Passion and Compassion


Today we celebrate “Palm Sunday” or “Passion Sunday” the day is given to names in honor of the two Gospels that are proclaimed that day. The first Gospel proclaimed is that of Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem. Here the people rejoiced and celebrated as Christ entered into Jerusalem.

The Mass than changes focus, and the second Gospel proclaimed is the long narrative of Jesus “Passion.” The word “passion” comes from the Latin word passio meaning “suffering.” So while in the first Gospel we rejoiced with Jesus as he entered into Jerusalem, in the second, we suffer with Jesus as he enters into the passion of the cross. To “suffer with” brings us to another set of Latin words: cum passio which brings us to the English “compassion.” So to have compassion is to “suffer with” another.

Interestingly, Christ’s passion is actually His compassion made flesh. That is to say, the reason Christ suffered was to suffer for us, who suffer the pain of sin. Thus, in his compassion, he chose to take on our suffering. We, in turn, are called to follow Christ, to “pick up our cross” daily. We can start to see how this cycles: our passion (suffering), produces Christ’s compassion (suffering with), which leads Christ to take on our passion, making it His own. In turn, we are called to suffer with Christ (compassion) for others who are suffering.

It is an interesting cycle, but it is also the way of Love. “Love consists in this: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins” (1 Jn 4:10). The letter continues, “We love because He first loved us. If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ but hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen” (1 Jn 4:19-20).

It is a good thing to celebrate with Christ, but even those who betrayed Him did the same. It was only those who loved Him who were willing to suffer with (compassion) Him in is passion. Similarly, there are many who will celebrate when others are celebrating, but to we voluntarily suffer when others are suffering? It is in this suffering that we demonstrate our Love, for others and for God.

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