By Alex George
“The Passion of the Christ” produced and funded by Mel Gibson has been released into theatres on February 25, 2004, Ash Wednesday. This movie on the final 12 hours of Christ’s life is based on the Holy Bible. Billy Graham calls it the most important movie ever. The movie is rated ‘R” due to the violence that Jesus actually suffered. His passion is still a shocking story. The mystery of Jesus’ passion, death and resurrection is recalled in word and sacrament in Holy week and Easter. He was seized in the garden of Gethsemane and crucified on Calvary.
At the Cross, Jesus uttered the seven short sentences which are recorded. Looking down at the Roman soldiers throwing dice for His seamless garment, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do”. The second to the penitent thief, “Today thou shalt be with me in Paradise”. The third, looking down at the terrified, grief stricken, adolescent John (the beloved apostle), He said, “Behold my mother” and looking to Mary, His mother, “Woman, behold thy son”. The fourth cry is from the beginning of the 22nd Psalm, “My God, my God, what hast thou forsaken me?” Jesus gasps his fifth cry, “I thirst”. His sixth words – “It is finished”.
His mission of atonement has been completed. Finally He can allow his body to die. He uttered His seventh and last cry, “Father, into thy hands I commit my spirit”. He died on the cross; the body was placed in a tomb and then on the third day he emerged in a glorified body. “Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and………rose again the third day” 1 Corinthians 15:3-4.
In HIS passion we see ourselves, our own fear and anxiety, our own struggle with evil and death. Let us follow him from Gethsemane, through His trial, His scourging, His path along the Via Dolorosa, to his last dying hours on the Cross. Leon Bloy (the French author) writes, “If we stand at the foot of the Cross, we can see all the sorrow of the world, past, present, future gathered together in one sorrow”. The Cross reminds everyone of Jesus Christ. The city of Bucharest has twice as many churches as any other city in Romania and more evangelical believers than in any other city in the country. Crosses decorate each and every church of the beautiful townships. They built churches in every neighborhood in the city in order to spread the word of God and to experience the blessings of God.
The Cross gives a special comfort. “Come to me, all you who find life burdensome, and I will refresh you”. Turn your eyes to him in his passion, He will turn to you with kindly and compassionate eyes, and forgetting his own sorrow, he will console you, because you go to him. Indeed Jesus offers his disciples who kneel before the mystery of Cross not just a patience to take what comes, but a patience to live lives bravely. Not a life of dreary acceptance but one that turns “sorrow into joy, a joy no one can take from you”. Not just momentary relief and escape from troubles, but a courageous patience like HIS own. He comforts us readily and kindly.
One day in the opening years of the 13th century, a young man named Francesco Bernadone, son of a wealthy merchant, entered the tiny deteriorating church of San Damiano, a mile from the town of Assisi in Italy. The young man had all the advantages a prosperous family could offer, but uneasy, he searched for something more. Only one noticeable object was left in the unused, neglected church – a large life-sized cross hanging above the dark, dusty altar, its figure of Christ strangely alive, with great powerful eyes that looked everywhere. As Francis knelt in prayer, the eyes of Jesus fixed on him. The lips moved and spoke: “Francis, go and rebuild my church which, as you see, is falling into ruin”. The words resounding in his soul, Francis of Assisi began restoring the old church building and some other neglected churches nearby. But soon he realized the voice was calling him to something more. He was to take into his hands, not bricks and stones, but human beings. Francis was to rebuild the Church of God, bringing his neighbors the simple joy of the gospel of Christ and making them “living stones” standing beautiful before God and the world. All his life afterwards, St. Francis followed that message he heard from the cross: “Rebuild my church”. Anyone approaching the cross will hear the same message: love those whom Jesus loves.
Hold out your arms and what do you see? AN IMAGE OF THE CROSS. It is found in us and in every human being. God gives his promise as written in 2 Chronicles 7:14 “If my people who are called by My name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land”. Each day brings new reasons to worship God, to pray to God, to praise HIS name, and to proclaim HIS love to you and me. Let us join hands and “sing to the Lord, proclaim the good news of salvation from day to day”. We worship the King of Kings, the Savior who is risen from dead. Can we too not say with all who believe in HIM “On the third day he rose again”.
Alleluia! Christ is risen, Indeed!