This Sunday, January 30th, Mass at:
10 AM St. Brendan, Youngstown
Noon, St. Jude, Columbiana
The Passion of the Innocents
It is most ironic that, in a time when violent films are raking in huge profits and Call of Duty: Black Ops, a game for Xbox and PlayStation that boasts of the most vivid graphics and realistic violence, is gaining popularity, our society glosses over violence and pain when it affects us most personally. We like our destruction of human life to be kept at a distance.
Christians today tend to trivialize or whitewash the Passion of the Lord. In some parishes, sadly, the centuries-old Stations of the Cross devotion is eliminated or replaced by a cheap imitation of the original. In Catholic institutions the Crucifix is replaced by a peculiar combination of the Cross and a figure of the Risen Christ (the “resurrect-a-fix”), thus depriving the penitent or the sick person the soothing remedy of identifying with the Suffering Christ. I suppose some people do not like to ponder the pain of Jesus’ final days and prefer to focus on the glorious ending to the story. However, no matter how hard we try, we cannot escape the reality that there is no Easter Sunday without Good Friday. Our salvation is not possible without His suffering. It is vital to our growth in holiness that we connect with and reflect upon what Jesus really did for us and what His incomparable self-gift means as a model of life-giving sacrifice we are to follow in our own vocations.
The contemporary film by Mel Gibson titled The Passion of the Christ was a shocking reminder of the Passion’s physical and emotional horror for a society accustomed to a bland portrayal of the mysteries of our redemption. Our Lord’s torn flesh and pierced body was displayed on the big screen for the world to see: the ultimate best picture. The true physical and neurological pain of scourging and crucifixion is discussed in excruciating detail in a doctor’s study titled The Passion of Jesus: Jesus’ Crucifixion from a Medical Point of View by Richard Krejcir.
Through film and medical study, Christians in the 21st Century have access to authentic and compelling images of the Good Friday events – events which shape our spiritual life and through which we have been given the promise of new life in Heaven. It was for Calvary that Jesus came into the world – for the wood of the death-bed of the Cross that He first lay on the wood of the manger. It would be a shame for any Christian to fail to contemplate the suffering, even bloody and agonizing, Jesus, for it is this Jesus whose love sets us free.
The most heinous cause of death in our world today is abortion: the direct killing of an innocent child in the sanctuary of the womb – an act of destruction which leaves in its wake a dead child, a scarred mother, and a broken family. The culture of death that supports and promotes abortion is based on a sandy foundation of lies. Abortion, we are told, is a valid and healthy choice and one that every woman deserves the freedom to make. In stark contrast, we know from the testimony of post-abortion healing ministries that most women who have abortions feel there is no choice at all, no way out of an unplanned pregnancy. We are also aware of the lifelong psychological damage done to a mother when her “pregnancy is terminated.” Every woman suffering after an abortion deserves the total support of the Church, which extends the merciful love of God.
What is more, the promoters of the abortion industry want us to believe that what exists in the womb is merely a “fetus” and not a baby, tissue that feels no pain and not a living person. More and more the world is coming to see through the lie, as medical science and ultrasound images reveal that the child in the womb has, for one example, discernable fingers and toes by 10 weeks of gestation. From the moment of conception, the unborn child is on a trajectory of development that, uninterrupted, will lead him or her to the life that God intended. We have clear evidence that the unborn babies who are being aborted do indeed feel pain and react to it within the womb (visit www.priestsforlife.org for more information on the various life issues).
Still, the culture of death depends on the lies perpetuated by the pro-abortion lobby, lies which whitewash the personal human pain caused by abortion. The world at large is numb to its realities and blind to its destructive effects.
The pro-abortion element in our country is becoming increasingly unhinged as the truth of medicine and real life is publicized. A recent book by a pro-life convert has blown the doors off the anti-life edifice and given new energy to the pro-life cause. Unplanned, by Abby Johnson, is the autobiographical story of a former Planned Parenthood chapter director who has become a staunch pro-life advocate after witnessing an abortion, performed with the aid of ultrasound, firsthand. Like The Passion of the Christ, the first chapter of the book cuts through the pleasantries and reveals the heartbreaking devastation of abortion. Like the doctor’s account of the Passion, it is a first-hand account with medical evidence to support it. Abby, called in unexpectedly to assist in a “procedure,” is shocked to see the pain experienced by the baby, the tears in a mother’s eyes, and a recognizable baby, not tissue, suctioned out of the uterus. What she witnessed changed her life, and her story is a remarkable testament to the impact of truth in one person’s life. The whole world needs to read this book. It is sad but true, and certainly compelling. No more can we say that abortion is anything but murder of the most evil kind.
As Catholic Christians, we place our faith in the mystery of the Incarnation: Jesus became flesh in order to reveal God in visible form, to know humanity intimately and to redeem the world from within. He experienced the womb, infancy, childhood, adolescence and manhood. At His Baptism, Jesus took upon Himself the sins of the whole world as He rose from the Jordan and the water clung to Him, so that He might carry the weight of human sin and sorrow along with the Cross and nail our sins to the Cross with His broken body. Among the sins He carried was the holocaust of abortion and, thus, among the sorrows He felt were the emptiness of the mothers and fathers and the agony of the babies. Like His own precious body, bloody from the whips and nails and thorns, precious infant bodies in the womb are scourged and torn asunder by the instruments of medicine which become the weapons of mass destruction. They are given to drink of the bitter cup of suffering.
Jesus was fully human except sin. He knows human pain from within. In the punishment of scourging, normally a separate punishment from crucifixion in Roman Law but endured in addition to the cross by Jesus, who took on all that He could for us, Jesus felt the prodding and slicing and wrenching inflicted upon the unborn. Blood was and is poured out. He knows. He loves. He is one with humanity’s greatest tribulations.
As followers of the Suffering Christ, we have the blessed opportunity and obligation to give thanks for the agony our Messiah endured for our salvation and that of the whole world. We must also defend the innocent unborn from the agony of abortion.
In prayer, lift up to our merciful Lord the innocent victims of abortion. Be witnesses to the sanctity of human life in every time and place. This coming Lent in particular, embrace a deeper contemplation of the agonizing Christ and behold the depth of His love. In every day, appreciate the blessings we enjoy in life and allow your heart to be pierced with Christ’s Sacred Heart for love of the unborn and sadness at their plight. May we never again gloss over the pain of the Passion and the passion of the innocents. They are one in Christ. The former is the instrument of salvation. The latter cries out for His mercy and our loving witness.
O Lord Jesus crucified, have mercy on us – mercy, for we have sinned against you and against those most vulnerable among us.