Beyond Bunnies and Eggs . . .
Amidst fluffy white bunnies and decorated eggs, it's easy to focus on the happy stuff of Easter, and it's equally easy to just think about the resurrection of Our Lord. After all, that's the clean part of the Gospel. But if we focus on just that part, we do ourselves a disservice and we ignore the most important part of Christ's work - His suffering.
Agony in the Garden, Carl Bloch (1834-1890)
In the Garden of Gethsemane, Christ shows us what it is to suffer mentally, to the point of sweating drops of blood. With the betrayal of Judas, Christ shows us what it is to suffer betrayal at the hands of someone you love and trust. In the scourging, Christ shows us what it is to suffer the physical pain of our bodies. In the crowning of thorns, we see Christ suffering from humiliation. In the carrying of the cross, we see Christ suffer as he perseveres toward His final goal, carrying the instrument of his own torture, and even stumbling under the load before getting up to continue on His way – to His own death.
Our minds and hearts repel such horrifying images, but we must remember that it was Christ's offering of Himself as a sacrificial victim for the sins of mankind which appeased God the Father, not His resurrection. Jesus himself said, "When I am lifted up, I will draw all men unto me” (Gospel of St. John 12:32). He didn't say that when He rose from the dead He would draw all men to Himself.
Did Christ want to suffer?
No. In fact, while praying in the Garden of Gethsemane on the night of the Last Supper, he requested of God three times that his suffering might be taken from Him.
God said no. Why? Because the only way to open heaven and redeem mankind was through Christ’s offering of Himself. Adam’s sin could not be undone in any other way except through a new Adam.
Crucifixion, Old Master
But God, in His infinite wisdom, did not limit Our Lord’s suffering to the opening of heaven’s gates and the saving of mankind. Christ, in His passion, gave dignity and meaning to suffering. There are no pains that we can possibly endure that Our Lord has not already experienced. Suffering, whether large or small, means something to us because we are more like our Savior at that time than any other. Our hearts change when we are undergoing difficult trials. And if we strive to imitate Our Lord, ask for His help, and offer ourselves to Him, they will always change for the better.
Let us spend some time before Easter contemplating the great mysteries of Christ's suffering, so that when Easter arrives, we can truly glory in His resurrection and the heavenly reward awaiting those who love Christ.