First Meditation: Lessons to be learned from Christ in his Passion
In the Passion of Christ, his submission to God’s will is no less admirable than his humility. We learn from his ministry about the place of this kind of submission as well as the place of humility in our lives. (Matt. 11:29) On the Cross, he taught these lessons too, being led like a sheep to the slaughter and not opening his mouth to protest. (Isaiah 53:7) Isaiah foretells for us how Christ will respond at the time of his death: The Lord God has opened my ear and I do not resist for I have given my body to the strikers, and my cheeks to them that plucked them; I have turned not away my face from them that rebuke me, and spit upon me.’ (Isaiah 50:5-6)
The Apostle Peter explains that we have been given these prophetic words as an example that we should follow. He tells us that when Jesus was reviled, he did not revile. When he suffered he threatened not, but delivered himself to those that judged him unjustly.’ (1 Pet. 2:21, 23) Let us learn from the behaviour of our Lord in his sufferings to imitate him and bear up courageously when confronted with insults and injuries of all kinds. This is to turn the other cheek in the midst of affronts and injuries of all kinds. (Matthew 5:39, Luke 6:29)
If we are to endure with such meekness in our submission and such humility, then we must have patience. Patience is a virtue we must possess if we are to be happy in this life, because none of us live without personal crosses and sufferings. Patience both sweetens and sanctifies all our sufferings and, as the Apostle James points out, patience is a perfect work for in it we may be perfect and entire and fail in nothing. (James 1:4) Now, this all-necessary virtue of patience is best learned through the passion of Christ. Firstly, by the consideration of the multitude and variety of his sufferings and, secondly, by the manner in which he endures everything for the love of us. How can we complain or think much of any sufferings in our own life, when we have before his eyes the far greater sufferings of Jesus, which he endured with an unwavering patience?
Submission to the will of God, humility and patience—these are necessary lessons we all need. To study them well, we must sit at the foot of the cross under the shadow of the crucified Christ. There we should bless God for having sent us so excellent a master to teach us so many virtues. By this means not a single moment of Jesus’s passion loses meaning for us. Every moment is a lesson.
Second Meditation: The love Christ has shown us in his Passion
Think about those words in Holy Scripture when it speaks of Our Lord: Greater love than this no man has that a man lay down his life for his friends.’ (John 22:13) History scarcely shows us any instances of a friendship so perfect, as that one friend should be willing to lay down his life for another. How imperfect is all human friendship compared with the love we have been given by Christ. What love between people could ever bear the least resemblance to that divine charity? Christ blessed all creatures for evermore by his love and so we must never allow ourselves to forget for a moment the sacrifice that Our Lord made for us from love and for love.
Consider what the world would think of a prince, the only son and heir of some great monarch, who should entertain such love and friendship for one of the meanest of his slaves. A prince who offered to die a cruel death, just to rescue his slave from the just punishment of his crimes. Would not all mankind stand amazed at such an extraordinary love? And so much more, if the crime for which this slave was condemned to die, were nothing less than a treasonable conspiracy against this very prince.
For Christians, this is but a faint resemblance and a very imperfect image of that inconceivable love, which our Saviour showed us in giving his life to rescue us, his disobedient rebels, from the eternal torments of hell.
Pray then for God to give you the grace to return that love with love.
Third Meditation: On Jesus preaching from the cross
Consider how the whole life and doctrine of Jesus was a continual lesson to in renouncing self-love in its three parts: the love of the flesh; the lust of the eyes, that is, the love of the material goods of this world; and the pride of life, that is the lust for power, privilege, prestige and honours from other men and women. In the end, all these passions and aims prove useless. They are of little value in making us content or giving us any lasting happiness, because they draw us away from God. If we satisfy all these worldly goals, we have withdrawn from allegiance to God, and exchanged the fountain of life for mere muddy puddles. This can never satisfy our thirst for the meaning and purpose of our being alive. We still yearn for something more. That yearning is for meaning and God gives us such meaning. In the end, we lose through age all the beauty that brought us the satisfaction of our desires of the flesh for no one desires us anymore. If we have all the money in the world and can buy anything we want and when we possess everything we can think of, it does satisfy us. We are left bored and restless, still seeking more but not knowing what that more is. Power, privilege and prestige all pass away. We are like the wild flowers—here today, gone tomorrow—and remembered eventually by no one. (1 Peter 1:24; Psalm 103) The world forgets.
The sermon, which Jesus preaches from the cross, is about love—and nothing else. He does not speak words but shows us by his actions that true love is never self-love. He condemns by his sacrifice all that is self-love—all the illusions of self-love and all the maxims and practices and values of the world, which would have us believe self-love is worthy or wise. He teaches by his own example that we are to throw out self-love and follow him in true love, the kind of love that knows no bounds, holds all mercy, and comes from that fountain of life which is life itself—the holy presence of God.
If we desire to be perfect, we must learn from Christ to make this offering of ourselves without reservation to God. We must join our offering of unselfish love with his. We should make such an offering everyday of our lives and not just in the Season of Lent. Give him then daily your soul and body. Indeed, simply give God all of yourself, just as he has given all of himself to you. In this way not only will Christ live in you, but you will live in Christ.
© “Meditations for Lent” by Stafford Whiteaker from “CALLED INTO LIGHT — Meditations with Bishop Challoner for the Christian Year” by Stafford Whiteaker to be published by Gracewing Ltd in late 2021. Permission is granted for quoting from these meditations as long as the source by book title and author is credited. Pre-ordering via www.gracewing.co.uk. (Please note that foreign rights including USA have not yet been finalised. Permission has been granted by the author for this book to be translated into the French language as well as the usual translations given in foreign rights editions.)