Obedience and the Passion of Christ
On December 12, 2003, the
Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, my wife Jan and I were privileged to
attend a showing of Mel Gibson’s, The Passion of the Christ,
starring Jim Caviezel, as Jesus.
The movie opens with Jesus in
the Garden of Gethsemane, praying, while the Apostles Peter, James, and
John slept. He had said to them, "My soul is very sorrowful, even to
death; remain here, and watch with me." And going a little farther he
fell on his face and prayed, "My Father, if it be possible, let this cup
pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as thou wilt" (Matt.
26:38-39 RSVCE). The movie vividly depicted the torment of Christ during
these moments in the garden. On the one hand, Jesus knew full well the
fate that awaited him and in his humanity was in anguish and exceedingly
fearful. On the other, He knew in His heart that he had to undergo the
coming humiliation in order to reconcile mankind with God, and so
submitted to the will of His Father.
This movie is a vividly
stunning portrayal of the last 12 hours of the life of Jesus, the
Christ. It shows man at his worst and Jesus at His best. As Jesus is
undergoing this intense suffering, He is reminded of previous
experiences, which are depicted as flashbacks. There are some poignant
moments, for example, Jesus falling as a child and His Blessed Mother,
Mary running to his side to comfort Him and the institution of the
Eucharistic banquet at the Last Supper.
We also see Peter’s denial,
Caiaphas’ hardness of heart, Pilate’s dilemma, Judas’ death, and Saint
Veronica wiping the face of Jesus with her veil during His journey to
Calvary. The cloth she used preserved the bloody imprint of Christ's
features. Primarily, the movie depicts Christ’s Passion as never before.
One scene depicts Simon of Cyrene assisting Jesus in carrying the cross.
As Jesus is brutally hauled up from the ground to once again take up the
cross He embraces it, as though He knows that it will be the instrument,
which will reconcile the world. It is graphic, disturbing, and heart
wrenching. Some may be offended because of its truthfulness, in the same
sense that some are offended by seeing the horrid results of a child
torn limb from limb during an abortion. Yet, this is a movie that every
adult should see, again and again. It is a sobering movie that will stay
with me for a long time, as I will never again look at the crucified
Christ in the same way.
In The Passion of the
Christ we see the depth of Christ’s obedience; here we see obedience
at its best; here we see obedience personified; here we see an example,
which should inspire everyone of us to be obedient to the Church as
Jesus was obedient to His Father.
In obedience, as in
everything, Christ is our perfect model. Obedience brought Him into the
world; obedience led Him through childhood and youth; obedience led Him
through the hardships and heartaches of His public life; obedience led
Him to give His time and energy to everyone He met; obedience led Him to
submit Himself to the sufferings of that first Good Friday. He died – in
But the supreme act of
obedience, which was witnessed on that cross, was not the result of a
sudden decision. Christ learned to obey by obeying. During the first
thirty years of His life He was subject to Mary and Joseph, though He
knew infinitely more than they did. Obedience to parents, teachers,
superiors and elders is hard, especially for young people. They hate to
be bossed around. They want their own way. The youth of today might well
remember the example of obedience set by Jesus.
Christ’s public life was
planned according to the will of His Father. In prayer and retreat Jesus
kept in contact with what His Father wanted. Men and women in all walks
of life chafe and complain under office rules, traffic laws, city
ordinances, parish regulations, and Church laws. In all this Jesus gave
us the perfect example. He was submissive to all lawful authority. He
obeyed the commands and precepts of the prophets. He conformed to the
ritual and ceremony of the Jewish religion. He paid taxes and demanded
that His followers do the same. He respected the government and its
officials, even though they were not always worthy of respect. Jesus was
a perfect example of what we call today a law-abiding citizen.
The human will and the human
nature of Christ recoiled from the tortures of the passion.
Nevertheless, He made His choice: “Not my will, that is, not my human
will, but Thine, Thy divine will, let that be done.” He wanted the
divine will carried out at all costs, even at the bitter price of being
tied and dragged with ropes, of being struck on the cheek, of being made
a mockery by Herod, of being unmercifully scourged at the pillar, of
being crowned with thorns, of carrying the cross, and of being nailed to
it. All this was done in obedience.
Do we as Christians sincerely
endeavor to live a life in obedience to the Divine Will? Christ calls us
to perfection. “You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father
is perfect” (Matt. 5:48). In these words Our Savior encourages us. He is
not content with His Christians being merely good; He wants us to excel
above all others. To quote Phil. 2:15, He wants us to, shine as lights
of Heaven in this world, as children of God, worthy of the Father,
without criticism, in the midst of a crooked and wicked generation, to
be wholly and entirely what we should be; in other words, He wants us to
The Apostles also encourage
us not to limit ourselves to what is necessary, but to increase in
goodness daily. 2 Peter 3:18 tells us to “grow in the grace and
knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” And in 1 Peter 2:2 he
says, “Like newborn babes, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it
you may grow up to salvation.” St. Paul tell us in Col. 1: 9-10, “we
have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the
knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, to lead
a life worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every
good work and increasing in the knowledge of God” And in Col. 1:22 St.
Paul tells us that we have been, “reconciled in his body of flesh by his
death, in order to present us holy and blameless and irreproachable
before God.” Christ shall not only take possession of all hearts to some
extent, but as it states in Col. 1:28, “Him, we proclaim, warning every
man and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man
mature in Christ.” Everywhere we find the challenge not to be satisfied
with what is barely necessary, but to develop fully what is Christ-like
Should these challenges to
perfection be necessary for us? All nature strives after perfection?
Does the acorn remain an acorn? Does the seed of corn remain a seed?
Does the root of the rosebush remain a mere root? Certainly not, they
strive to completely develop all the possibilities within them - the
acorn to become an oak tree, the root, a rosebush covered with beautiful
All human life is governed by
this urge towards progress. As a people we endeavor to advance in
culture and skill. We go to great lengths to progress as a nation. The
enormous amount of trouble taken by inventors, the great efforts made by
athletes, astronauts, or explorers. Consider the goal to build a base on
the moon or to land people on Mars. What determination for mastery! Are
we not collectively or individually striving for perfection? Should we
not try, equally hard to bring to perfection the Christian spirit within
us? Is not perfection in Christian virtue incomparably greater and more
important than skill in worldly matters? True greatness is becoming like
God, fully developing His image hidden within us. What could be greater
than to become more and more like Him, Who is the highest of all beings?
For this reason greatness in virtue is real and not only apparent as in
the case of worldly greatness. For a person is only truly great when he
is great in the eyes of God. And this means the attainment of virtue in
its highest form. God will measure our worth by the standard of
perfection only. Therefore, if you want to become a truly great person
of genuine worth, you must not be satisfied with becoming a mediocre,
but rather a perfect Christian.
If you are, or if you strive
to become a perfect Christian, you will reap the extraordinary benefits
of God’s love and pleasure, in a special way. For God loves most those
who are most like Himself. The more perfect in the genuine Christian
spirit you become, the more like God you will become and the greater
will be His love for you, for everyone loves that which is like himself.
Are not the saints God’s greatest friends? As proof of His love, He
poured out His graces upon them. What intimate contact He had with them!
And what more could we desire than to be loved very specially by God, by
Him Who is the King of kings, the Highest of the high, the Mightiest of
the mighty, the Noblest of the noble, the Kindest of all the kind, the
most Faithful of the faithful, the Lord over time and eternity? To be
the recipient of such a love would provide the greatest possible
happiness, a hidden life without worry, the greatest security we could
possibly have in this life, in a word, peace.
Even beyond the grave – The
only things we will take with us into the next world will be our sins or
our virtues, nothing else. Our virtues alone will gain for us the
everlasting contemplation of God and His unchanging love. Eternal
rewards and admission to the Marriage Feast will be given according to
the degree of perfection, which we attained in this life on earth. 1
Peter 2:1, tells us that, here below we are only ‘aliens and exiles.’ We
are all travelers putting up at the inn of this world for a very short
time. Soon, we will all leave this world and hopefully travel the road
to God. We need to gather treasures, which will not be consumed by rust
and moths, treasures possessing value in the eyes of God! Yes, we need
treasures, an abundance of treasures. Since, according to St. Paul, the
runners in the race risk all to win the prize, how much more is this
true for us to whom eternal rewards are at the end of the race? In 1 Cor.
9:25, St. Paul states, “Every athlete exercises self-control in all
things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an
"No man securely
commands but he who has learned to obey"
-Thomas a Kempis