Hell is to deliberately not love God. For us, the point is not hell; the point is God. The following reflection on the Lord’s Passion should help you to be aware of how much God loves you. As you reflect on who He is and how extraordinary His love has to be to allow Himself to suffer so at the hand of creatures He created from nothing, you will find that the more grateful you are to Him, the more you will love Him. Hell will then be a side issue.
Fr. Vincent Serpa, O.P.
Reflection on the Passion of Our Lord, Jesus Christ
The agony in the garden was really the agony in His mind. He suffered the passion in His mind before He suffered it in His body—to the point of actually affecting the latter by sweating blood. From here on, the mental and physical suffering played off each other and caused Him greater pain.
At the base of all His suffering was the one thing that human beings dread the most: rejection. He was betrayed by Judas, denied by Peter and abandoned by all the rest of His Apostles; those He had hand-picked as His closest intimates. He was most rejected by those who put Him to death. They not only wanted Him dead, they wanted Him more than dead; they wanted Him to suffer. This significance was not lost on Him. He felt fully the rejection as each physical agony reminded Him.
So we thank Him for joining us on our human journey and actually choosing to experience what we fear the most. We thank Him for enduring the arrest and the cruelty of the guards and the Sanhedrin. We thank Him for enduring the cruelty of Pilate who allowed Him to be executed rather than risk his own political ruin—and for the cruelty of Herod who considered Him not worth his time. We thank Him for all the time He spent satisfying their preoccupation with themselves, just delaying His ultimate death. We thank Him for the anxiety of that night in a prison cell.
The next morning He was brutally scourged with whips, then with whips with nobs at the end, and finally with whips with hooks that gouged out chunks of flesh. There was blood everywhere. The loss of so much blood not only severely weakened Him; it also caused a severe, throbbing headache that remained with Him for the duration.
We thank Him for this and for the mockery He received when they put a filthy purple cloth on His shoulders and open wounds. The Shroud of Turn tells us that the cap- like crown of thorns that they pressed into is head, caused ‘the worst pain that man is heir to; devastating and unbearable.” Then they blindfolded Him and battered His forehead, brow, right upper lip, jaw and nose with their fists; insisting that He ‘prophesy’ who had hit Him. Yet they were the ones who couldn’t see. Then they spat on Him.
He stood at the praetorium in utter disgrace according to the attitude of the crowd—while in reality, He stood in utter glory: almighty God, being present to every person who has ever suffered rejection, joining them in their moment of pain. It was there that He was sentenced to death by crucifixion. Physically, He was utterly miserable. He revealed to St. Bernard that carrying the cross was His most painful agony. He was so weak and thirsty, the pressure and trauma of the crown of thorns and blows to His head made the weight of the cross almost unbearable. Scripture tells us that He fell down three times on the stone streets that were filthy with animal dung—with the cross on top of Him. But the Shroud shows that He fell many, many times. And He got up each time.
It was only with the help of Simon of Cyrene that He made it to the top of Calvary. The Shroud tells us that the nailing to the cross caused (causalgia) agonizing pain like lightening bolts traversing the arms and the legs.
After three hours of hanging there his body just gave out. The Shroud gives as the cause of death: “Cardiac and respiratoty arrest due to hypovolemic and traumatic shock, due to crucifixion.”
Transcending time, the moment of His death covers every human person who has ever lived or will live, but it also remain IN time as the Eucharist, present to us on the altars and in the tabernacles of the world.
We thank you, Lord. We adore you and we praise you. By your holy cross, you have redeemed the world.