Skip to comments.Five Lessons from the Passion of Christ
Posted on 04/12/2017 8:03:28 AM PDT by Salvation
Continuing our Holy Week meditations, led by the teachings of St. Thomas Aquinas, we reflect today on the suitability of the Passion. While the Passion was not strictly necessary (for God could have saved us in many ways), there are many things about it that make it fitting; in addition, it heals our misery.
In his Summa Theologiae (Part III, Question 46, Article 3), St. Thomas lists five teachings that flow from the Passion of Christ. St. Thomas words are shown below in bold, black italics, while my lesser comments appear in plain red text.
In the first place, man knows thereby how much God loves him, and is thereby stirred to love Him in return, and herein lies the perfection of human salvation; hence the Apostle says (Romans 5:8): God commends His charity towards us; for when as yet we were sinners Christ died for us.
If but one drop of the Lords blood would have been sufficient to save us, why did He shed all of His blood? One answer is that it was what He had to give. He emptied Himself of everything but love because that is what true lovers are willing to do. Love is extravagant.
This should stir not only our love but also our gratitude. When the Lord bids us to celebrate the Eucharist in memory of me, He does not do so in some self-serving or egocentric way. He does not need us to remember what He has done; it is we who need to remember.
For me to remember is to have deeply present in my mind and heart what the Lord has done for me so that I am grateful and different. This is a work of the Holy Spirit and those who lay hold of it are different. Grateful people are more hopeful, confident, and serene because they have known and experienced the providential love and mercy of God. And being more serene, hopeful, and confident, they manifest other virtues such as joy, generosity, and forgiveness. To receive this gift of remembering is to be astonished at the Lords lavish love and mercy and to be grateful, joyful, and different.
Secondly, because thereby He set us an example of obedience, humility, constancy, justice, and the other virtues displayed in the Passion, which are requisite for man’s salvation. Hence it is written (1 Peter 2:21): Christ also suffered for us, leaving you an example that you should follow in His steps.
There is so much to learn of virtue from Christs Passion. It is a study in humility, which is the antidote to pride. Ultimately, we are saved more by His humility and obedience than by His physical sufferings. Indeed, St. Thomas remarks elsewhere that if Christ had suffered everything He did but had not willed it, we would not be saved. It is His obedience that undoes Adams disobedience. Cassian said, We are saved by the human decision of a divine person. Isaiah said, He suffered because he willed it (Is 53:7). Jesus said, No one takes my life from me. I lay it down freely (Jn 10:18). And going forth from the Last Supper to His Passion, Jesus said, The world must know that I love the Father and do exactly what my Father has commanded me. Arise, let us go forth (Jn 14:31). Thus, trusting and obeying the Father, Jesus saves us in love and thereby gives us an example to follow.
Thirdly, because Christ by His Passion not only delivered man from sin, but also merited justifying grace for him and the glory of bliss, as shall be shown later (III:48:1; III:49:1 and III:49:5).
In other words, we are not simply saved from sin, we are equipped for holiness, so that we may be fit for Heaven.
St. Thomas elaborates on this later: Grace was bestowed upon Christ, not only as an individual, but inasmuch as He is the Head of the Church, so that it might overflow into His members; and therefore Christ’s works are referred to Himself and to His members [Now] it is evident that whosoever suffers for justices sake, provided that he be in a state of grace, merits his salvation thereby, according to Matthew 5:10: Blessed are they that suffer persecution for justice’s sake. Consequently, Christ by His Passion merited salvation, not only for Himself, but likewise for all His members (ST III, Question 48, Article 1).
While the concept of merit troubles many a Protestant, St. Augustine, the great foe of Pelagianism, well states that in crowning our merits, God is actually crowning His own gifts. In this, God shows us the extent of His love: that He allows His gifts to become our merits (See Augustine, eorum coronando merita tua dona coronas Domine, Commentary in Psalm 102,7:PL 37,1321-1322).
Fourthly, because by this man is all the more bound to refrain from sin, according to 1 Corinthians 6:20: You are bought with a great price: glorify and bear God in your body.
Considering the high price of our salvation can be a motivation to respect the work wrought in and for us. St. Peter elaborates this: live your lives in reverent fear during your temporary stay on earth. For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life you inherited from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or spot. (1 Peter 1:17-19).
Fifthly, because it redounded to mans greater dignity, that as man was overcome and deceived by the devil, so also it should be a man that should overthrow the devil; and as man deserved death, so a man by dying should vanquish death. Hence it is written (1 Corinthians 15:57): Thanks be to God who hath given us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. It was accordingly more fitting that we should be delivered by Christs Passion than simply by Gods good-will.
When one has caused harm, it is very healing to be a part of the healing. And while we could not hope to ever come close in repairing the damage (only God can do that), it is encouraging that our five loaves and two fishes are important to the Lord. This shows our dignity and our responsibility. We got into trouble through a man, a woman, and a tree. In a poetic justice of sorts, we get out of trouble in the same way: a Man (Christ, who obeys), a woman (Mary, who gives her fiat to Gods saving work and plan), and the tree of the Cross.
Thanks be to God for these teachings and for inspiring our teacher, St. Thomas, to place them before us!
Monsignor Pope Ping!
Scriptures record that He was tempted in all ways. We know that after John's baptism, Jesus went into the desert and faced temptation over which He had victory. But I suggest the greater temptation was to escape the punishment inflicted by the cross.
We know that Jesus anguished in the Garden just prior to the betrayal. Could it me that Jesus, being God, faced the reality of Jesus as a man about to endure the worst pain of his life.
In plain words, if it were you or I nailed to the cross, we would have been stuck there. There was nothing in our own power that could have caused the punishment to stop, and the Romans were good at their jobs, death was certain. If anything, death was welcomed to stop the punishment.
However, Jesus suffered pain that certainly was a constant temptation, for at any moment, He could have decided that you and I were not worth His suffering, called forth the angels to minister to Him and His suffering would have ended.
When I add that thought to everything else we know from scripture I really become humbled. "For the joy set before Him, He endured the cross!"
Any thoughts about that? Is that a new awareness for anyone? Does that work with scripture?
Sounds like a great meditation. Go with it.
Thank you for these thoughts, which go down deep.
I have a “problem son” who has intractable psychological/emotional problems, stemming initially I think from early childhood (orphanage) trauma. I pray for him so much, sometimes to the point of tears.
Yet I realize that he is “Property of Jesus,” he’s been entrusted to God, and that our Good Shepherd does not allow a suffering, straying sheep -— HIS sheep, a sheep that was entrusted to HIM -— to be lost forever.
“For the joy set before Him, He endured the cross!”
That joy must include the well-being and redemption of my son. At some point -— who knows when? — he will be healed and made holy, and enter Heaven glorious because this would give Jesus joy. Seeing this in the future, and joyful, Jesus endured the cross.
I make hospital, hospice and nursing home visits on a regular basis. I am reminded daily of the Words of Jesus, found in the last chapter of Mark, in Red Letter in some of our bibles - These signs shall follow those that believe, ....they shall lay hands on the sick and they shall recover. In that example, prayer was not even mentioned.
So I touch folks, hand-shakes, hold hands during prayer, some form of contact.
Another simple reminder is to acknowledge others, accept them and affirm them. - Hey, I notice you. I like you, and I like the things that you do.
I think this is good for him as well as for me. It lets him know that he is needed and useful, and the mere touch "touches" spots not touched by words, I think. Pray for us!
Interesting idea. I never thought of that. He knew He could end the suffering every moment of the scourging, beatings, crowning, walking, falling, nailing, hanging while trying to breathe, and dying. And He did it anyway.
Thank you for making me see this Gift in a new and deeper way.
When I was undergoing physical therapy after rotator cuff surgery, I was ready to give up government secrets if the PT would just stop. It was then that I knew I had a thresh hold of pain that I did not want to pass further.
Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.