Suffering, Evil, and The Passion of the Christ

I am taking a class that deals with suffering, evil (really Theodicy), and how we respond to such things in liturgy.
One of our required texts is a thin volume entitle, simply, Evil, part of the Problems in Theology2 series. A segment from Elie Wiesel’s book Night is included. Wiesel retells an experience of his as a prisoner in Auschwitz. As he and other prisoners where coming back into the camp, they saw a gallows with three ropes. One of the three to be hanged was a young boy. As the prisoners walked by the gallows, they saw that the young boy squirming and struggling for breath the whole while, it took him half an hour to die. It seems he was too light to be effectively hanged.
Wiesel writes, “Behind me, I heard the same man asking: ‘Where is God now?’ And I heard a voice within me answer him: ‘Where is He? Here He is – He is hanging here on this gallows…'”
As I read this, the movie The Passion of the Christ came to mind. So many people have condemned Gibson and this movie for the incredibly gory depiction of the Passion. No man could withstand such torture, they say. It was gratuitous violence, blood, and gore by a sick-minded man, say others.
If we think of a single man enduring this torture until his death on the cross because of his radical message, then I agree. The movie was horrific. Yet, if we stop to think of God the Son/Jesus the Christ taking upon himself all the sin and suffering of the world – time past, present, and future, then the image depicted in Gibson’s movie is profoundly accurate. As Wiesel writes of Him hanging on the gallows with that little boy – present, there, simply and profoundly with and in and surrounding that boy – there we might see what was accomplished by the self-sacrifice of God for all of humanity.
Jesus took upon himself the Holocaust of the Jews. Jesus took upon himself the millions killed under Pol Pot. Jesus took upon himself the Tutsi and Hutu millions which were slaughtered. God was there hanging on the gallows of Auschwitz; God was there as the Tutsi was hacked to death by a machette; God was there as the poor Cambodian attempting to hold onto life was brutally murdered by someone half his age in the name of ideology. All the brutal, slaughterous, heinous, vile, and unspeakable actions humans have perpetuated upon other humans – if all this God took upon Himself during those final hours of the Christ’s Passion, then Gibson’s image of the suffering Christ was absolutely accurate.
In The Passion of the Christ, we see what we have done as all is taken by Jesus upon his body. Truly, if an accurate picture were to be portrayed, it would be far beyond what Mel Gibson displayed in his movie.
Now, we enter into Lent. It is a time when we are reminded that we are dust, and unto dust we shall return. A time to reflect on what we do that is not according to God’s desire and contrary to our best interests. We sin. We sin horrifically. Humanity does not deserve the love and compassion of a God who hangs with us on the gallows, a God who hangs on a tree, yet God so loved us that He took upon Himself all of human sin so that we might be reconciled, justified, made new.

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