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By Pamela Mandela, Catholic Stand, April 11, 2019
One of the things I often ask of God in this season is for the grace to contemplate God’s Love in the Passion of Christ, so that I may live a passionate life for Christ. That God should hear my plea and send me His Holy Spirit to come into my being and enkindle in me the fire of His love. That I should be recreated and be renewed into the image of God, my Creator. Thus as we reflect on the period of intense suffering in the life of Jesus, all the way from the Garden of Gethsemane to the crucifixion, the grace of God the Father and the love of Jesus Christ His Son and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with me (us) as we contemplate the Passion of Christ be it throughout Lent, in the Holy Week, at Good Friday, every Friday of the year, and even on a daily basis.
My hope is that I will get to see it every time as God’s Love for Humanity, not just for myself; and that I (and many others like me) shall henceforth take up this practice of contemplating God’s Love for Humanity in the Passion as one of my (our) regular devotions. I believe I will grow in living a passionate life for Christ by reminding myself of the passion with which the Lord Jesus tells us,
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength; and love your neighbor as yourself. There is no greater commandment than these” (Mark 12:30-31).
The Passion of Christ had a Source
The source of the Passion was the intense love He has for mankind. This passionate love is beautifully expressed St. John beautifully expressed this passionate love, “For God so loved the world that he gave* his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life” (John 3:16). What a great love, and what a committed love did the Lord Jesus have that resulted in His extreme commitment to walk a very precise and narrow path in order to redeem mankind. That for the sake of restoring humans to fellowship with God, the Lord Jesus made Himself to be nothing; and lowered Himself from glory of heaven, by taking the very nature of a servant in being made in the human likeness (cf. Philippians 2:6-7). His concern was that fallen man should regain his status and be reconciled with God, and with his fellow man.
This demonstration of God’s restoring love is depicted in Isaiah’s prophesy that the LORD calls you back, like a wife forsaken and grieved in spirit; or like a wife married in youth and then cast off (cf. Isaiah 54:6). It is a re-birthing love to which St. Paul loudly hints about how he lived, no longer him, but Christ lived in him; so that insofar as he lived in the flesh, he lived by faith in the Son of God who loved him to the extent that He gave Himself up for him (cf. Galatians 2:20). How I wish that one day I too will have such a conviction as St. Paul had in living a passionate life for Christ.
According to the beloved disciple in 1 John 4:10, “In this is love: not that we have loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as expiation for our sins.”Jesus’ passionate love caused Him to come into our midst. Jesus lived an obedient life of self-sacrifice—required by the holiness of God (cf. Philippians 2:8). Only such a selfless life produced the pure and innocent blood sacrifice required to cover the sins of those who put their faith in Him. According to St. Paul, this is how the redeeming lovehappens: that in Him we have redemption by his blood, which brings about the forgiveness of transgressions, and which is in accord with the riches of His grace (cf. Ephesians 1:7). St. John experienced this love and came to understand it as a selfless, self-giving, emptying, and serving love(cf. John 13:3-5).
The Passion of Christ had Direction
Evidently, the Passion of Christ was directed by the will of the Father. It resulted in a life whose purpose was the Cross, as He Himself declared it in saying it was for this purpose that He came to this hour (cf. John 12:27). This purposeful and focused Love helped St. Paul continue in his pursuit toward the goal (cf. Philippians 3:14). This promising love came to us when Jesus was dedicated to accomplish the requirements foretold by prophecies and the will of the Father (cf. Jeremiah 29:11).
Jesus showed us the direction of the Passion in his temptation in the desert by the Enemy (cf.Matthew 4:8-9). The Lord could have taken this easy way (as many of us are likely to do) to establish His kingdom on earth without the cross. However, Jesus was passionate to accomplish the exact plan of the Father. He rejected the appeals of Satan.
Another time, a crowd tried to make Jesus a king by force; but He again rejected their attempt because this would have deviated Him from the beloved Cross (cf. John 6:14-15). He knew that His was a fulfilling Love. In the end, He would owe nothing to anyone, except to love them. His understanding was that the one who loves another fulfils the law (cf. Romans 13:8 & 10). It is no wonder that the final words of Jesus from the cross are a triumphant proclamation. Yes, He crossed the finish line in agony. Yet, with great emotion, He overcame the obstacles and triumphantly declared it finished! (cf. John 19:30).
The Passion of Christ was sustained in God
There is no doubt that Christ’s Passion originated in love, was directed by the purpose of God and waslived in dependence on the presence of God. The Lord Jesus declared that every word He said was given to him by the Father, who commanded Him what to say and how to say it (cf. John 12:49). Jesus never spoke on His own. His love for the Father was sincere; hating what is evil and holding on to what is good (cf. Romans 12:9). His was a genuine and good Love. In order for this to happen, Jesus lived every moment in the presence of the Father. He wanted the world to know He loved the Father, and did just as the Father commanded Him. Jesus’ every thought, word and action occurred in obedience to the Father (cf. John 14:31). The Passion of Christ reveals a guiding and enlightening Love, which teaches us a new way of life: to love one another as He loved us, so that we too should love one another (cf. John 13:34).
The Passion Of Christ had Power
We can see how the Passion of Christ was energized by the Power of God when we think of moments when Jesus healed the sick, restored the paralyzed, calmed the sea, fed the multitudes and raised the dead through the power of God. Even when He was handed over to the mob led by Judas, when He spoke, they all fell backward onto the ground (cf. John 18:6). This was a manifested Love; so action-oriented and extreme in nature (cf. 1 John 4:9-12).
What is notable is how Jesus was always in control of His life. He was aware that more than twelve legions or in excess of thirty-six thousand angels, were at His disposal at any time to respond to His commands (cf. Matthew 26:53). His was expectant Love accepting the discipline of the loving Father, who reproves the son He favors (cf. Revelation 3:19). Certainly, Jesus was not just a good man who fell victim to evil circumstances. He actually predicted the manner of His death, the time and place chosen by the Father for this to happen (cf. Matthew 26:2). He lived a knowing Love and He was not afraid (cf. Luke 12:7). Jesus was not a powerless victim. He embraced death in order to accomplish our redemption, and He rose from the dead in power and majesty, courtesy of God’s ransoming and redeeming Love (cf. 1 John 4:10).
The Passion of Christ had a Pattern
A reflection on the life of Christ reveals a set pattern for living a passionate life for Him (cf. John 13:34). All believers experience a spiritual birth that results in the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit. It is a re-birthing Love that enables us to see the Kingdom of God (cf. John 3:3). It is an indwelling Love that makes us to be temples of the Holy Spirit and not our own (cf. 1 Corinthians 6:19).
This Lent and coming into the Holy Week, I must ask myself if I truly follow the pattern of Christ’s life (Jesus is the Way and the Truth and the Life – cf. John 14:6). If really I want to, I first must commit with the Psalmist to choose the way of loyalty; to keep the judgments of the Lord and cling to His testimonies; to run the way of His commandments so that I do not come to shame; for the Lord will surely broaden my heart (cf. Psalm 119:30 – 32).
Living a Passionate Life for Christ
Then I must strive to build a love Relationship with Jesus – a precious, personal and intense love relationship that becomes a wholesome love (cf. Deuteronomy 6:5). I will learn to live in daily, if not momentary dependence on Jesus, seeking His Will and experiencing His presence. My thoughts should be set on God; because what I think about is what defines who I am (Proverbs 23:7). My mind shall be set on what is pure, lovely, excellent and praiseworthy, so that God will always be with me (cf.Philippians 4:8-9).
I must begin to do it now by finding the places, ways and times where God is presently experienced; then, I build on these. I know that the more I experience God, the more my mind will dwell on Him and with Him. I am convinced that this will produce ever increasing praise, worship and thoughts of God in me.
Be Commissioned for Christ
I will continue to discover the purpose of God by practicing the presence of God. This I am to find in the great Commission where the Lord Jesus commands His disciples (all of us) to go and tell others everything that He has revealed to them (cf. Matthew 28:19-20). Jesus commissioned me to preach and testify to the truth of the Gospel! This is key to understanding and following God’s plan for our lives. God gives us knowledge and experiences that help us discover His purpose for our lives. Then we go out and share these personal encounters with God, which makes for passionate expressions of teaching others, and praising and worship of God! Think about the disciples walking down the Road to Emmaus (cf. Luke 24:13-35).
I hope to you will likewise manifest the power of God in actions that stem from the love, purpose, and presence of God. I believe God will energize you so that you experience heightened joy and boldness to do His will. Then you will see the evidence of the power of God which will be revealed through unexpected insights and blessings (for yourself and for others); and through changed livesand spiritual growth based on increased faith, wisdom and knowledge. Then you will be able to taste the ever present love of God which transforms our lives by inspiring us to be passionate in our pursuit of Christ!