I tried to make some sense of things that came undone in Jesus\’ life from the night of the Passover leading up to his death on a cross, as I stood with the crowd partaking in the Good Friday services at the church. I always had a hard-time understanding the Crucifixion as God\’s way of redeeming the fallen humanity. Crucifixion, though a horrible punishment, might not be the worst way to die – I have heard of worse and many have suffered it. This year God gave me the grace to realize what I was doing wrong all along – I was only seeing the act of crucifixion rather than being astonished by an act of God. What I failed to understand was that it was not the ridicule, the humiliation, the torture, or even the death on the cross that mattered. What mattered was who suffered it, for what and for whom.
God of Christianity is the all powerful God – the One who created everything out of nothing, the One who has no needs, the One for whom nothing is impossible, the One who is complete in himself. When I look at Jesus this way, then everything changes. Why would someone who has it all take upon the role of someone who has nothing?
God\’s love is unfathomable, but it is also the answer to everything from his humble birth to the cursed death on a cross. It is so ungodly only God can do it. Not only did God gave us his only Son (John 3:16), but he did so while we were helpless, sinners and enemies of him (Romans 5:6-10). The breadth and length and height and depth of love of Christ surpasses all knowledge (Ephesians 3:18). Apparently I totally lack the knowledge of God’s love – I see the Crucifix and I am confused. Without comprehending the love of Christ, I can never call myself a follower of Christ, a Christian, even more importantly a catholic.
Inspired by the Spirit of God, St. John the Apostle said, \”If God so loved us, we also must love one another\” (1 John 4:11). Rather than always loving others for who they are, I always look for things in them that I could use to judge them, then to dislike them. I find others, even the ones closest to my heart, unreasonable and at times unpleasant. I am always eager to point out their mistakes and shortcomings, and I am disheartened because of their selfishness and envy. I look at the world and see all the imperfections, I am pained by the way the world has destroyed its own beauty, I question God for giving what is holy to dogs, for throwing pearls before swine.
Often times I am kind to others not because of love but because I am afraid of the repercussions of not loving. And on those rare occasions when I do good out of love for my neighbor rather than out of fear, I worry about being accused of some ulterior motives. I worry that people would think of me as a fraud, thus minimizing or nullifying the effort I put into doing it. I am reluctant to do anything if I can\’t get others to appreciate it and enjoy it, let alone doing things that would open myself up to unnecessary criticism and eventual heartache.
I always confuse forgiving as forgetting. I think I am good at forgiving, but what I do in reality is suppress my anger and frustration and walk around as if nothing ever happened. Outside I am teflon – nothing sticks to me; inside I am a volcano – fuming and ready to explode. I think it is better if I can find ways to forget than forgive – it is too painful to forgive, I am forever giving up my chance to get back at them. I would rather forget – I would be pain free, and memories have a strange way of returning when I need it.
Is it possible for anybody to keep all the commandments? I am disappointed with the answer because the response is always, “If you choose, you can keep the commandments” (Sirach 15:15). Upon realizing that the area I struggle most in my life is honesty, I tried to be honest. I had no idea that the word honesty meant so much – I not only have to be truthful to God and to my neighbors, but I also have to be true to myself. That means I need to accept me for who I am and there is a lot about me that I don’t like. There are times when I like to be somebody else – someone with a better house, a better car, a better job, a better life. And when I am not happy about myself, I have no choice but to lie, I don’t want others to know that I am unhappy.
And when I am really happy, I feel guilty. I see so much pain and suffering around me that I feel it is unjust for anybody to experience happiness. I remember all those times when I was jealous at those who were happy during my times of unhappiness. People may become jealous when they see me happy, I am confused about being an object of sin.
“I have conquered the world” (John 16:33), Jesus said. He didn’t conquer it by conforming to it, but by staying true to himself, by dying on the cross after facing abandonment and humiliation. His death on the cross might have created a lot of confusion among those who have known him. Many might have thought that the love he practiced useless, the good deeds he performed fraudulent, the forgiveness he preached a waste, honesty the cause of his untimely and unfortunate death, and his happiness in the Holy Spirit a joke. But that is because they (I included) belong to the earth and of the earth they speak (John 3:31). We can’t conquer anything when we are a part of it, we need to be above it, by offering ourselves as living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God, and by renewing our mind through transformation to discern the will of God, to do what is good, pleasing and perfect (Romans 12:1,2).
People may make fun of you, might give you the cold shoulder, or even hate you for following Christ. But I need to continue with my transformation, the omnipotent God provides the courage, I need to exercise it. When I am accused of being out of my mind, all I need to remember is that it is for God (2 Corinthians 5:13). That is right, at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what the world thinks about me, or whether I won over the world or not. There is no battle between me and the world, never was. At the end it, it is between me and God, the world won’t be around to come between us. And the answer to all my struggles to discern the Love who emptied himself to take the form of a slave live within me because, “I have been crucified with Christ and no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by the faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me”. (Galatians 2:20)
© 2013. Emmanuel Joseph. All Rights Reserved.
Photography: See our Photographers page.