Cloud of Witnesses

The Passion of Christ and St. Paul of the Cross

“Passion of Christ, strengthen me.” That’s one of the lines from the prayer Anima Christi (Soul of Christ). I have been repeating these words from time to time. The passion of Christ is strength, it is power, it is victory. Christ waged war on the enemy of souls and conquered him – – it was an epic cosmic battle that took place at Golgotha, on the Cross. As I’ve observed someplace before, the Passion is that momentous event when Jesus the new David goes up against the forces of death, sin, and Satan and brings them down with the weapon of his five sacred wounds unfurled upon the wood of the Cross. When we are burdened by sin and shortcomings, when we feel helpless and weak is not at all a bad idea to look upon the Cross and derives strength from it. As I’ve said someplace before, The Cross reminds us that the power of God is made perfect in weakness.

Jesus longed to accomplish his saving work upon the Cross, his heart was filled with love as he practically looked forward to it – – he wasn’t looking forward to the pain and the dying but in a sense he was looking forward to the Cross because of what would result from it. He saw the many souls that would be saved from destruction, he saw the strength and courage that souls would derive from it, he saw the love that would be unleashed upon the world because of it. And so his heart burned with love – – that’s why we refer to his experience of suffering and the cross as his passion.

St. Paul over the Cross caught fire for the passion of Christ. He renounced wealth and marriage, sacrificing these things for the sake of his one true love for the Passion and the good that it brings about, especially the conversion of souls and the strengthening of them in faith hope and love. I should emphasize that St. Paul of the Cross made a sacrifice – – one makes a sacrifice in giving up things that are good, as marriage is, and as wealth can be if used for good. Anyway, St. Paul of the Cross gave his life to proclaim Christ Crucified. To assist in this mission, he enlisted others by founding the religious order known as the Passionists, priests, brothers, sisters, and laypeople.

It was not in vain that Jesus embraced the Cross. He did it out of love for me, for my good. And so I own it – – I am a sinner, and I receive it – – I need his blood to wash over me and to cleanse me. I need the Passion of Christ to strengthen me against onslaughts of the enemy likes to throw in my face the fact that I am a sinner – – at those moments I am to look at Jesus on the cross and tell satan to get lost. I also need the Passion of Christ to strengthen me with grace and courage to accept my crosses, and to accept them with love for him, united in the mission of saving souls. The Power of the Passion is necessary and available to all, because his Passion is for all. “Passion of Christ, strengthen me!” is a battle cry that must charge us in the thick of the fight. St. Paul of the Cross, pray for us!

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