why God in his infinite mercy gives us purgatory, an opportunity where, knowing our weakness, He purifies us and through this process our will surrenders to His. We cannot keep our will and live in eternity with God for in giving up of ourselves, we can live fully in the Divine Will. Hell is for those in that final moment who choose to turn away from God completely, essentially handing their will to Satan and rejecting God. This is done because they don’t trust God, which is a result of not knowing Him or caring to know Him. They know their sins and sit in them without remorse, thus handing the dominion of their will to the evil one. But for those who know God, when we get a glimpse of the truth of who God is, we will fall in love and spend the rest of our life living for that love. This brings the Kingdom of God to us, and these people are Saints and heaven is their reward.
Meditate on the Passion of Jesus Christ. It will help you surrender your will to Him and catapult you on your journey to Sainthood.