Passion – Karel San Juan, SJ

John 11:45-56; Saturday of the Fifth Week of Lent

Tomorrow will already be Palm Sunday, and as we know, it commences the culmination of our Lenten Season, the Holy Week. It is good that today, Saturday, we already begin to dispose our hearts and our minds for this most sacred time with God. Our Church offers various ways of entering and engaging this sacred week. Retreats, recollections, talks and sermons, masses, stations of the cross, confessions, penances and sacrifices, fasting, works of mercy and charity, Visita Iglesia, prusisyon, pabasa ng Pasyon, senakulo, and simply spending time to be alone, in silence, reflection, and prayer.

This Holy Week we are called to center our prayer and reflection on the Passion of our Lord Jesus. Tomorrow, Palm Sunday, this will be the Gospel that will be read, the whole Passion Narrative. On Good Friday as well, the Gospel will be the whole Passion Narrative. And all our rituals and traditions are about the Passion of Jesus. It might help therefore to reflect on precisely this, the Passion of Jesus, what passion means, and what the passion of Jesus may mean to us, to our lives, to our own passion.

The term “passion” may lead us to three meanings: one is suffering, second is love, and third is surrender. And these three I think may provide depth and meaning to Holy Week.

First, passion as suffering. One root word of passion is the Latin pati, which means suffer. Hence, the Passion of Jesus is the suffering of Jesus, how his mission of spreading the Good News of God’s love, mercy, and forgiveness, as the Son of God, led Him to the inevitable: to face the authorities, the worldly powers threatened by His message and His person, and how this led to His persecution, His captivity, His judgment, His torture, and ultimately His Cross and His death – His torment and suffering, physical, mental, psychological, spiritual, how He embraced all these, how He endured all these, how it all led to the inevitable, His death. The Passion of Jesus is therefore the Suffering of Jesus.

During Holy Week, we are called to focus our eyes on Jesus and His suffering, His passion. As we do this, focus on Jesus’ suffering, we cannot avoid reflecting as well on our suffering, our passion, our own experiences of pain, hardship, torment, diminishment, weakness, and death, the crosses that we bear and carry in our lives, our burdens, our many problems and challenges in life. Some spiritual masters advice that we unite our suffering with the suffering of Jesus, our crosses with His Cross, our pain with His pain. Our passion with His passion.

The second meaning of passion we may reflect on is love. When we say I am passionate about something or someone, it means we are energized by that something or someone, we are engaged, our hearts and minds are consumed by what and who we are passionate about, we are emotionally intense, we become fully alive, fully charged, fully in love. Yes, to be passionate is to be in love with something or with someone. Passion is thus about love, loving someone, loving something, like your work, your art, your hobby, your interests, your gifts.

In Holy Week we reflect on the Passion of Jesus, which is the Love of Jesus. He embraced suffering, His Cross, and His death because of this love. Love for and obedience to His Father, whose will Jesus was following, whose will was the mission of Jesus on earth, to spread the Good News of love, mercy, forgiveness; to bring people back to God. Hence the Passion of Jesus is essentially the love of Jesus for His Father, and the love of Jesus for us. This love is empowering, it empowered Jesus to face suffering and embrace His cross. It enabled Jesus to sacrifice, for sacrifice and suffering are inevitable, sacrifice and suffering comes with loving; philosophers say that suffering is the language of love; one cannot love without sacrifice; one cannot love without suffering.

As we go through therefore the Passion of Jesus this Holy Week, we remember His love, immense, deep, immeasurable, unconditional, fully given unto death, the Passion of Jesus is the Love of Jesus for us. We can also reflect on our own loving, loving others, loving the things we do, like our mission, our work, our vocation, and how our loving inevitably leads to sacrifice and suffering, and yet we fully embrace them, because they are all part of the loving. How we give our lives for others because of love, how we are selfless, self-forgetting, self-abnegating, because of love.

The third meaning of Passion that we can reflect on comes from another root meaning of the word passion, which is related to the word “passive,” or the capacity of being acted upon, or the better, clearer word “receptive” or “receptivity.” Passion can thus be understood as receptivity, to be non-resisting, to allow things to happen to you, to be passive therefore, but in an active and deliberate way, which can lead to further meanings like to entrust one’s self to someone or something, to yield, to surrender. I find this third meaning of Passion, not often thought about, as meaningful and profound, especially in spiritual terms.

This means looking at the Passion of Jesus as also the receptivity of Jesus, His entrusting His whole self to God, His full surrender to the will of His Father, His full faith and obedience to God. Didn’t we see that in the Passion of Jesus? He, most powerful, miracle worker, able to heal the sick and resurrect the dead, Jesus yielded every step of the way to God, for God to be in control, in the different Stations of His Cross, trusting that all these have to be done; all these have to happen; at the Agony in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus in torment accepting what will happen, fully receptive, absolutely generous of self-giving, completely abandoning Himself to God’s care, as He uttered His last words on the Cross, Into Your Hands I Commend My Spirt, It is Finished! We see in all these that the Passion of Jesus is the receptivity of Jesus to God’s will, His allowing Himself to be acted upon, to be loved and to be led, and His full surrender and trust and faith in God His Father.

And thus we can also reflect this Holy Week our own Passion as Surrender to God, our passive yet deliberate receptivity to His action in our lives, our daily abandonment to His love and His wisdom, our deep trust and entrusting of ourselves to God, our letting go. Let Your will be done.

Hence, as we begin Holy Week tomorrow, we shall reflect on the Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ. We shall reflect on three dimensions of this Passion: His Passion as suffering, His Passion as loving, and His Passion as surrender. And we can reflect as well on our own passions, our suffering, our love and sacrifice, our receptivity and surrender to God, all united with the Passion of Jesus, blessed, sanctified, made holy this coming week, and always. Amen.

*Image from the Internet

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