Friday, April 06, 2007

The most significant execution in history

Jesus is raised on the cross. Around him is a distressing scene. Some pass by, and jeer; the chief priests, more scathing and sarcastic, scoff at him; others, indifferent, are mere spectators. There is no reproach in Jesus' eyes -- only pity and compassion. He is offered harsh wine and myrrh. Give strong drink to him who is perishing, and wine to those in bitter distress; let them drink and forget their misfortune, and remember their misery no more. It was the custom to make such humanitarian gestures with condemned men. The drink -- a strong rough wine with some myrrh -- had a numbing effect and made the suffering more bearable.

Our Lord tasted it as a sign of gratitude toward the person who offered it to him, but wished to take no more, so as to drain the chalice of suffering. Why so much suffering? asks St. Augustine. And he replies: Everything he suffered was the price of our ransom. He was not content to suffer a little; he wished to drink the chalice to the dregs without leaving a single drop behind, so that we might learn the greatness of his love and the baseness of sin, so that we may be generous in self-giving, in mortification and in the service of others.

In Conversation with God
Vol. 2 (Lent and Eastertide)

** Artwork:
The Crucifixion (1543), by Maerten van Heemscerck

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