When Jesus was confronted with untrue accusations, do you remember what He did? As the Sanhedrin gathered false testimony, as Pilate presented questions given by the chief priests, as Jesus struggled beneath the weight of the cross and the jeers of the people, as Jesus was maligned while on the cross, do you remember what He chose?
How hard it is to not rush to our own defense! When situations are misrepresented, when intentions are skewed, when honest questions are left unanswered, it is a tremendous act of the will to not attempt to set all things right. Sometimes, it is necessary to provide clarity and correctness and other times it is completely unnecessary. And sometimes it is necessary to try to show the misunderstandings, but to ultimately fail in convincing them of their skewed view.
We always feel the pains of injustice acutely when it offends our own sense of justice. I look at the lives of the saints and martyrs and I tend to think about how glorious and courageous were their deaths. Yet each of those martyrdoms was preceded by many, many small bloodless deaths. St. Paul didn’t only suffer beheading in Rome. Before that, he was imprisoned, he experienced riot after riot when preaching the Gospel, he was looked upon with distrust by the Jews and the Christians after his striking conversion, and he spent much time in chains for the sake of the Gospel. His final suffering, the death of a martyr, was simply the last death he experienced in a long line of dying to self.
Most of our stories won’t be quite that dramatic. We probably won’t sit unjustly condemned in terrible prisons awaiting our cruel deaths. We will, however, suffer in other ways. And it will be in ways that will be easy to want to reject or feel the need to correct. As Jesus heard false testimony, I am certain He had at least part of a desire to simply say, “I didn’t say that. That isn’t right. You weren’t there. You are intentionally misrepresenting me.” Instead, He suffered in silence with the Lord. He knew that the truth would be revealed and He rested with the Lord in the midst of being misunderstood. He invites us to do the same, in the small and the large sufferings of our daily life.
Jesus knows the craziness of people flipping from being your biggest supporters to your harshest critics. From Palm Sunday to Good Friday, Jesus experienced a significant shift in how the crowds received Him. We see this especially in the days of His Passion and we live this during this Holy Week. The Incarnation baptizes all circumstances of life and reveals that the Lord can be found in the midst of all suffering. God enters into humanity and He experiences what it means to be a part of this beautiful, messy human family.
By entering into this chaos, He makes it all worth something. The senseless death on the cross becomes the means of our salvation. Perhaps, in much smaller ways, our own personal suffering can be a means of accepting our salvation. It can be ways that our hearts are changed to more like the Lord’s heart, pierced yet pouring out mercy for those who made the very holes in His body.
This week, Holy Week, is a steady march to the cross. We know this is where the story goes, but we also know that the cross is not where the story ends. But to arrive at the Resurrection, to enter into the Beatific Vision, we must first pick up our cross, unfair though it might seem, and walk to Golgotha. For the cross is the way to Heaven, death is the paradoxical way to life.
Lord, let us go to die with You. Grant us the graces necessary to die well, every day.