Several years ago, while reflecting on the Passion and Death of Jesus, I thought to mentally position myself behind the crucified Jesus so I was looking over his shoulder at the scene below. I imagined myself seeing what he was seeing that afternoon. It was an interesting experience.
Off to the side were the soldiers, just doing their job and caring less about the three men they were executing. To the left was a group of Jewish elders and priests, giddy and happy. At long last, they’ve gotten rid of this gadfly, this threat to their authority and perks and way of life.
Scattered here and there are the ghouls…these are the people who inevitably gather to view the aftermath of some disaster, who slow down at a bad traffic accident to gape, or who gather at a crime scene to watch the bodies being carted away. Their sole motivation for being there is morbid curiosity and a desire for cheap thrills at someone else’s expense.
And finally I see the people who are just walking by, either sneaking a peek or not even looking, intent only on their daily routine and business. “So what…just another execution….big deal. I don’t want to be involved. Don’t bother me.”
Right below him, of course, were his Mother, John, and the other faithful women. Thank God for their presence….otherwise Jesus would have died horribly alone.
Particularly painful to him must have been the realization that the folks “out there” just could not or would not see Jesus for what he truly was: a man so filled with the power and presence of God that the life of everyone he touched was drastically changed. For the poor, the outcasts, the unhealthy, the sinners, those in search of a deeper meaning to their lives… the change was for the better. Those folks were there too…but except for Joseph of Arimathea, they didn’t want to identify themselves for fear of what might happen to them.
For those who were more fortunate, who already had all the answers, who spoke glibly of what others should, ought and must do, the change was resisted mightily. Jesus preached a God who did not fit their ideology and way of life.
Thousands of years later, the scene hasn’t changed all that much. So the question is: if Jesus were to look out over the crowd today, where would he find you?
Love deeply, pray faithfully, laugh often!
Fr. Herb, C.S.C.