In medieval times, there was a legendary story about a thorn bird that only sang once in its life. Leaving its nest, it searched for a bush with long, sharp thorns. Upon finding the bush, it impaled itself on the biggest thorn. Then the thorn bird began to sing. The bird sang more beautifully than a lark. The world paused to listen. God smiled with pleasure at the captivating melody.
What was the message of this engaging music?
Life’s most satisfying moment can only be purchased at the price of great pain. In real life, that message actually occurred in the sufferings Jesus Christ experienced in his Passion and death as described in the Gospels.
The greatest of all meditations is the Passion and death of Jesus Christ. The story of the cross has converted millions of hearts from sin to grace from apostolic times to our own time. That is why the Passion narratives are the longest and most moving parts of all four Gospels.
Meditation on Christ’s Passion will stir feelings of thankfulness for what Jesus did for us. That, of course, will not be enough. Obedience to Christ’s teachings must accompany such feelings. Otherwise, our sentiments are simply a form of self-indulgence and a mockery of Christ’s sacrifice. At the same time, a commitment to Jesus without any feeling for him is an imperfect form of relating to him.
As we turn to the Passion, we think about what Jesus said and did. We dwell on various scenes: the Last Supper, his agony in the garden, the betrayal, his scourging at the pillar, the crowning with thorns, his carrying the cross and the crucifixion itself. We visualize these experiences as real events, not just stories written in a book. We will hear his words and those spoken to him. We will experience it with him, enduring the injustices he endured as well his remarkable acts of forgiveness of those who tortured and killed him.“Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
We do not have to go up to heaven or fly to the farthest reaches of the seas at this moment. Jesus is as near to us as to the Gospel texts and liturgical ceremonies. Jesus is as near to us as our heartbeats. We can live this truth again by having a loving relationship with Jesus and prove it by living like the Christ of the Passion.
Norbertine Fr. McBride is a popular lecturer and author of more than 40 books.