Recently our tiny community was looking at Roma Downey and Mark Burnett’s “The Bible” for a Holy Week extended meditation, and we were not disappointed. One could complain that it really was a whistle stop tour of the Old and New Testaments to put it mildly, and would have loved to have had some of the elegiac stories, such as Isaac and Rebecca, Jacob and Rachel, Joseph and his dreams, and Ruth and Boaz to bring a taste of Heaven to the very earthly proceedings. What one was given were some very violent scenes. Nothing was spared. The horrifying scene where Nebuchadnezzar kills Zedekiah’s sons before his eyes, and then gouges them out was truly terrifying, especially as the sons were little boys, which would ring true; given how young Zedekiah was himself. However what came out very strongly was trust in God, and how violent things were in the Old Testament.
We can think rather mistakenly that we live in a better age, and that we in the civilized West are not as violent, but we are. We have only to reflect that it was not so very long ago that Pol Pot all but carried out a policy of genocide on his own people, and he was not a peasant, but a well educated member of the middle classes, and Mao may have started off as a peasant, but became a middle class revolutionary and, as the distinguished historian Simon Sebag Montefiore notes, was the greatest monster of them all, comparing him no doubt to Stalin, Hitler, and Pol Pot. But let us not allow the great communist leaders and Hitler to take all the blame. Did the Americans have to drop two atomic bombs on Japan? Did the British have to behave so appallingly in Africa? Did they have to be so unspeakably cruel to the Chagos islanders, turf them out of their island home, and dump them on the island of Mauritius, where they pined away and died of poverty and loneliness. Many years later, when they, the islanders, won their case in the High Court in London to return to the Chagos islands, (now renamed Diego Garcia, ironically an American Air Force Base and home to one of the many American torture chambers), the islanders found that the then Prime Minister Tony Blair, by resorting to an arcane law, and with the Queen’s approval, prevented them from ever returning to their island homes. Just to emphasize the terrible injustice, it is remarkable to note that the Washington Post described Diego Garcia as part of America’s Gulag. It was there, according to the newspaper’s report, that ‘al-Qaeda’ suspects are tortured, and no doubt innocent people too.
What is so remarkable is that God allows himself, in Jesus, to be tried and tortured with unbelievable ferocity and hatred, if we are to believe such mystics as St. Bridget of Sweden, Blessed Anna Catherine Emmerich and others, and accept it all with such love and humility. It is Jesus’ humility, gentleness and love that are the hallmarks of the Passion narrative. He is indeed the Lamb led to the slaughter.
As Christians we cannot enter Heaven unless we tread the path of the Passion. It may not be anything resembling Christ’s Passion, and even the most terrible martyrdom cannot come near it, for the God Man suffers infinitely, and we suffer only finitely. However sorrows will come our way, and mostly by people betraying us in marriage, family, business, work, or in friendship, as Jesus was in the person of Judas. We will, especially in the present atmosphere of the new rise of totalitarianism, which our drugged and over sexed West seems to be unaware of, very possibly find ourselves hauled before kangaroo courts, tortured, and killed; with possibly Church leaders saying nothing as in the case of Nazi Germany and the Soviet World, and still, as is the case, in China today.
God invariably is tried and found wanting. Why? Because God is the God of Love and humility. He is Creator and he is King and his authority is that of utter integrity utter justice, and abounding mercy. In our lives, if we imitate Christ, we will suffer like him, for the World and The Prince of this world wants only power and the unbridled use of it.
Let us spare a thought for the peoples of the Ukraine, who look sure to walk the path of the Via Dolorosa. May Our Lady cast her protecting veil over them all, and bring them to peace, either the peace of an unsullied life, or the peace of Heaven, and let them draw solace from the passion of Christ, who has endured all the sufferings, and sins of Man from the beginning of Time, to his Second Coming, and as I said he has suffered all that infinitely.