“Let us test him with insult and torture, so that we may find out how gentle he is” (Wis. 2,19)
Flaggelation of Christ – Caravaggio
When we do good to others we usually get a sort of satisfaction. Yes, we are all created to do good .. “We are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life”(Eph.2.10). But for whom do we usually do good? Is it not the ones who love us, who acknowledge what we do to them and are grateful to us? Are we ready to continue to do good to those who turn to be ungrateful to us and insult us?
It is easy for us to do good to those who love us, appreciate us, who have a heart of gratitude for what we do to them. We are ready to go out of our way and do sacrifices for them. We are confident that we get the approval for it from the Lord. But through the book of Wisdom, the Lord shows a test of our patience and gentleness. When we are able to withstand the insult and torture of those for whom we do good, and still continue to do good for them, unmindful of what they say or do to us, then we become successful in the test. On the other hand, if we become angry, sorrowful, disappointed at the face of ingratitude and insult from others, then we are failing in the test. It is not what we do, but it is our approach to people and how we behave towards them who return evil (in words and actions) for the good which we have done, that is taken as criteria for our patience and gentleness.
Jesus is the perfect model for us . About 700 hundred years prior to Jesus’ coming , Prophet Isaiah said: “He was despised and rejected by others; a man of suffering and acquainted with infirmity….He was wounded for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the punishment that made us whole, and by his bruises we are healed” (53. 3-5).This was a prophecy about Jesus’ suffering on the first Good Friday. Do our thoughts raise to this ‘suffering servant of God’= when we face insults, ridicule, rejection from the people for whom we have done good? “By his wounds we are healed”. So by bearing the pains of insult, ingratitude and ridicule from others, we too can become the instrument of their healing and transformation.
Normally we all want to avoid suffering situations in life; we hate people who cause sufferings for us. On the contrary, Jesus was loving, doing good and praying for all who caused him the most shameful and painful sufferings. His attitude towards them was still that of love and concern. He understood the ‘helplessness and blindness of people who were returning evil for good; and he foresaw the consequence of their malice – destruction of Jerusalem and also their eternal damnation. So he had compassion for them. And this noble, unparalleled attitude turned to be a cause of healing for others.
Doing good things, of course, is to be appreciated and promoted. St. James tells: “Anyone who knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, commits sin” (Jas. 4.17). So we need, not only to repent for our sins of commissions (breaking the Commandments and Precepts of the Church etc), but also the sins of omissions. The rich man in the story of Lazarus and the priest and the Levite in the story of Good Samaritan were condemned because they did not do the good they could have done.
We cannot stop there, for in the ladder of spiritual growth we need to climb higher and higher. So avoiding sins of commissions and omissions is not the final….We need to soar high. Jesus has said: “Be perfect as my heavenly Father is perfect” (Mt.5.48). We need to note that Jesus is telling this in the context of His teaching on forgiving love. We think that we have to aim at perfection in our studies, job, life-style etc. But Jesus meant that we need to be perfect in love. In His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus exhorted the disciples to love the enemies (Mt.5.43-47); and as a conclusion to this teaching Jesus made this command: “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Mt.5.48).
We become perfect in love, when we ‘walk the way Jesus walked’ (cfr 1.Jn.2.6). “The sufferings that we endure can mean that ‘in my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his Body, that is the Church’ (CCC 1508; Col.1.24). Since we are the members of the Body of Christ, the very attitude of Jesus should be ours. Thus we can continue to be the living members of the Body of Christ. When we do really love those who persecute us, we overcome our selfishness and love the other selflessly for his/ her own good. This attitude is counted for our perfection. Further, the same Holy Spirit who was working in Jesus in his earthly days to make him a perfect man is given to us also. This Holy Spirit wants us to respond to Him as Jesus did. So that we become one in Christ or Christ-like. It is expected of every Christ-follower to endure the sufferings inflicted by ‘malicious enemy’. There are ample opportunities for each one of us in our families, in our place of work to show this attitude of Christ in our lives. In the Holy Eucharist, we receive Jesus’ Body- broken and Blood- shed for the forgiveness of our sins. Christ in the Eucharist wants to affect His attitude in our lives. Can a Christ follower be angry, cruel or impatient at the face of persecution and unjust treatment?
Jesus was gentle in all the situations of persecution. “He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before his shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth. …It was the will of the Lord to crush him with pain.” (Is. 53.7,10). As Jesus gave his life as an offering for the sin of the humankind, let us also offer our lives as a ransom for the sin of others, by accepting the evil the way Jesus did –with gentle and humble of heart. The Spirit of Christ produced these fruits in Jesus (as man); and when we cooperate with the working of the Holy Spirit, He produces these fruits in us also.
“When he was abused, he did not return abuse; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but he entrusted himself to the one who judges justly” (1 Pet 2.23)
Fr. JMK, Mary Pereira