The Passion of Christ
For Christians ‘the passion of the Christ' is not just a new movie, it is the most staggering thing that has ever happened. This film is just the latest in a long line of works of art which have responded to wonderful work of God in Jesus Christ. Each of which are just brave attempts, some more successful than others, to express a little of the unfathomable mystery of God's desire to save humanity.
The film is not comfortable viewing but then the history it portrays reveals to us the deep ugliness and hate within humanity. However, it also shows us the love of God who wants to heal our wounds and mend our brokenness. We are shown not only the disease but the cure. In the scandal of the cross God embraces all our pains, even our mistakes, and transforms us through the power of his sacrificial and tender mercy.
The English Poet, George Herbert, wrote about the cross:
Philosophers have measur'd mountains,
Fathom'd the depths of seas, of states, and kings,
Walk'd with a staffe to heav'n, and traced fountains:
But there are two vast, spacious things,
The which to measure it doth more behove:
Yet few there are that sound them; Sinne and Love.
Who would know Sinne, let him
Unto mount Olivet; there shall he see
A man so wrung with pains, that
all his hair,
His skinne, his garments bloudie be.
Sinne is that presse and vice, which forceth pain
To hunt his cruell food through ev'ry vein.
Who knows not Love, let him assay
And taste that juice, which on the crosse a pike
Did set again abroach; then let him say
If ever he did taste the like.
Love in that liquour sweet and most divine,
Which my God feels as bloud; but I, as wine.
In the passion of the Christ we see the vicious and violent pain and suffering that lie within humanity. In the passion of Christ we see the generosity of God who takes all our suffering and pain onto himself so that we may know his sweet favour and find ourselves refreshed, renewed and transformed.
Mel Gibson's film The Passion of the Christ has been accused of fuelling anti-Semitism. It must be acknowledged with regret and shame that Christians, including Catholics, have had a history of anti-Semitism. However, it has also been one of the exciting positive developments in recent history that recent generations have done much to heal these wounds.
4. As the sacred synod searches into the mystery of the Church, it remembers the bond that spiritually ties the people of the New Covenant to Abraham's stock.
Thus the Church of Christ acknowledges that, according to God's saving design, the beginnings of her faith and her election are found already among the Patriarchs, Moses and the prophets. She professes that all who believe in Christ-Abraham's sons according to faith - are included in the same Patriarch's call, and likewise that the salvation of the Church is mysteriously foreshadowed by the chosen people's exodus from the land of bondage. The Church, therefore, cannot forget that she received the revelation of the Old Testament through the people with whom God in His inexpressible mercy concluded the Ancient Covenant. Nor can she forget that she draws sustenance from the root of that well-cultivated olive tree onto which have been grafted the wild shoots, the Gentiles. Indeed, the Church believes that by His cross Christ, Our Peace, reconciled Jews and Gentiles, making both one in Himself.
The Church keeps ever in mind the words of the Apostle about his kinsmen: "theirs is the sonship and the glory and the covenants and the law and the worship and the promises; theirs are the fathers and from them is the Christ according to the flesh" (Rom. 9:4-5), the Son of the Virgin Mary. She also recalls that the Apostles, the Church's main-stay and pillars, as well as most of the early disciples who proclaimed Christ's Gospel to the world, sprang from the Jewish people.
As Holy Scripture testifies, Jerusalem did not recognize the time of her visitation, nor did the Jews in large number, accept the Gospel; indeed not a few opposed its spreading. Nevertheless, God holds the Jews most dear for the sake of their Fathers; He does not repent of the gifts He makes or of the calls He issues-such is the witness of the Apostle. In company with the Prophets and the same Apostle, the Church awaits that day, known to God alone, on which all peoples will address the Lord in a single voice and "serve him shoulder to shoulder" (Soph. 3:9).
Since the spiritual patrimony common to Christians and Jews is thus so great, this sacred synod wants to foster and recommend that mutual understanding and respect which is the fruit, above all, of biblical and theological studies as well as of fraternal dialogues.
True, the Jewish authorities and those who followed their lead pressed for the death of Christ; still, what happened in His passion cannot be charged against all the Jews, without distinction, then alive, nor against the Jews of today. Although the Church is the new people of God, the Jews should not be presented as rejected or accursed by God, as if this followed from the Holy Scriptures. All should see to it, then, that in catechetical work or in the preaching of the word of God they do not teach anything that does not conform to the truth of the Gospel and the spirit of Christ.
Furthermore, in her rejection of every persecution against any man, the Church, mindful of the patrimony she shares with the Jews and moved not by political reasons but by the Gospel's spiritual love, decries hatred, persecutions, displays of anti-Semitism, directed against Jews at any time and by anyone.
Besides, as the Church has always held and holds now, Christ underwent His passion and death freely, because of the sins of men and out of infinite love, in order that all may reach salvation. It is, therefore, the burden of the Church's preaching to proclaim the cross of Christ as the sign of God's all-embracing love and as the fountain from which every grace flows.
The heavy claim derived from the slaughter of the Jewish people must be a permanent appeal for the repentance of all Christians: so that we can win every form of anti-Semitism and in this way establish a relationship with our brother people of the ancient alliance.
This attitude has been backed up by public symbolic actions of reconciliation, visits to synagogues and joint prayer with Jewish leaders.
As to the precise charge of anti-Semitism in Gibson's film, it is difficult to comment before the film has been viewed in this country. However comments from the USA suggest: