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Wednesday, January 20, 2016

"The Passion and the Cross" (Ronald Rolheiser)

TITLE: The Passion and the Cross
AUTHOR: Ronald Rolheiser
PUBLISHER: Cincinnati, OH, Franciscan Media, 2015, (128 pages).

We all like to be in control. We take pleasure in being in charge. We delight in making sure that things get done our way, according to our own preferences. What happens when things unravel and start to go out of our control? At that point, we become more aware of what it means to be helpless and totally dependent on circumstances beyond our control. Looking at the life of Jesus, if we can divide the life of Jesus in two parts, the first part would be how he ministers to others; teaches his disciples; rebukes the religious leaders; tells his parables; heals the sick; gives sight to the blind; prophesies about the future; proclaims about his impending death; glorifies God; and so on. Once at the Garden of Gethsemane, instead of him doing things to others, others do things to him. Soldiers arrest him; the Pharisees condemn him; Pilate charges him; people spit at him; the executioner kills him; and his disciples leave him. Rolheiser is a Roman Catholic priest and member of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate. A well sought after speaker and established author, he is also president of the Oblate School of Theology in San Antonio, Texas. his writings in this book is full of spiritual insights that helps us marvel at the ordinary with renewed perspectives.

In this book, Ronald Rolheiser observes with great insight the way the gospels make scant reference to the physical suffering of Jesus, unlike Mel Gibson's the Passion of the Cross which focuses on the intensity of the pain and agony of Christ. He sees beyond the blood and gore and concentrates on the inner attitudes at the core of Jesus' heart: of forgiveness; of empathy; of willingness; and full of love. Giving up our lives in love, in service, and in gratitude without resentment is perhaps one of the core qualities that Jesus has demonstrated. For us, it is one of the hardest, if not the hardest thing to ever do. What we all need most is not sexual nor emotional companionship, but moral soul mate. When we die, we die fearless because of the hope we have in God. We live without regret. At the center of this book is the cross of Christ. At the heart of this reflection is the life and passion of Jesus. The first thing Rolheiser sees about the cross is that of a moral revolution. It is a moral revolution because it is deeply mysterious and defies all human understanding. How can anyone totally be immersed in self-sacrifice, not because he had to but because he wants to? The cross continues to confound our understanding with many different insights. The secret things belong to God and how God reveals to us is in itself a mystery. The second thing about the cross is that it is the deepest revelation of God. From the tearing of the curtain veil from the top down, to the vulnerability Jesus expresses in his heart, we see God less as a rescuer but as a fellow sufferer on the path of redemption of the world.  Jesus identifies himself with us, even though he is not obliged to do so. God reveals his forgiveness to us even though we are sinners. God reveals his power to us as he descend into hell. Perhaps, the biggest surprise for many people is to realize that faith is not about our efforts to believe in God, no matter how genuine our efforts may be. Faith is about receiving God's grace and accepting Jesus' redemption of us at the cross. It is recognizing we cannot help ourselves, unlike what the DIY world around us seems to say to us.  The third thing about the cross is the salvation we have in Jesus. Some metaphors include us being washed in the blood of the Lamb (Jesus). It includes the significance of Jesus' words "It is finished" meaning we can add nothing more to what Christ had done at the cross. The epistle of John tells us about Jesus' work on the cross as that of water and the blood as likened to new life and forgiveness respectively. Rolheiser further observes "six interpenetrating things" about what it means to carry the cross daily.

  1. Accepting that suffering is part of life.
  2. Choosing not to pass down bitterness to others.
  3. Willingness to let parts of us die.
  4. Waiting for the resurrection that is to come
  5. Humbly acknowledging that life is often not what we expect.
  6. Willingness to surrender our lives.

The fourth thing is about the resurrection which is the climax of it all. Death is defeated. Forgiveness is poured out. We see a string of empty tombs as every believer is glorified in Christ. Looking forward to the resurrection means we maintain hope, trust, and reject the temptations of betrayal, broken promises, abuses, hypocrisy of others, and other ills done to us.

This book is one of the best explanations on the significance of the cross and the passion of Christ. By showing us an alternate vision, instead of believing in the blood and gore of the movie, The Passion of the Christ, we are re-introduced to what Jesus actually wanted us to learn. The cross is a gift. Salvation is a gift. These gifts are God's love to us in grace unlimited.

Rolheiser's four key themes of this book clearly shows us why the Cross of Christ is so significant. This book is a book of spirituality centered on the cross. The cross as moral revolution points us away from external things toward the inner life of a spiritual mane. The cross as the deepest revelation shows us the passion of God, how he longs for us even before we wake up from our sinful slumber. The cross of salvation gives us life. The resurrection leads us to life everlasting in the glory of God in Jesus Christ. Here is one of my favourite quotes from the book, which to me is one of the best expositions of Jesus' call to us to deny ourselves, take up our crosses, and follow Jesus.
"Moreover, this is not a one-time major choice we face at the hour of death; it is also a choice we face daily, many times daily. Countless times in our daily interactions with others—our families, our colleagues, our friends, and with society at large—we suffer moments of coldness, misunderstanding, unfairness, and positive violation. These moments range from the indifference of a family member to our enthusiasm, to a sarcastic comment intended to hurt us, to a gross unfairness in our workplace, to being the victim of a prejudice or abuse. Our kitchen tables, our workplaces, our meeting rooms, and the streets we share with others—all are places where we daily experience, in small and big ways, what Jesus felt in the Garden of Gethsemane: unanimity-minus-one. In that darkness, will we let go of our light? In the face of hatred, will we let go of love? That’s the real and central drama of the Passion of the Christ: not the ropes, whips, and nails." (8)

Rating: 5 stars of 5.


This book is provided to me courtesy of Franciscan Media and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.

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