It’s been a rather long story. Its central character was Jesus (obviously), and the main plot was his prolonged suffering, consequently leading to his painful death on the cross. But, honestly, when you temporarily put aside your Christian perspective, the Passion of Jesus isn’t particularly unique. So many people have suffered in many a horrific way; so many have felt extreme pain inflicted deliberately by others or as a result of their illness – so much so that the passion of Jesus might look pale in comparison.
The uniqueness of Jesus’ passion and death didn’t come from the intensity of his physical or psychological pain or particular cruelty shown by his persecutors and executioners. What makes Jesus’ death special is – firstly – his status as the Son of God, sinless and impeccable, and secondly, his perfect and ultimate sacrifice for sin made on our behalf. He went against those attitudes we might consider natural, instinctive or even atavistic. He didn’t respond with violence against violence; or with hatred against hatred; or with vengefulness against vengefulness, and so on. Jesus didn’t remove suffering, as many would expect from an almighty, all-powerful god. Jesus accepted suffering as the way of conquering it. At the heart of such an approach lies the ultimate and unconditional love for humankind, the love demonstrated by unrestrained respect for your freedom. It’s the freedom to make your own decisions, even if they are totally wrong.
There’s so much suffering in the world that we might doubt such love. Yet, when we look a bit closer, we can see that most suffering is man-made. It can be inflicted on others, or self-inflicted. Suffering can be a result of direct or indirect actions. Most often suffering and pain are caused by a conflict between two or more parties. In that case, who should God side with? The fight against suffering and pain present in this world starts in an individual’s mind and heart. Firstly, by the denial of selfishness and self-indulgence; secondly, by active love shown to those who suffer innocently.
In a moment we will have enhanced intercessory prayer, uniquely offered on Good Friday. That prayer embraces many aspects of our public life. We will ask God to help us as society and as individuals to accept his redemptive sacrifice and follow in his footsteps to make our world a place where suffering is a bit more bearable.