The motto of our Passionist Community is “May the Passion of Christ be always in our hearts.” I think most of us have had an experience in our lives which we could describe as ‘fixed forever in my mind’ something we’ll never forget. We’ll never forget seeing the twin towers collapsing. We’ll never forget seeing the awesome power of the sea as we remember the tsunami that struck the coast of Japan. We’ll never forget the birth of our first child. We’ll never forget the look on someone’s face. These things are fixed forever in our mind.
When we look at a crucifix and see the broken body of Christ nailed to the cross, when we remember the mock crown of thorns woven around his head in a vice of pain, when we remember his scourged body, when we remember his hands and feet nailed to the cross, when we remember his thirst, his pain, his desperate cry, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” all these things should be forever fixed in our minds. But we must see beyond the pain and suffering, see beyond the wrongness and injustice of it all. We see in the crucified body of Christ the love of God made visible for all to see.
There was an old passion prayer that began, “for how many ages have you hung upon your cross and still people pass you by and regard you not, – how often have I passed you by heedless of your great pain and many sorrows.” Obviously the passion of Jesus is not fixed forever on our minds.
Our first reading was of that strange request of God that Abraham sacrifice his son, his only son, the son of his old age, the son who was the promise of a future for Abrahams’ name. God was testing Abraham’s trust in the promises God made to him. The trusting, obedient Abraham was ready to do what God asked of him. But God stayed Abraham’s hand from killing his only son.
But in our second reading from Romans we are told that God the Father did not spare his own son, his only son, but gave him up for us all. This is a truth that should be ever fixed in our minds – God did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all. In Romans we have the challenging questions, “If God is for us, who can be against us – who will separate us from the love of Christ?” Paul goes on to say “For I certain of this, neither death nor life, no angel, no prince, nothing that exists, nothing still to come can ever come between us and the love of God made visible in Christ Jesus our Lord.” God did not spare his only Son but gave him up for us all.
How can we ever doubt God’s love for us, how can we ever doubt Christ’s love for us? These things are realities that should be fixed forever in our mind.
And yet, we do doubt, we do question, we do have misgivings about God’s love for each of us. Unfortunately there are times when we project our own stingy hearts, our limited ability to let the past be past, our unwillingness to let go of grudges and resentments, our failures to forgive and move on – we project all these personal limitations on to God. We make God into our image blotting out the image of the Father who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for all – blotting the image of the crucified Christ – images that should be fixed forever on our minds.
In the gospel we hear the Father declaring, “This is my son, the beloved, listen to him.” Listen to him because he loved you so much he gave his life for you. Listen to him as he tells us “love one another as I have loved you – forgive as you’ve been forgiven – feed the hungry, give water to the thirsty, clothe the naked, visit the sick and the shut ins, welcome the stranger, comfort those who mourn. As often as you do these things for one another you do them for me.
“It is not those who say Lord, Lord who will enter the kingdom but the one who does the will of my father.”
These teaching of Jesus apply to all the aspects of our ordinary lives, in our homes, in our places of work and play, in our social involvements. They come to us from the one who not only talked the talk but walked the walk, even to Calvary.
As we continue to celebrate this Mass, this reliving of the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus, we pray for ourselves and for each other that the memory of his sufferings, his death and his resurrection will be fixed forever in our minds and that memory will give us the willingness to love as we’ve been loved by the crucified Christ.