Passion of Jesus Christ

Pope Francis Reflects on the Passion of Jesus Christ

April 5th, 2020

(Edited by Father Al for bulletin use)

While dying on the cross, Jesus cries out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mt 27:46).  These are powerful words.  Jesus had suffered the abandonment of his own, who had fled.  But the Father remained for him.  Now, in the abyss of solitude, for the first time he calls him by the generic name “God”.  And “in a loud voice” he asks the most excruciating question “why”: “Why did you too abandon me?”.  These words are in fact those of a Psalm (cf. 22:2); they tell us that Jesus also brought the experience of extreme desolation to his prayer.  But the fact remains that he himself experienced that desolation: he experienced the utmost abandonment, which the Gospels testify to by quoting his very words: Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?

Why did all this take place?  Iit was done for our sake, to serve us.  So that when we have our back to the wall, when we find ourselves at a dead end, with no light and no way of escape, when it seems that God himself is not responding, we should remember that we are not alone.  Jesus experienced total abandonment in a situation he had never before experienced in order to be one with us in everything.  He did it for me, for you, to say to us: “Do not be afraid, you are not alone.  I experienced all your desolation in order to be ever close to you”.  That is the extent to which Jesus served us: he descended into the abyss of our most bitter sufferings, culminating in betrayal and abandonment. Jesus says to all who suffer: “Courage, open your heart to my love.  You will feel the consolation of God who sustains you”.

Dear brothers and sisters, what can we do in response to God, who served us even to the point of being betrayed and abandoned?  We can refuse to betray him for whom we were created and not abandon what really matters in our lives.  We were put in this world to love him and our neighbors.  For life is measured by love.  So, in these holy days, in our  homes, let us stand before the Crucified One, the fullest measure of God’s love for us, and before the God who serves us to the point of giving his life, and let us ask for the grace to live in order to serve.  May we reach out to those who are suffering and those most in need.  May we not be concerned about what we lack, but what good we can do for others.

The Father, who sustained Jesus in his Passion also supports us in our efforts to serve.  Loving, praying, forgiving, caring for others, in the family and in society: all this can certainly be difficult.  It can feel like a via crucis.  But the path of service is the victorious and lifegiving path by which we were saved. 

Dear friends, look at the real heroes who come to light these days: they are not famous, rich and successful people; rather, they are those who are giving themselves in order to serve others.  Feel called yourselves to put your lives on the line.  Do not be afraid to devote your life to God and to others; it pays!  For life is a gift we receive only when we give ourselves away, and our deepest joy comes from saying yes to love, without ifs and buts.  As Jesus did for us.