Do you ever think of the Passion of Christ, or ponder as you read, what character you can most relate to?
It's a different question than which character you most admire or aspire to be. I would imagine we all are working toward being as Christ-like as we can; that is, after all, what it means to be a Christian. But which character do you most relate to?
Is it Veronica, who wipes the face of our Lord? Is it John, who stands by Mary at the foot of the Cross, the weeping women, maybe, or perhaps the good thief?
I think all of us would like to think that we identify with these great saints, yet do we truly understand and fathom the courage and faithfulness it took to be any one of these noble and holy characters in this story?
Veronica, John, or even the weeping women could have been killed for what they did. They could have been arrested or beaten for even being there. Do we fathom just how difficult it would have been to watch a crucifixion? i really don't think any of us understand the magnitude of violence, blood, sheer agony and suffering witnessed by these chosen few. Can you imagine the terror and horror of watching someone you love and admire being killed in such a way? I honestly don't know if I could have done it. No wonder the apostles ran. I think I might have as well.
I think the downfall of the characters I relate to most is their lack of love and trust in Christ. They were able to live with Christ for three years. They slept with Him, ate with Him, walked with Him and enjoyed a relationship with Him that we in some ways envy. They were taught directly by Him, the grandest Teacher of all time, yet was this more of a stumbling block than an experience that led to holiness and Grace.
It was only after Jesus left that the Holy Spirit came and emboldened the apostles to go make disciples of all nations, baptizing and proclaiming the Gospel. Why was it that the sacrificial love of the holy witnesses to the crucifixion was more present and visible to those not as close to Christ in proximity? What was lacking in the development of the apostles, in their catechesis?
Again, it was lack of love and trust. Besides John, most of the apostles lacked a trust and love in the divine. They still were set in their own ways and visions of what the Messiah was and how He would deliver His people. So when everything unfolded, they faltered. They lacked trust in God, because like us, they thought they had better ideas and ways to handle the events that were taking place. His way did not fit into their ideologies.
Are we really all that different? Do we not get more caught up in secondary paths that lead us away from that divine love which can and will transform us, if we only let it.? If we only trust?
Do we understand and grasp that we don't love God as much as we should, that we don't trust God as much as we should, and that we don't know God the way that we should? Do we grieve for that lack of love and trust and pray to possess more of it? Do we even understand what that kind of love is? Are we even capable of loving the Lord the way He deserves and the way that we should?
No we don't, on all counts. How could we? We will spend eternity pondering this mystery, and we should start that pondering now. The more we are able to abandon ourselves to Him, who loves us enough to die in agony and torment, the more our lives will be filled with joy and peace beyond all understanding. That is the true irony, to gain the world and eternity we must first abandon everything we are and have - and trust.
Hopefully, we will eventually get there. Thank goodness for Purgatory, the purging. Of course it will be painful. For those who are so attached to the world, the separation from temporal desires and earthly pleasures will be very painful and difficult; the realization of how much they have separated us from the true desires of Heaven and divine pleasure will be even more alarming.
So let's take our lessons from those who failed Christ. They can offer us insight into who we really are, and how far we need to go to become who we ought to be. It won't be a comfortable process, but it will be an efficacious one.
We can learn much from the villains in Christ's story, because they truly are the most like us, with the most to overcome. And we can find comfort that some of them did overcome their faults and became even greater than those holy ones of the story.
We are a people of hope, and that hope leads to joy and peace. If only we can come to truly recognize it and grow and learn from it, we can be also be transformed like those apostles who ran and were martyred in the end for the one they loved to the death, and then were joined to in eternity.