|By Fr. Brendan McGuire
Pastor of Holy Spirit Parish, San Jose and Vicar General for special projects, Diocese of San Jose. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Imitate Christ By Love
About this time in some places around the world, people voluntarily have themselves scourged, crowned with thorns pressed sharply into their heads, then have real nails nailed into their hands and real nails put into their feet in imitation of Christ’s crucifixion. They are then taken down from the cross and typically rushed to the hospital for attention.
When Christ said “imitate me” that is not what he meant! The physical suffering of Christ on the cross and its sheer brutality was not emphasized in scripture. We have to ask why did the evangelists – those who wrote the Gospels –choose to omit the gory and bloody details of the murderous act on Christ Jesus? The sum totality in Mark Gospel–“and they led him out and they crucified him.” That is it! No more description. We have to ask why. There has to be a reason why the Gospel do not depict the scene the way Mel Gibson did in his movie of the “Passion of Christ.” Instead the evangelists give more description to the emotional and the spiritual suffering of Christ in these moments.
Many of us will experience some physical suffering in our life although not to the depth of the suffering of Christ. Most all of us will experience the loneliness of betrayal and the emotional pain when somebody you love hurts us and pierces our heart.
Imagine how Jesus felt at the cross. His best friend, Peter, not only left him but denied publicly that he even had anything to do with him and cursed the person who claimed he did. Every one of his closest disciples completely abandoned him in his lowest moment. Only the women disciples stayed with him through the cross; they looked on from a distance. Everybody abandoned him.
This emotional and spiritual pain is something all of us will experience somewhere in our lives; when somebody betrays us, somebody hurts us, somebody goes against us and we feel the hurt deep down into our heart.
Jesus wants us to imitate him not in the physical way–to love one another from our heart. We often hear “love is never having to say you’re sorry.” That couldn’t be further from the truth. Love is finding out how much more you need to say you are sorry.
That is what Christ has asked us to imitate. He does not need for us to climb up on a cross after him. He does not want us to be in any more physical pain than we already have. We have enough crosses to come our way. We do not need to climb up on another one. We need to find a way to patiently suffer the crosses that come our way and to reach much deeper into our hearts and souls to serve other people. Love comes from first and foremost through forgiveness. Forgiveness for the pain that has been inflicted on us by other people; those people often closest to us have inflicted on us. And in other Gospels we hear the Lord say, “Forgive them for they know not what they do.” As we celebrate the Lord’s passion, we come not to imitate his passion in a physical way; we come to imitate his self-sacrificing love for us by loving one another even to our death.