By Lisa Henley Jones
“But God proves his love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us.” ~ Romans 5:8
My life changed sitting in a darkened theater with my husband, watching the movie “The Passion of the Christ,” on opening weekend. We weren’t regular Mass attendees at the time, but we felt pulled to see the movie as soon as it arrived in our local theater.
Many people criticized the movie when it premiered in 2004 for its graphic violence in the way it depicted the suffering and death of Jesus. The reviews were mixed, and many Christians completely refused to see it.
For me, experiencing the movie was life-changing.
Jesus’ Suffering became Real
I will never forget sitting in that darkened theater, watching as Jesus was whipped and scourged, seeing his blood drip to the ground, listening to the sound of the nails being driven into his hands and feet, and watching the pain on his face as his cross was lifted into place. For the first time in my life, I truly felt Jesus’ pain. I will never forget it.
I saw Jesus suffer. I saw Jesus accept His death on the cross.
I felt humiliated and embarrassed as I walked out of the theater that night. All my life, I’d professed to understand what it meant for Jesus to die for my sins. But until that movie, I don’t think I truly understood the gravity of his sacrifice.
Throughout my life, I’d prayed before the crucifix, at home, and in churches, but the Jesus on the wall wasn’t crying out in pain to me. Instead, the Jesus I saw on the crucifix always struck me as serene and comforting, not suffering.
They didn’t invite me to envision the torment He endured during His Passion.
I Could See it Now
But now, I didn’t have to envision it. Instead, I saw it on the big screen.
I was overwhelmed and humbled. Jesus endured immense torment, pain, and suffering because of His love for me. He died for me so that I might live.
I stared up at the crucifix that next Sunday at Mass with new eyes. I saw His sacrifice. I prayed in gratitude as His love washed over me, and when I received Holy Communion, I was struck with the enormity of God’s love like never before.
For several years afterward, my husband and I rewatched “The Passion of Christ” during each Holy Week to remind us of all Jesus’ endured because of His love for us.
Jesus, you endured great suffering and death on the cross to prove your love for me. Help me to remember your sacrifice and be overwhelmed by your love every time I gaze upon you on the cross. Amen.
Call to Action
Sit in front of a crucifix today and really notice the details of the image. Mentally place your crucifix in the scene of Christ’s Passion. Close your eyes and take it in. Conclude with a prayer of gratitude for Jesus’ passionate love for you.
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