The Passion of Christ
by Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J.
Since the dawn of Christianity, the Passion of Christ has been the deepest
inspiration of the followers of Christ. His sufferings and death have been
the deepest motive that believing Christians have had to follow in His bloody
footsteps. What He endured out of love for us is meant to inspire us out of
love for Him.
No matter how young the persons whom we instruct,
they are not too young to have learned the deepest lesson of life, that life
means endurance and only strong love can inspire people with the strength necessary
to remain faithful to the teachings of Christ from childhood to old age, and
The four verbs that now 2,000 years of Christian history has associated with
Christs Passion are crucial to a correct understanding of what the Catholic
religion is all about. Jesus suffered willingly in order to redeem a
sinful human race. He was crucified in an agonizing execution,
along with two notorious criminals. He died as a result of His bloody
crucifixion. And after His death He was buried in a strangers tomb because
even in death He did not have a place of His own whereon to lay His head.
Whatever else students are taught about the faith, they must be taught to believe
and, as far as they can , understand that God became man in order that, as man,
He might suffer for us. Since life on earth, even for the most peaceful and
prosperous has its share of suffering, we must have strong motivation for the
patient endurance of pain. There is no more powerful motive we can have than
the realization on faith that God suffered and died out of love for us; so we
should be willing to suffer and, if need be, die out of love for Him.
I can make no better recommendation to the catechists than to urge them to
read and meditate on the apostolic letter, On the Christian Meaning of Suffering
of Pope John Paul II. Especially the fifth chapter on, Sharers in the Suffering
of Christ, is a goldmine of clear inspiration for every follower of Christ
to want to be an imitator of Christ by sharing in the Saviors own experience
of the Passion.
Here are some of the lessons the catechist
can bring out to his students, to show them that Christs Passion is not only
a historical memory but a constant, present-day reality.
- Every believer in Christ in greater
or less measure is called to share in the Passion of Christ.
- This sharing in Christs suffering is not only psychological.
We are not only to be strengthened in our willingness to carry the cross by
knowing that Christ carried His cross before us. No. Our daily cross is mysteriously
necessary if the work of the Redemption is to be fulfilled.
- This necessity, as we may call it, grows out of the need for
our voluntary cooperation with the graces won for us on Calvary. True enough,
we were redeemed by Christs Passion and death. The graces we need to
be saved were merited by the Savior. But we are now required
to cooperate with these graces by submitting our wills to the will of God.
In Christs words, we are to take up our cross daily and follow Him.
- Patience under trial should be taught as simply part of what
it means to be, and not merely be called, a Christian. What the faithful need
to know is that the cross is not to be a source of discouragement. It is one
of the marks of a true lover of Jesus. If we really love someone, we expect
to pay for our love.
- Catechists dare not forget that the opportunity to show their
selfless love of Jesus already begins with children. It goes on through life.
And it is one of the glories of Christianity that it provides its believers
with the most powerful motive available to human beings for not only weathering
the difficult ties of life but actually maturing spiritually and psychologically
through the experience.
For a believing Catholic, the Passion of Christ should become part of ones
spiritual life. There are many simple ways in which this can be done, depending
on a persons age and religious development.
- Every Friday is meant to be a commemoration of Calvary. According
to the Churchs law, we are to perform some kind of sacrifice in union with
Christs sacrifice on the Cross on each Friday of the year. The Code of Canon
Law is clear.
The days and times of penance for the universal Church are each Friday of the
whole year and the season of Lent (Canon 1250).
Abstinence from meat or from some other food as determined by the Episcopal
Conference, is to be observed on all Fridays, unless a solemnity should fall
on a Friday. Abstinence and fasting are to be observed on Ash Wednesday and
Good Friday (Canon 1251).
- Give those whom you are teaching
the clear idea that every Friday is a day of special remembrance of the first
Good Friday when the Savior died for our redemption.
- Make sure that in every Catholic
home there is at least one crucifix on the wall.
- Encourage your charges to have a crucifix, at least a small one,
on their person. Women and girls may want to wear it around their neck. All
should carry a Rosary with a crucifix attached.
- The Sign of the Cross is made
by Catholics as a profession of their faith in two mysteries: The Holy Trinity
and the Crucifixion.
- Certain prayers should be learned by heart, for example, Soul
sanctify me. They are powerful reminders of Christs Passion
and of our sharing in His saving grace.
- Encourage attendance at Mass during the week and not only on
Sunday. The Sacrifice of the Mass is the re-presentation of what took place
on Calvary. The Mass is our principal source of divine mercy.
- Explain to those you instruct how to make short aspirations during
the day, especially when they meet with some painful experience. A single word,
Jesus, will both give strength to cope with the situation and draw the person
closer to the Savior.
Soul of Christ, sanctify me.
Body of Christ, save me.
Blood of Christ, inebriate me.
Water from the side of Christ, wash me.
Passion of Christ, strengthen me.
O good Jesus, hear me.
Within your wounds hide me.
Permit me not to be separated from you.
From the wicked foe defend me.
At the hour of my death call me.
And bid me come to you.
That with your saints I may praise you.
Forever and ever, Amen.
(Anima Christi, favorite prayer of St. Ignatius
Copyright © 1998 Inter Mirifica