Very often it is the outsider who sees more clearly than those on the inside. I remember well that in a certain Abbey, there was only one monk that anyone could see succeeding to the then Abbot, who would one day become a bishop. The monk sadly left the monastery and everyone was dumbstruck. I had to say that I had never seen the monk as being in Abbot, and if he had been it would have been disastrous. The man that I thought would make a good Abbot did become the Abbot. None of the monks had been able to see that. It takes an outsider to see the truth.
In many ancient societies the concept of the wise old man is very much to the fore, but I think if men are wise, it is because they have listened to wise mothers, or wise wives. Women have to, because most of them will be mothers, have a due sense of proportion. I hate the word prioritize. They understand situations, because they understand the way their children communicate and socialise. It is mother’s who invariably have to discipline children, but the Nanny State is now trying to do it for them. The great sadness today is that one parent families are producing one parent families, who are a prey to the Media, the social services, and the prevailing fashionable views of morality or amorality. The rythmn of life has been lost and with it wisdom.
Claudia Procula as Pilate’s wife has been known to us, would have been a high ranking Lady, who would not have had a lot of physical work to do, but she would have had to organize things, and say the right things to the right people at the right time. She would have observed all the people who were trying to get her husband’s attention, or who disliked him like the Jewish leaders. She would have had the luxury of observing and listening. No doubt Pilate took her dream seriously, but he was a man who wanted to keep his job and keep his reputation. Even the truth must not get in the way.
Like Claudia Procula, like Joseph the Patriarch, and like St. Joseph we must listen to those dreams of ours that are not simply the reassembling of the days events in either a chaotic way or a systematic way, but are prophetic, are illuminating. Above all we must listen to conscience.
If Claudia was made aware of Jesus’ innocence by a dream, then Simon of Cyrene was made aware of it by being pressed into helping Jesus carry his cross. I am sure that commentators who say that he was very reluctant to do so, even angry at having to do so are right, but contact with the humble Son of God transformed everything, and he was one of by Jesus’s patience and sacrificial love that he would have received by almost physical contact. Something of God’s overwhelming love must have transmitted Simon, and converted him, otherwise why would his sons Alexander and Rufus have become disciples.
Veronica is too well known from the Stations of the Cross and tradition to need much mention here, but I always think that not only was Christ’s face imprinted on her towel, but it was imprinted on her heart, and should be imprinted on ours.
And so as Jesus makes his way to Calvary in extreme physical anguish it is the women who comfort him. Why? Because it is the mother’s instinct to console event he naughty child. Men demand more often than not Justice, and it is invariably not justice, but revenge, whereas women offer Mercy. So it is not surprising that the two great seers of the Sacred Heart, are women, namely St. Gertrude the Great, and St. Margaret Mary Alacoque. Nor is it surprising that St. Therese and St. Faustina are the great heralds of the Divine Mercy.
One of the most moving scenes in Mel Gibson’s the Passion is where Jesus falls for the first time and Our Lady rushes to help him up, and we see a flashback to when he falls and hurts himself as a very little boy. Every mother will have known that moment all too well, and it was indeed a stroke of genius on Gibson’s part.
However once Christ has been crucified the men come back centre stage, and for the most part with the exception of St. John and the Good Thief, they show themselves in the main as hostile. For the priests and the Pharisees and the establishment Christ is at worst a blasphemer, and at best a malefactor. None of them are looking at Jesus with an unbiased eye. None are looking for the truth. Most of us are trapped in a web of emotions. Most of us think with minds confused by anxiety, or anger, or inordinate love, or lost, or avarice, or any of the seven deadly sins, possibly the worst being sloth, when we give into mental laziness and refuse to think, which is depressingly evident in not only society today, but in the Church.
With Our Lady at the foot of the Cross not only is she Mediatrix of All graces, and Co-Redemptrix, not only is she the Mater Dolorosa, whose heart is pierced by the sword, as well as being Mother or Mercy, she is also seat of wisdom. She knows that there is no other way than this, and gives herself totally to God’s will, spiritually dying so to speak with him on the Cross.
With his death, it is yet another pagan the Centurion who says “Truly This Man was the Son of God”. This definitely puts paid to the once fashionable sixties and seventies view that Christ was somehow a prototype of a Latin American guerrilla like Che Guevarra, who like so many of his time was a member of the professional middle classes as were the Liberation Theologians. Christ does not come for mass movements be they communist, democratic, nazi, fascist he comes for all men as individuals. Each soul is the apple of his eye.
And so we come to the final stage of the Passion when those two secret disciples of Jesus, the elderly or at least mature men, Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus who take Jesus down from the Cross and place his dead body in his mother’s arms. A Joseph was there at Christ’s birth, a Joseph is there at his death. How beautiful and delicate are ways of God. Courage for some of us is a hard fought battle. These two pillars of the Jewish establishment throw all cautions to the winds, along with their reputations and become open disciples after all the others, with the exception of John have fled.
There is hope for us all. For this Life is for so many the Passion, and we suffer it with varying degrees of intensity. For some it is the terrible sufferings of a Padre Pio, or a Maximillian Kolbe, for others that of St. Therese or St. Francis de Sales. We are all called to carry the Cross, this is not only about suffering it is about co-redeeming with Christ. To carry the Cross is the greatest privilege that we have, and it is one of the greatest tragedies of Christian life over the last 50 or so years that the Church has failed to proclaim the wonder, the beauty, and the majesty of the Cross.