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Jesus’ passion and death (Br Peter Carroll)


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24/03/2016: Australia


In preparing for my Holy Land visit and retreat last year I read James Martin’s book “Jesus: A Pilgrimage”. It’s a fascinating blend of travel journal, scriptural exegesis and spiritual reflection.

One part that I found particularly insightful and helpful was his commentary on Jesus’ passion and death. He offered six suggestions on the meaning of Jesus’ often quoted statement from Luke 9:23‐24 “If anyone wants to be a follower of mine, let him renounce himself and take up his cross every day and follow me”.

Most obviously these words are a reminder that suffering is an integral part of life; noone escapes it. Taking up our cross means accepting this and coming to peace with it, rather than avoiding or denying it and becoming angry and bitter when confronted by it. At some point we need to make peace with suffering in whatever guise it confronts us: frustration, disappointment, betrayal, old age.

Secondly, he suggests that in experiencing our suffering, taking up our cross and renouncing ourselves, we should not pass on any bitterness to those around us. This does not mean that we do not share our upset and pain, but we don’t do so in an unhealthy way. We do not burden others with our pain, demanding attention and pity. He points out that even as Jesus groaned under the weight of his cross, he uttered no words of bitterness or selfpity.

Thirdly, traversing our own Via Dolorosa with Jesus means we must accept other deaths before our final physical death. In other words, we have to let other parts of ourselves die. These other deaths are often confronting and painful, and they are sometimes daily occurrences. In our human journey and our pilgrimage of faith we have to perennially let go of our own desires, our own tendency to selfimportance. It is through this process that we are purified and renewed.

Fourthly, there is an element of waiting. Most of us are impatient, and culturally we have become accustomed to instant gratification. Between Friday’s cross and Sunday’s empty tomb, we have the uncertainty of Saturday. Jesus’ invitation to follow him means embracing this uncertainty, with hope. Hopeful expectation is the concomitant of Easter waiting.

Fifthly, carrying our cross means that God’s gift to us is often not what we expect. James Martin says that Resurrection does not come when we expect it, and rarely fits our notions of how a resurrection should occur! God answers prayer, but often not in our time or in our way; God tends to give us what we really need!  Indeed our God is one of surprises, and to carry our cross is to be open to the unexpected.

Finally, Jesus’ command to take up our cross and renounce ourselves is about living a faith that believes nothing is impossible for God. As James Martin puts it, this means accepting that God is greater than our own limited imagination. If we succumb to the belief that we are beyond even God’s help then it is because we have reduced God to the size of our own human imagination.

So, as we wait in hopeful expectation for the great festival of Easter let’s ponder Jesus’ invitation to follow him, not just in proclaiming the Kingdom and witnessing to Faith, but in carrying our cross, confident that He is with us, always.

Peter Carroll - Provincial Australia

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