Friday, March 28, 2008

Teaching Calvary

This morning I was able to listen briefly to a program on the radio entitled “A Doctor at Calvary” which explored the sufferings of Christ in medical detail. I was only able to listen to a few calls from the listeners and the doctor’s response. (You can listen to the show here or see www.catholic.com > Radio > Calendar > March 21.)

A teacher called about how to get her 6th grade students to appreciate more deeply the sufferings of Christ. Another caller asked about whether or not a thorn had pierced the eyeball of Christ. Something struck me wrong about the whole deal and I turned it off.

At first I just attributed it to my personal squeamishness. But after I reached my office and sat down to do some spiritual reading before I started the day, the awareness of what really bothered me surfaced.

I happen to be reading Pope Benedict’s Journey to Easter – Spiritual Reflections for the Lenten Season (even though it’s after Easter – I didn’t finish it during Lent). I could go on in many paragraphs about how much I love what Benedict has to say and how he says it, but that’s not the point.

Benedict doesn’t take us through a medical tour of the crucifixion but a tour into the personal conversion that the sufferings of Christ were meant to effect. Not that I am opposed to such physical illustrations. I am a big fan and proponent of Gibson’s Passion of the Christ. But such graphic meditations have their place.

The question is whether or not exposure to, and how much exposure to, the blood, gore, and medical minutiae are really helpful in effecting the desired conversion. My personal opinion is that such exposure is not only NOT helpful but will produce the opposite effect if a person is not spiritually mature enough to assimilate it.

We don’t need to be child psychologists to see that exposure to violence does not repel but attracts. Thus the video games become ever more violent. Murderers need to murder again. Sadists need ever more sadistic experiences.

Violence is an addiction. Perhaps the best evidence of this is the so called Roman games. Perhaps in the history of humanity no more cruel human tortures have ever been devised than those that bloodied the floors of the Coliseum and other such venues throughout the Roman Empire. The records show the popularity of these games which is why the tortures were ever more sadistic. People loved it. They cheered for more and more.

To the untrained soul, exposure to the sufferings of Christ simply for the sake of effect or shock would simply harden the person, as it did the very soldiers who carried out the original brutalities.

We are not going to reach young people this way. We are going to reach young people the same way the saints before us have reached people of all ages, by carrying the cross ourselves and smiling while we do it.
For most of us carrying the cross isn't the issue. The smile is. See what you can do.

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