Photo: Pope Francis greets crowd as he arrives to lead general audience in St. Peter’s Square at Vatican April 16. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)
Vatican City (VIS) – The suffering of Jesus on the Cross, that reflects the pain of humanity and represents the divine response to the mystery of the evil that is so difficult to understand, was the theme of Pope Francis’ catechesis during the general audience held today, Holy Wednesday, in which the liturgy presents the story of Judas’ betrayal.
“This dramatic act marks the beginning of the Passion of Christ, a painful path that He chooses with absolute freedom. He says this clearly Himself: ‘I lay down my life. … No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord.’” The path of humiliation begins here, with this betrayal, with Jesus as if he were on the market: he is worth 30 pieces of silver. And Jesus undertakes the path of humiliation … unto the end.”
The humiliation of Christ culminates with his death on the Cross, which is “the worst death, reserved to slaves and criminals. Jesus was considered a prophet, but died like a criminal. When we look at Jesus in His Passion, we see, as if we were looking in a mirror, the evil and pain of death. Often we feel horror at the evil and pain that surrounds us and we ask, ‘Why does God allow this?’. It wounds us profoundly to see suffering and death, especially of the innocent. It pains our hearts when we see children suffering. It is the mystery of evil, and Jesus takes upon Himself all this evil, all this suffering. This week it will do good to all of us to take a crucifix and to kiss Christ’s wounds. He takes all human suffering upon Himself, He vests Himself with this suffering.”
“We expect that God, in his omnipotence, will defeat injustice, evil, sin and suffering with a triumphant divine victory. Instead, God shows us a humble victory that in human terms seems to be a failure,, continued the Holy Father. “And we can say this: God wins in failure. Indeed, the Son of God on the Cross appears to be a defeated man: He suffers, He is betrayed, He is vilified, and finally dies. But Jesus allows evil to set upon Him, He takes it all upon Him in order to vanquish it. His Passion is not incidental; his death – that death – was ‘foretold’. It is an unsettling mystery, but we know the secret of this mystery, of this extraordinary humility: God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son.”
“This week, let us consider Jesus’ pain, and let us say to ourselves: it is for me; even if I were the only person in the world, He would have done this, for me. Let us kiss the crucifix and say: ‘For me, thank you Jesus, for me …”. When all appears to be lost, when no-one remains because the shepherd has been smitten and the flock has scattered, God will intervene with the power of the resurrection. Jesus’ resurrection is not the happy ending of a fairy tale, it is not the happy ending of a film, but rather it is God’s intervention at the point where human hope is shattered. … When all seems lost, at that moment of pain when many people feel the need to kiss the Cross, this is the moment closest to the resurrection. The night is at its darkest just before dawn breaks, just before the light emerges; in the darkest moment, God intervenes and resurrects.”
Jesus, who chose to take this path, “calls us to follow Him on His path of humiliation. When in certain moments in life we are not able to find any way out of our difficulties, when we sink into the deepest darkness, it is the moment of our humiliation in which we are entirely laid bare, in which we discover that we are fragile and sinners. It is precisely in that moment that we must not mask our failure, but rather open ourselves up, trusting in our hope in God, just as Jesus did.”
“This week,” the Holy Father concluded, “it will do us good to take a crucifix in our hands, to kiss it many times and to say, ‘Thank you Jesus, thank you, Lord!.’”