Why did Jesus have to suffer for our forgiveness?

My wife and I recently view The Passion of the Christ and she asked me a question which I didn’t do a very good job of answering. Her question was: Why did God The Father allow Jesus to suffer so immensely when He could have forgiven our sinfulness with just His thought? My answer that our forgiveness could only be secured with the Perfect Sacrifice didn’t seem to convince her and frankly, it wasn’t a very good answer.
This was such an intense movie and so well done, it put into pictures what we have believed all our lives.

Dear d,

In all of human history the Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ is the only instance in which we have a demonstration of the infinite. Without the Passion “infinity” is just a word and an abstraction. Everything we know by experience has limits—everything. That God would join his creatures in taking on human flesh and then allow Himself to be so tortured and then suffer death is beyond our ability to fully comprehend.

However, we do understand what physical pain is. We also can understand what personal rejection is and what death is. We understand what freedom of choice is. We are not able to completely wrap our minds around Infinite Love: love without limit. But we do understand that God, whose love is infinite and who did not have to suffer and die for us, chose to suffer and die for us because His love for us has no limit. We understand the Passion to the degree that we can understand the human dimension of it. We can identify with the suffering and pain that Jesus endured. As to the divine dimension of it, we can only respond with loving awe and gratitude.

The greatest piece of news we will ever have is that God loves each one of us that much! It is this reality that is with us as we live the joys and sorrows of each day. It is the reality that accompanies us through death and beyond. It is the reality we celebrate on the altar every time Mass is offered. It is the answer to every question and the fulfillment of every desire. It is the meaning of our existence and so much more……

Fr. Vincent Serpa, O.P.

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