Last Updated:Friday - 09/24/2010
March 29, 2004
WCR Letters to the Editor
Christ's supreme sacrifice
Pope St. Leo the Great sent a letter called the Tome of Leo to Flavius, bishop of Constantinople, in AD 449 after Flavius had condemned Eutyches for what was the beginning of monophysitism (the heretical belief that Christ had but one nature, or a composite nature of both human and divine). In that letter Pope St. Leo stated that Christ had one person and two natures: one nature being divine and the other being human.
The finite human mind cannot begin to understand or appreciate the infinitely greater torment of the divine nature of Christ's Passion. For that reason I have conducted research into the Passion of Christ with respect to his human nature. There are many sources beyond the Gospel accounts.
Information may be obtained from Roman and Jewish historians, the Shroud of Turin, the Mandela, revelations made to several saints, miraculous events, and Nazi death camps where certain prisoners were crucified and studied. These sources have been analyzed and commented upon by doctors, scientists, judges, biographers, historians, linguists and saints.
The intent of my research was to enlarge upon the account of the Passion and death of Jesus Christ that is portrayed in the Gospels as well as filling in certain gaps and shedding some light on how or why certain things happened. The purpose of publishing my research was to strike at the very core of the heart and mind and soul of the faithful that they may more fully appreciate the supreme sacrifice that Christ made for us on our behalf.
I cannot speak for Mel Gibson with respect to his film about the Passion, but I can state that my research indicates that the gore and violence in the movie probably does not go far enough. The devout Thaler relates that it is an opinion of St. Jerome that all the pains and infirmities that Jesus suffered on that night will be made known only on the day of the last judgment. May God have mercy on our souls.
But I think the debate that has been going on has caused us to lose our focus. Christ's Passion is not about blaming who caused it to happen. For that matter, it is the sins of humanity that are the cause and everyone shares in the blame.
I believe that we are reminded quite frequently of the focus of the Passion during sporting events. Often in a crowd you can see fans holding up a banner that says "John 3:16." John 3:16 states "For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life."
St. Alphonsus de Liguori tells us "If we love Jesus not because he is good, because he is God, let us love him because he suffered so many things for our salvation." The Passion, then, is a love story.
Critics don't recognize or get Passion's truth
Critics don't "get" the Passion because they never "got" it. Like Pilate, and unlike Claudia, they don't recognize Truth when it stands before them. Too violent? How else could one pay for the collective sins of humanity except in an excruciating manner?
Jesus Christ took upon himself to repair the evil that man has worked throughout the ages; he suffered for the perpetrators of Sept. 11, among others, for the evil which man does as obliviously and dutifully as the Roman soldiers scourging Jesus, for the Nazis torturing Jews in concentration camps, for the crimes committed in every nation, for the many great evils which society fails to recognize in our own day.
When one thinks about it, Gibson did not go far enough in his portrayal of the Passion of Christ, but if he could completely lay bare our sins, who could endure it? Make no mistake, that in truth Christ had to be given just enough strength to stay alive, until he could taste the fruits of all sins before the prophesy could be fulfilled.
Having viewed the film, which is approaching a quarter of a billion in gross revenue, I was deeply impressed with the love of the God-Man, suffering for us all the horrors that are the fruit of sin. As to the cast itself, the acting was superb, especially on the part of Jesus Christ. There can be no tougher critics than Christians whose sensitivities and sensibilities are always tweaked when this role is taken upon by anyone.
Caviezel and Gibson managed to transcend the mystery of the Word Incarnate with stunning beauty, believability, and imparting deep understanding.
With due respect, I cannot see how someone from Gibson's background accomplished this film without divine help.
Who cares about Oscar? All those behind this movie will be duly rewarded, I' m sure.
The Passion lets us bare our scars
In all of the articles that I have read on Mel Gibson's new movie The Passion of the Christ I have not seen a single one relate what is on the screen to today's human experience.
Sister Louise Zdunich indicates in her article "Did you like The Passion?"(WCR, March 15) that it is not humanly possible for someone to suffer as Christ is portrayed in the movie. I beg to differ.
In many ways over the last 100 years we have seen examples of the capacity for the human person to endure suffering. The Nazi interment camps with Auschwitz being the most horrid of examples, the regime of Idi Amin in Africa, the atrocities in Central America, and the list goes on.
In our own backyard, we have those atrocities repeated daily unseen. Fathers, mothers, and others do unspeakable things to each other and their children.
These events can go on for years. Some of us have experienced extremely deep physical, emotional, and spiritual wounds at the hands of those who are supposed to be the ones who love and protect us.
In my own experience, those deep physical wounds do not actually bleed like one would expect them to. The body somehow manages to protect itself from allowing blood to drain from the wounds.
David Goa in his article "Spiritual romanticism reigns"(WCR, March 8) essentially paints the movie as Mel's "fantasy."
He indicates that testament is supposed to point to the kingdom and not to itself and concludes the article with the movie being born of personal piety and a, "struggle that must be horrendous." The movie to Goa is "fantasy" and a romantic notion.
However, I discovered in the movie that I did not suffer alone. I was not introduced to the Christ that shared my sufferings until I was in my 20s.
It is an important step in the healing process of one who has been deeply and extensively abused to recognize that there is someone who very much understands what they have experienced: betrayal and abuse at the hands of loved ones.
Another aspect to the healing process is through prayer and therapy: to discover the exact wound that I bear on the person of Jesus and then together, Jesus, the therapist, and I, to walk the journey to its healing.
To me the movie barely does justice for the ugliness of our sin. I have quietly looked at our antiseptic crucifixes for many years with the thought that they do not do justice to what really happened in those last 12 hours.
A statue on Blessed Andre Bessette's kitchen table at the Oratory in Montreal comes close to expressing this reality. As do some Byzantine icons.
In Renato Gandia's article "Passionately recall Jesus' resurrection" (WCR, March 15), he indicates that only "believers" will truly understand and grasp at what is happening in this movie. To some extent, this may be true.
However, I do see that those who have lived the experience of being kissed by the ones who "love" them and then abused by those same ones will see themselves in the film.
They will see the true depth of the darkness, rejection, and abandonment of abuse in the cry, "My God, why have you forsaken me!" I do hope and pray that they will also experience the need to forgive their abusers as Jesus forgave his - us.
This cycle of being hurt, needing to forgive, and healing we all experience to a lesser or greater extent.
The last scene in the movie is a powerful testimony of love and forgiveness.
Jesus did not come back to us without those scars.
To us who have had to endure silently for many years it is a great gift to bear our scars.
This is the true sign of healing and resurrection.
What was once something that was repressed is now a gift. It becomes a foundation to work with those who are abused and to give hope to those who are journeying to wholeness and freedom.
It is a powerful testimony to the kingdom of God that we his children accept and work with all that is a part of our life.
We embrace life with open arms as Jesus embraced the cross.
The movie does indeed point to the kingdom, for, it is only with the kingdom in mind that a human being can accept and live with such suffering.
Reader pans others' comments
As one of 30 million people to date who have seen the movie, The Passion of the Christ, I wish to contrast the avalanche of glowing reviews by esteemed Christian leaders to the stunningly weak assessments byFather Clem Gauthier andSister Louise Zdunich in the March 15 WCR.
Billy Graham said, "I was moved to tears. No one who views this film's compelling imagery will ever be the same." It was clear this would be no ordinary movie.
In time other trustworthy leaders would call the film "a contemporary masterpiece," "extraordinary," "deeply moving," and "a profound spiritual intimacy with Jesus Christ."
The Passion's well-deserved accolades stand in stark contrast to Gauthier's crass comparison of the movie's intensity to his experience visiting a slaughterhouse.
The good padre's weak stomach should hardly deny people of goodwill the opportunity to experience the awesome beauty in this movie. Unique teaching moments like this ought not to be so easily dismissed.
As for Zdunich's comment that the Gospel's do not belabour Jesus' suffering and so neither should we, she appears to be focusing on the Passion as ugly tragedy and not as a beautiful love story.
Fortunately for the viewer, the director Mel Gibson does not make the same mistake - The Passion of the Christ is a triumphal telling of the greatest love story ever told.
The unrelenting endeavour by many to minimize the reality of Christ's agonizing passion recalls for me, Richard Neibuhr's long-ago critique of the sanitized and comfortable Christianity that has been catapulted into much of the modern western Church.
"A God without wrath brought men without sin into a kingdom without judgment through the ministrations of a Christ without a cross."