All Things New
A couple years ago I started what will hopefully become my Holy Week tradition. After the Evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday, I watched Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ. Released in 2004, The Passion was and is a controversial movie. Some consider it too short on historical fact and too long on blood and gore. Both criticisms are ironic given the current state of filmmaking.
To me, The Passion is a work of art. Gibson gives us far more than his spin on Jesus’ final hours. Gibson gives us the ultimate moral story, the pitched battle between Jesus and Satan over a humanity held captive by sin. There is much to be learned from The Passion, for we are locked in a battle of our own over the many held captive by abortion.
Satan’s abject hatred for all mankind oozes out of Gibson’s powerful depiction of the deaths of two sinners. The first was Judas, who for 30 pieces of silver betrayed Jesus. Satan could have rewarded Judas. After all, Judas did Satan’s bidding. Instead, Satan destroyed him. We see the guilt-ridden Judas wiping his lips, the lips that betrayed with a kiss, on a stone wall until they were raw. Satan’s minions, disguised as children, haunted and chased Judas. They drove him to the sight of death, a rotting donkey still tied to a rope. They drove him to a sense of shame that, for Judas, only a rope could relieve. The other sinner was Gestas, the bad thief. Whatever his crime, it had to be horrible to warrant a death sentence. And with only minutes left to his life, Gestas spent them mocking the suffering Savior. Satan could not have asked for more. The reward? Appearing as a raven, Satan perched on Gestas’ cross and poked one of his eyes.
But two other sinners did not meet the same fate. One was Dismas, the good thief. His crime was probably no less serious than that of Gestas. Yet Jesus promised that Dismas would be with Him in Paradise that very day. The other sinner was Mary Magdalene. Gibson portrays Mary as the adulteress whom Jesus saved from stoning. There’s probably no Biblical support for that casting, but Bible scholars do believe that Mary was the woman from St. Luke’s Gospel haunted by seven demons. And they believe that she was the one who anointed Jesus feet and wiped them with her hair. She remained with Jesus, all the way to Calvary, all the way to the end. Unharmed.
What accounts for the difference? Dismas and Mary came to understand that they were sinners and that Jesus could set them free, really free. They sought His mercy, and Jesus gave it. Judas and Gestas, stuck in their pride and shame and unable to seek forgiveness, became stuck in their sin. And in sin they died.
We have been locked in the battle against Satan since Adam and Eve lost the Garden. But perhaps the battle has never been as dirty and ugly as it is today. Satan has used human desires and fears to turn mothers and fathers against their own children. In our country the death toll of the unborn is 52 million and rising. That means millions of parents are being held captive by the sin of abortion. Like Judas and Gestas, many have been chewed up and spit out. They live in grief and shame and regret they cannot shake. Abortion has left them spiritually, emotionally, and physically wrecked.
All too often, we do not help. Our pro-choice culture refuses to recognize abortion for what it is, a sin, which makes it difficult to find forgiveness. Women particularly become locked in a battle over whether to condemn their own actions or defend them. It’s just where Satan wants them-all the better to mess with their heads. For some women, abortion has become a way of life. Each year 100,000 women have their fourth abortion. Imagine the demons that will haunt them. Abortion mills are more than willing to kill babies for profit, but how many provide post-abortion counseling or even believe in the need for it? Even within some parishes, abortion is an unspoken word. Our silence prevents suffering people from hearing a call to healing.
Yet all is not lost so long as we remember that our Church is centered on Christ crucified. He was pierced for our offenses, crushed for our sins. If we really believe that, we come to realize that The Passion wasn’t bloody enough. He willingly carried our sins, and that includes abortion. It was His gift of true love.
Along the Way of the Cross, Jesus met his mother. What He said to her remains a secret for now, but Gibson suggests the words: I am making all things new. Christ’s death destroyed Satan’s stranglehold over us. By Him was the chastisement that makes us whole; by His stripes we were healed. Our job is to continue the battle that others held captive may be freed. Quite likely, we all know someone who has been wounded by abortion. That person may be close to you. That person may be you. There is help and healing. The sacrament of Penance provides forgiveness for all, even for those who think they cannot be forgiven. Support groups like Rachel’s Vineyard have helped thousands of women and men of all faiths find the healing they so desperately need. Through the power of the Cross, the wounded experience God’s mercy.
The Passion does not end with the Crucifixion. We see the risen Christ, His hands marked but His body healed, walk out of the tomb victorious. All things new. With our prayers and help, may those wounded by abortion come to know His healing.
Paul V. Esposito is a Catholic lawyer who writes on a variety of pro-life topics. He and his wife Kathy live in Elmhurst, Illinois, where they raise their six kids.
© Paul V. Esposito 2010. Culture of Life. Permission to copy and distribute for pro-life purposes is granted. Comments? Visit us at http://www.the-culture-of-life.com/