Around this season of Lent and Easter there is a lingering thought that I'm sure everyone has had at one point or another -- Who killed Jesus? This thought was repeated in my head after I watched Apostle Peter and the Last Supper with my son last night.
Throughout my Christian upbringing the culprit had remained relatively constant. Judas conspired with Jews and with the help of the Roman occupiers had Jesus put to death. Just like the details in the Bible -- very much Sola scriptura in it's thinking. However, the Church tells us a much different person is to blame. That person is reading this blog right now.
The Bible is very direct when it describes the trial and execution of our Lord. There are a host of people that can be blamed. Even Simon Peter denied our Lord and likely felt if not outright HAD some fault in his death. But that's simply the surface. That's akin to children pointing fingers and bickering about who hit who first.
So who is it? Who is to blame for the Passion of Jesus? The Church has been very direct in its answer detailed in the Catechism:
597 The historical complexity of Jesus' trial is apparent in the Gospel accounts. The personal sin of the participants (Judas, the Sanhedrin, Pilate) is known to God alone. Hence we cannot lay responsibility for the trial on the Jews in Jerusalem as a whole, despite the outcry of a manipulated crowd and the global reproaches contained in the apostles' calls to conversion after Pentecost. Jesus himself, in forgiving them on the cross, and Peter in following suit, both accept "the ignorance" of the Jews of Jerusalem and even of their leaders. Still less can we extend responsibility to other Jews of different times and places, based merely on the crowd's cry: "His blood be on us and on our children!", a formula for ratifying a judicial sentence. As the Church declared at the Second Vatican Council:
. . . [N]either all Jews indiscriminately at that time, nor Jews today, can be charged with the crimes committed during his Passion. . . [T]he Jews should not be spoken of as rejected or accursed as if this followed from holy Scripture.
598 In her Magisterial teaching of the faith and in the witness of her saints, the Church has never forgotten that "sinners were the authors and the ministers of all the sufferings that the divine Redeemer endured." Taking into account the fact that our sins affect Christ himself, the Church does not hesitate to impute to Christians the gravest responsibility for the torments inflicted upon Jesus, a responsibility with which they have all too often burdened the Jews alone:
We must regard as guilty all those who continue to relapse into their sins. Since our sins made the Lord Christ suffer the torment of the cross, those who plunge themselves into disorders and crimes crucify the Son of God anew in their hearts (for he is in them) and hold him up to contempt. And it can be seen that our crime in this case is greater in us than in the Jews. As for them, according to the witness of the Apostle, "None of the rulers of this age understood this; for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory." We, however, profess to know him. And when we deny him by our deeds, we in some way seem to lay violent hands on him.
Nor did demons crucify him; it is you who have crucified him and crucify him still, when you delight in your vices and sins.
That's a pretty hard thing to swallow. Our sin, our continued sin made Jesus suffer and die. Or rather, Jesus accepted that suffering FOR our sins. He's known us before we were formed. It stands to reason then he knew we were all most failing. That torment while cruel and painful to the extreme it's hard to fathom that add to that the torment added from our sins both before during and after his death. That's a very bitter pill.
In this season of introspection, I pray that you take the time to ask for forgiveness of your sins and perhaps even to ask for forgiveness of your portion of His suffering and death. Begin anew. Accept the ashes this Wednesday and start a new journey. To my Protestant brothers in Christ, I ask that you take the season as a moment of introspection and self evaluation. This Easter, you can come out a new and better person as well.
My RCIA instructor said that perhaps instead of giving something up for 40 days and then jumping right back in we take away something and replace it. Perhaps step out of your comfort zone. That's what I'm doing. Throughout the season of Lent I will be partaking in a interesting fasting exercise. I'm doing it for my wife, but extended it for all the girls of my household (including the infant still being carried). I will be fasting EVERY Wednesday on bread and water alone. For more information you can join us at e5men.org.
My RCIA instructor recommended something entirely different, substituting say your daily candy bar and take that money and donating it (linking the act with the Works of Mercy). I like that idea as well. I was simply looking for something that would be a little more painful, much more of a personal sacrifice? If that doesn't sound too masochistic. e5men.org does a much better job of explaining it than do I. Tomorrow I start the fasting like all Catholics only difference is that my fasting will not stop after Mass.
I look forward to celebrating my first season of Lent in the Church. What I used to celebrate as a 40 day dare, now has taken on a much more significant role. Thank you Lord.