O'Connell Paintings of the Stations of the Cross
Image from the O’Connell Paintings of the Stations of the Cross

Cracking the Beatitudes – ‘Ecce Homo!’

‘Behold the man!’ As so often in his Gospel, John uses a touch of irony in reporting Pilates words: while Pilate is speaking to the crowd in front of him, we know the invitation is really directed to us, the Gospel’s readers.  On the day of the Passion, we are called to behold Jesus.

We know today’s events very well, since our childhood, so we are not seeking to know more than we already do, but to understand the meaning of the events we know so well.

Whenever we witness human suffering, especially of those who are close to our heart, we find very little to say. Most of what we say sounds hollow. We try to find a meaningful silence that conveys the depth of feeling, as we share the powerlessness and anguish of the one who is suffering.

So also with Jesus: as I let my gaze rest on him at length, I ask for the grace to be able to be fully present in his torment, reminding myself that it is for me that Jesus suffered so terribly.  I look at Jesus as he goes on his road to the Cross, and I ask to be moved by his suffering, by his faithfulness to his Father and to us, by his inner strength and his love.

Like all experience of suffering it is a message that is directed to my heart rather than to my head. The more we discover of this great mystery, the more we realise there is still more to discover. What has led Jesus to such extremes of self-giving? What does this tell us about the Father? It also throws much light on what it means to be Jesus’ disciples, those who have chosen to take up our daily cross and follow him.

As we approach the end of our series on the Beatitudes, we do well to remind ourselves that the Beatitudes are ultimately about Jesus, for nowhere is this so clear as in the Passion story. He is the one who is poor in spirit, letting himself be carried in trust by the Father’s will; the meek, the merciful, the peacemaker, the pure of heart. For that he is blessed, the Kingdom of heaven is his, he is the child of God, he will receive mercy and be raised back to life.

As I contemplate the suffering Jesus, I ask to be blessed like Jesus in his total openness to the Father’s will.

Today’s audio aid is the classic J.S.Bach: St John Passion BWV 245 Pt.2 30. Aria (Alt): “Es ist vollbracht”