By Hugh R. Brown
The Passion of our Lord is well-documented. As Christians we try to appreciate the suffering of Christ, but we also realize we simply cannot fully comprehend the level of His sacrifice made for us. It began with Jesus fully aware that one of His own would betray Him. In our own lives how often have we felt the sting of loved ones or friends who have betrayed our trust? I know my own response can be very unkind, but that is not what Christ wants, that is not the example He set. May our prayer this week be, “Lord grant me the humility of spirit to return every unkindness with an act of kindness.”
When Jesus entered the garden to pray, His suffering is described as “agony.” Agony is a brutal human condition. Scripture recounts Christ sweating blood, and asking our Lord, His father, to “let this cup pass.” But Jesus humbled Himself, and asked that the Father’s will be done, not His own. We often have no idea what others around us may be suffering. Life is not easy. How often do we allow the desires of our own will to perhaps cloud what Christ wants us to see? May our prayer this week be for others, that God would allow us to love and see our neighbor with mercy and understanding.
When Christ was arrested, He was treated unmercifully, mocked, scorned, beaten, spit upon and led around like a dog on a leash. Christ suffered these insults and injuries with humility and complete surrender to the will of the Father. As a former athlete I refer to myself as a competitor, a man who has pride, a man who won’t give an inch. The false idol of pride often blinds us. In a world thirsty for “manly role models,” He is right in front of us. Christ found strength in weakness; His example to us is perfect. May our prayer this week be for the complete submission of our will to that of our Lord’s, for the benefit of others.
Betrayed by Judas, denied by Peter, abandoned by His disciples and friends, Christ stood alone. Before Pilate, unjustly accused and reviled, He suffered the unspeakable torment of scourging. Whipped and beaten almost to death, He uttered not a word. Christ told Pilate His kingdom did not belong to this world. If it had, His attendants would be fighting to keep Him from being handed over. He had earlier told His disciples if He willed it 12 legions of angels would fight in His defense. I often imagine Saint Michael, the warrior of God, close by to Christ at all times during His Passion, yet unable to act, for it was not the will of God. Pacing back and forth in utter disbelief at the treatment of his Lord by his beloved creatures, the inner rage of the warrior angel was contained through obedience despite his will to act. Obedience can be a burden if we allow the world to lure us. May our prayer this week be for our families, that the example we set for our families be a loving example of obedience to Christ no matter the cost, no matter the burden, carried out in love.
In an act of spite and cruelty, Roman soldiers fashioned a crown of thorns and placed it on our Lord’s head. Those thorns pierced his flesh and his skull, pain upon pain upon pain, suffered in love. “What else,” perhaps Our Lord thought, “what else is cruelty capable of?” Our world is full of those who suffer, those who are broken, those who need kindness, love, and mercy. We live in a time when self is at a premium and often at the expense of others. May our prayer this week be for those who are lost, those who suffer, the lonely, and the broken. Love of neighbor is the call of the Christian; may we go out of our way and act for love of others.
A man in his thirties, up all night and very tired, having suffered extreme emotional and spiritual torment in the garden, as well as the sting of betrayal, was likely also hungry and thirsty. Suffering from repeated beatings, the incomprehensible torment of scourging, humiliated, crowned with thorns, standing for hours, most of us would be dead. Christ’s divinity did not keep Him on his feet; His love for you and me did. Let that sink in. Now our Lord was faced with carrying the cross—hundreds of pounds of brutal weight. He had no strength left. He probably almost bled to death. The pain was beyond words I can type. “Oh no,” the human reaction to seeing that cross. Yet stepping up, again without a word, Our Lord somehow found the strength to carry that which He did not deserve. “Life is not fair,” my young son once said to me. “That can be true,” was my response, “if we see things without Christ.” I cannot explain the pain and suffering we all must endure, the injustice and the unfairness at times. But I know one who suffered more. And I know one who turns all things to grace if we can find a way to trust Him and carry our cross with Him. May our prayer this week be for the strength of Christ to fill our hearts and souls through our most trying hours. And may we always pray for those who suffer and need our prayers and our witness.
In ancient Rome crucifixion was a death sentence meant to send a message. Hanging a man on a cross was a symbol of power and terror. Rome was not to be trifled with and it would be best for you to submit and stay in line. From this horror rose the symbol of all Christianity—the cross. Christ can turn the worst evil to good if we trust Him. The crucifixion and death of Our Lord was a brutal display of savagery and hate, but in the midst of this horror rose grace. “Have you no fear of God?” was the statement of one of the men crucified with Christ. He was speaking to the other thief who was also hanging on a cross and who had just reviled Jesus. “The good thief,” as he is often referred, gave the perfect confession. His humility, his contrition, his concern for Jesus even in the midst of his own death impacted eternity. Christ’s response in the midst of His own agony was no less loving, telling him that today he would join him in paradise.
We cannot despair that we live in a time that does not fear the Lord, for we are part of this time. What we can do and how we can do it needs to be our resolve. Remember, for 2000 years the suffering and sacrifice of Christ has converted billions of people to Christianity and inspired countless numbers of saints and martyrs. The darkness of the crucifixion was eclipsed by the glory and light of the resurrection. May our prayer this week be for hope—hope for our families, hope for our children, hope for our neighbor, hope for our nation, and hope for our world. May we also be inspired to act and know that hope comes to fulfillment when the person acting in Christ loves his neighbor.
Have a blessed Holy week and may our prayer also be for all expectant mothers, babies, and those women contemplating having an abortion. May they realize there is always hope and that life is the greatest gift entrusted to mothers who are the strength of all mankind.
Hugh R. Brown III is Judie Brown's son. Hugh is the father of five, president of AKA Printing and Mailing, one of the founders of St. Michael the Archangel High School, and a member of the board of directors of American Life League.