Reflection by: Erik Pawelski, ’22
St. Ignatius taught that God could speak to our hearts through the power of imaginative prayer, or contemplation. As we read and reflect on Scripture, particularly the Gospels, if we imagine ourselves in a scene, the Holy Spirit engages us and makes the Gospel present and meaningful in our lives now.
Today, as we reflect on Luke’s account of the crucifixion at Calvary, we can start by choosing where to place ourselves. Often, we might choose Jesus. After all, He is the Savior at the center of the story and in He is beaten, tortured, ridiculed, and crucified. Alternatively, we might imagine ourselves as an onlooker like Mary Magdalene, or Veronica wiping Jesus’s face, or Simon of Cyrene taking the burden of the cross. By default, we think of the immortalized, celebrated individuals in the accounts of the crucifixion, and while we should indeed strive to be like them, perhaps we are most like someone else.
Perhaps we find our likeness in the crowds who condemned Jesus, or in those who carried out his execution. What did the story look like from the perspective of those who did the beating, torturing, ridiculing, and murdering? To them, Calvary was a comedy. The joke was plain to see, for it was inscribed above Jesus: This is the King of the Jews. This joke was developed into a full-length production – a reed placed in his hand like a scepter, a crown of thorns on his head. They worshiped him mockingly and dared him to save himself.
This is a king? Stripped, beaten, and crucified? The notion was laughable to them.
To you, to me, and to God, Calvary is no joke. It is gravely serious. But the participants in the crucifixion pose an important example to us. They raise the question, ‘Just how wrong can people be?’ As we consider this, a mirror is a good place to start.
Just how mistaken can I be? So much so that every day, inevitably, I too turn away from God and reject Christ in others. I indict, and I injure, and I ignore. It doesn’t matter whether I am a soldier in the story or a sinner in my own life, I am marked by error. This error we know as sin. I transgress, very often, and though I may not be in the Gospel, Christ is on the cross because of me, too. Realizing this and contemplating this makes the words of Jesus extra meaningful.
“Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.”
This poses a second important example. Jesus shows how to forgive – completely, universally, and continuously. In a way, He flips the script. He supplies the narrative with a final, beautiful bit of irony. That He who was perfect might hang from a cross yet seek forgiveness for those who put Him there. That I who am mistaken and sinful might be worthy of His redemption.
When we receive this holy gift, Christ implores us to pass it on to others. Mindful of our own erroneous ways, we can love those who we might otherwise condemn. We live in a world riddled with disagreement and a default reaction of blame, not forgiveness. This is regrettable, yes, but it is also an opportunity. It’s an opportunity to seek reconciliation before condemnation. In the example of Christ, we can flip the script, too.