The Interior Suffering of Christ

Author: Pope John Paul II

In his General Audience on Wednesday, 30 March 1988, the Holy Father addressed a reading from Is. 50, to help us understand the “intimate dispositions” of Jesus as He prepared to undergo His Passion.

1. "The Lord God has opened my ear and I have not rebelled or turned back" ( Is 50, 5).

Dear brothers and sisters:

These words of the Prophet Isaiah, taken from the readings of today's liturgy, help us to understand and relive the same feelings that Christ had in the days immediately preceding the Paschal sacrifice.

Jesus knew what was going to happen to him, and his human psychology was obviously deeply disturbed by it, although in the depths of his heart he fully accepted, in a spirit of filial obedience, the will of the Father.

Jesus "does not back down."

He has listened to the Father, he has trusted him, he has deeply penetrated the meaning of his will, he has understood his wisdom, and he has made it his own with total conviction despite the terrible trial that awaited him.

2. Jesus trusts in that same God who commands him to die on the Cross . He knows that, beyond appearances, this commandment from the Father is actually a plan of love, rescue and mercy. He knows that it is the path that leads him to glory.

This is the great lesson of Holy Week, during which, in an intense succession of events, the whole meaning of Jesus' life and the ultimate reason for everything He he had done before: of his teachings, trips, miracles, directives given to the disciples and the apostles.

In the light of Holy Week we understand the profound meaning of the life of Christ; In these days of suffering and glory, the greatness of his love for us is revealed with full clarity and the whole of his previous gestures acquire conclusive meaning, which appear ordered to the fulfillment of his "hour", of the dramatic and sublime event of the struggle and final victory against the power of darkness.

3. We too, dear brothers and sisters, are called to relive, in these days, the same intimate dispositions of Jesus.

Many in the world are experiencing similar feelings for reasons beyond their control: imminent threats, deadly illnesses, uncertainty about the future, dangers to their safety and to their very lives. And if we are spared such experiences, dearest brothers and sisters, let us also unite ourselves as believers to the sentiments of "Christus patiens", offering them the trials of the past and declaring ourselves ready to accept those that God wants to send us. "Let's not back down."

Let us also offer the sufferings of all those who, not having the light of faith, do not know why they suffer. Let us pray for them, so that they may be enlightened about the meaning of their suffering. And at the same time let us do our part to alleviate and, if possible, eliminate such suffering. This is also a teaching of Holy Wednesday, of Holy Week.

4. The Gospels allude with brief but intense expressions to the growth of Jesus' anguish as the moment of the supreme sacrifice approaches. Five days before the Jewish Passover, Jesus says that his soul is "troubled" ( Jn 12, 27); the night before the sacrifice in the olive grove, his soul "is sad to the point of death" ( Mt 26, 38; Mk 14, 34).

This "crescendo" of the interior suffering of Christ, which responds so well to the natural laws of human psychology in such circumstances, makes us understand in a very moving way how profoundly the incarnate Son of God is in solidarity with our sufferings, how intensely and effectively he has lived our humanity and has participated in our fragility.

Never like in these days that precede the Passion, Jesus seems abandoned to his humanity, like any of us, without help and without consolation; but, precisely in those days of apparent weakness, He performs, through suffering and dejection, the divine work of salvation. Indeed, the divine Son does not abandon his own divinity, but simply hides it and makes Life operative precisely where Death seems to triumph.

5. Dear brothers and sisters: Let us trust in the One who sends us the test. Let us trust and not rebel. Let us ask him to have this trust in him. Indeed, here is the secret of life and salvation. Let us ask him to be able to understand what he intends to tell us through suffering . Through suffering God speaks to us, instructs us, guides us. He saves us. Oh, how important it is to understand these things! Certainly it is something that goes beyond our human capacities, beyond the laws of our psychology. It is a superior wisdom, which does not annihilate the human, but rather enriches it, surpassing it and accepting the "logic" of God's thought.

Blessed are we if we know how to see the goodness of God even at the moment when he sends us the test. What does Jesus teach us? Precisely this: to always trust in the Father, even at the moment of the cross. If the Father sends the cross there is a reason. And since the Father is good, this can only be for our good. This tells us faith. This Christ teaches us in these days before the Passion.

"My Lord helped me, that is why I was not confused, that is why I offered my face like flint, and I know that I will not be ashamed. I have my lawyer close" ( Is 50, 7-8).

Thus the Prophet continues after the verse I quoted at the beginning, in which he declares himself ready to accept the will of God. It is the same state of mind of Christ when approaching the Cross. It is the attitude of trust. Nature would suggest saying, "Father, deliver me from this hour!" ( Jn 12, 27).

"I have come to this hour for this!" Jesus cannot ask to be freed from an "hour" that deep down, out of obedience to the Father, he has always desired and that is the decisive moment and the event that gives meaning to his whole life.

Holy Week asks us in a special way to make these sentiments of Christ our own, confidently opening our hearts to the will of the Father, knowing that we will not be ashamed, that our Advocate is close to us.

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