Come and see

Watching a loved one suffer is always an upsetting experience. Running away from them is even worse. During Holy Week, starting with Palm Sunday, we are given the opportunity by the church to journey with Our Lord through His dark night. Don't let this week go by without trying to put on Jesus' sandals and accompany Him as He journeys to the cross.

The physical aspect of Jesus' Passion is certainly notable. He was pretty hungry by the time He was condemned to death by Pilate; the Last Supper was likely His last meal. Exhaustion was a factor, since He was put through a false trial throughout Thursday night. Then, there were the innumerable beatings by the soldiers throughout His last 15 hours. There was the well-known scourging at the pillar that was followed by the carrying of the cross up the hill to Golgotha. At the end, there was the agonizing pain of being nailed to the cross and the excruciating reality of dying by asphyxiation.

The emotional element of the Passion cannot be ignored either. The volatile crowds move quickly from crying out "Hosanna in the highest" to "Crucify him." All twelve of His closest collaborators give in to fear and leave Him all alone in the garden to face His arrest by the temple guard. Judas extends the biting kiss. Peter, the Rock, crumbles in the face of a few questions. The religious leaders among the Jews make a mockery of a trial to condemn the Son of the Living God. The temple guards blindfold Him, beat Him and ask, "Prophesy. Who is it that struck you?"

In the end, the suffering that rose above all the rest and made it unique in the history of humanity is the moral suffering. Jesus is the Lamb without blemish, the completely Innocent One, Who carries on His back the weight of every sin ever to be committed. I know how heavy the weight of my own sins can be at certain moments. It is hard to comprehend how Jesus could carry the burden of the whole world's sins.

One additional aspect of Jesus' Passion that shines brightly for all to see is the fact that Jesus freely, intentionally embraces this path to our salvation with all of its agony.

Isaiah, one of the greatest Old Testament figures, prophesies this reality in one of the "Suffering Servant" passages: "I gave my back to those who beat me, my cheeks to those who plucked my beard; my face I did not shield from buffets and spitting." Jesus chose to suffer.

St. Paul, the great apostle to the Gentiles, comments on it: "he emptied himself" and "he humbled himself, becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross." Jesus chose to be humble.

The Gospels proclaim Jesus' freedom throughout the Passion narratives. Jesus pledges the free gift of Himself at the Last Supper: "This is my body which will be given up for you." He does not try to evade the process as He stands before Herod, "He (Herod) questioned him at length, but he gave him no answer." Jesus demonstrates His selfless embrace of the cross when He says to the women who lamented Him, "Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me; weep rather instead for yourselves and for your children …" He makes clear that He is one with the will of the Father when He begs: "Father, forgive them, they know not what they do." Finally, He confirms this free act of surrendering His life for the salvation of the world, "Father, into your hands I commend my spirit."

Jesus does not stumble into His Passion. He does not give in to the ugliness of human blindness and hatred because He has no options. Rather, Our blessed Lord lovingly, decidedly embraces the cross because it is the way the Father chooses to crush sin, Satan and death.

Jesus begins His earthly journey through Mary's radical "Yes." He ends that same journey with His own radical "Yes" to the Father.

This week, journey with Our Lord to the cross.

Fr. Peterson is assistant chaplain at Marymount University in Arlington and director of the Youth Apostles Institute in McLean.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2016