The Lord's Passion
The Severe Mercy of God
Most of us have probably seen, if not heard of the 2004 film - The Passion of the Christ. It quickly became known for its graphic betrayal of the violence and torture inflicted upon our Lord, which put many people off.
Violence plays apart in most of humanities existence, and although our society has done much to end routine and unjust forms of it, it lurks on the edges and the forgotten corners. You do not have to go far in Scotland, let alone the rest of the world to see how brutal life can be and how human nature in the wrong place at the wrong time lends itself to this terror. We might look back at what happened in 1930’s Germany and wonder how ‘ordinary’ people collaborated with the Nazi’s policies of extermination - yet, when you look at the pictures of the guards at Auschwitz, or go to a place like the House of Terror in Budapest - you do not see malformed monsters, but men and women who laughed and loved and wanted a good life. I have never been to Auschwitz, but when I visited that place in Budapest I pondered my own reflection.
I bring this up because we tend to ossify and distance ourselves from Good Friday, we look away from the horror being inflicted on God. When the Chief Priests were scheming, when Judas was conspiring, when Pilate was washing his hands, we were all their - we cannot blame the Romans or the Jews, for it was all of us who killed Jesus . Each blow of that evil cat-o-nine tails whip that tore at his skin to the point it reveal bone, was our sins trying to destroy what was Good. The deadly mocking of the soldiers rises in our own hearts to meet Him when He should be enthroned upon it; and that twisted thorned crown is what we set upon Him when we pretend at playing Christian. Where would I be standing on Calvary that day? Would I be with the Blessed Mother or with the crowd shaming and taunting Him?
Good Friday confronts us with the severe mercy and judgement of God. The grace that flows out to us is so enormous we barely get a grip of it, but the mistake we make, and one that some in our own Church do on a regular basis, is downplay the significance and seriousness of Sin so as to somehow be able to get a bigger view of this love. Calling out sin in ourselves is very hard to do, mostly we dislike it, and many of those voices within the Church that want to appear inclusive would run a mile in making this call publicly. But the inclusivity of God is only met in the person of Jesus, with the ripping of the veil into the Holy of Holies he returns us to Him. In doing this he implants the Word within us which He Jealously yearns over. God’s mercy is giving us the choice to cooperate with Him into taking us to the centre of what makes life abundant - life in Christ.
Who can fathom the depths of this? It jars within, it doesn’t make sense, we try and fail and try again. We give up, and yet He does not give up on us. We see holiness as a chiding parent, yet it is the open door of freedom. Somehow love, grace, mercy, judgement and holiness combine to create a Christ-like person. Have we the courage to to go through that door this Easter?
By Eric Hanna