Skip to comments.Study Guide for "The Passion of the Christ"
Posted on 02/20/2004 4:23:03 AM PST by Catholicguy
Orthodox study guides to "The Passion" prepared by 'Our Faith in Action' are a MUST READ for deepening your appreciation of Mel Gibson's epic re-telling of Christ's sacrifice 2/19/2004 9:19:00 PM - www.civicsinaction.org
CCI NOTES: Thanks to the enormous efforts of Dennis and Chris Cortes at www.civicsinaction.org, a detailed study guide is presented here to assist viewers in making the most out of Mel Gibson's Christian epic, "The Passion of Jesus Christ." Five units are presented, each of which includes reflections on life and death of Christ, as well as prayers, discussion topics, questions, and definitions of significant Christian terms. This is a powerful course of reflection and prayer developed through the cooperation of several faithful priests and lay Catholic writers. Your friends at CCI heartily encourage all "Passion" attendees to enjoy these carefully prepared study guides, and act on them in your daily lives. (PS, This is NOT the heterodox National Catholic Reporter's so-called 'study guides.' These are authentic Christian study guides.)
UNIT ONE: Christ confronts evil in The Passion of the Christ
The passion of Christ - both the historical event and Mel Gibson's film - begins with the Agony in the Garden. In the film, the devil is watching Christ as he prays, agonizing over the indescribable suffering he is about to undergo to redeem humanity. From beneath the devil's foot emerges a snake that slithers over to Christ, who is shedding tears and sweating blood. He seems not to take note of the serpent until it is directly beneath him; he then stands and crushes the serpent's head under his foot.
The crushing of the serpent's head is but one way Christ conquers evil. For a better understanding of this mystery and the hope it gives us, let's take a look at some of the manifestations of evil in The Passion of the Christ and what the characters' interaction with evil shows us about temptation, sin, death, and salvation.
The snake as a symbol tells much about temptation and evil. It is low, sneaky, and deadly, lurking in shadows until it is time to strike. It does not roar, but hisses; temptation - especially a first temptation to violate one's innocence - is not a loud cry in the open but a whisper in the shadows. If we let it, it can wrap around us, making escape all but impossible, strangling us and cutting off feeling. To be the captive of the tempter is to dull one's senses, particularly the moral sense, one's conscience.
So how does Christ deal with the tempter? He crushes it underfoot. He allows it to come just close enough so he can kill it. Throughout the ages, the Church's symbolic language has assured us that Christ is not alone in this victory: his Blessed Mother in painting and sculpture is almost always portrayed with a serpent underfoot. The sinless Virgin Mary is party to her Son's conquest over temptation and death.
These symbols are fruit for prayerful meditation: What temptations slither in our lives? Do we try to resist temptation on our own? Or do we invite Christ into our lives, asking Him for courage and resolve, with confidence in his victory over evil?
Maintaining hope amidst suffering
Another striking manifestation of evil comes as Judas Iscariot faces what he has done. He betrays Christ with a kiss but soon suffers deep regret. He tries to give back the thirty pieces of silver and have Jesus freed, but it is too late; he cannot change the course of destruction that he has set in motion. Overwhelmed by his sin and lacking faith and hope in the mercy of God, Judas decides the only way to free himself is by suicide.
From one point of view, Jesus and Judas end up the same way: hanging dead on an old tree. But Judas died at his own hand because he had no hope. He had betrayed his Lord and left himself with nothing but anguish, regret, and despair. The despair is key, because it signifies the total absence of hope.
Christ, on the other hand, suffers an even worse death than Judas except for this: he never loses hope. He is hope. He, God, has decided to accept a brutal death as a way to change forever the meaning of suffering and even death. By offering His suffering as payment for our sins, Christ turns suffering into a means of salvation. By rising from the dead Christ defeats the most radical of all evil - death itself. This radical transformation renders the devil's work meaninglessness if we will but "believe, take up the cross and follow" Christ by uniting our suffering with the suffering of Christ.
In our lives, let us resolve to unite our suffering with the suffering of Christ, for the redemption of our own sins and the sins of the world. And during those times when it appears there is no hope, we can remember to place our hope, our confidence in Christs resurrection and His victory over evil.
Confronting cruelty with forgiveness
Another manifestation of evil in The Passion is the laughing cruelty of Christs torturers. In the face of evil imposed by others, Christ calls on us to " forgive them, they know not what they are doing" (Luke 23:24). Christ is truly the king of mercy. The Passion teaches us that if Christ can forgive others whom have inflicted horrible pain on him, cant we forgive those that hurt us?
Confronting cruelty with humility
The mobs calling for Christs death is another manifestation of evil. Jesus had all of the power of heaven and earth to stop the madness of the crowd, yet humbly chose to follow the Fathers will. His silence, his resolve to bear the cross, is the ultimate act of humility: God-made-man choosing to suffer the most despicable of deaths.
How often in our lives do we become part of the mob out of peer pressure and the desire to be accepted by a group, by saying or doing hurtful things to others? And when we are the victims of hurtful comments and actions, do we imitate Christ by forgiving those whom have trespassed against us and by approaching difficult situations with humility?
Evil will always exist in our fallen world. Christ is the model for how we as Christians should confront evil with hope in the resurrection, forgiveness towards others that hurt us, and humility in obeying Gods will.
The purpose of the Christ confronts evil unit is to:
Encourage participants to follow Christs example in confronting evil with hope in the resurrection, forgiveness and humility.
Contemplate what temptations we face in our lives
Encourage participants to unite our suffering with the suffering of Christ, for the redemption of our own sins and the sins of the world
Faith- the theological virtue by which we believe in God all that He has revealed to us, and that the Holy Church proposes for our belief, because he is truth itself.
Hope- the theological virtue by which we desire the kingdom of heaven and eternal life as our happiness, placing our trust in Christs promises and relying not on our own strength, but on the help of the grace of the Holy Spirit.
Humility-the moral virtue that restrains the unruly desire for personal greatness. Humility leads us to an orderly love of self-based on a true appreciation of our position with respect to God and neighbors.
Prayer: Christ, as we face temptation and evil in our own lives, may our faith and hope in the resurrection lead us to resist temptation and evil as You did.
1. Mel Gibson said in an EWTN interview: That's how the devil is, to me .It's frightening that it can be deception itself -- that it takes the form of something harmless, but there is a ravenous beast underneath.
Discuss the status of our culture today:
What temptations does our culture promote, which may at first appear harmless, but in reality cause great damage? Consider TV shows, movies, music, magazines, internet usage, our dress, and our activities.
What are the virtues that we can focus on to resist some of these temptations?
1. Have there been times in our lives where we were part of a mob psychology in just going along with the crowd, not standing up for what we know is right?
What was the root cause of our going along with the crowd? Fear? Wanting to be accepted? Lack of moral courage to be counter cultural?
Was it out of laziness?
2. What situations in my life am I most vulnerable to this type of temptation? Standing up for a person? Standing up for a belief? Standing up to defend my faith? What virtues can I work on to rid myself of this weakness?
3. Christ deals with the tempter by crushing it underfoot. What temptations slither near my foot? Do I crush them or let them take control? At these times of temptation, is my immediate response one of asking for Gods help and looking to Christ my inspiration and hope in resisting the temptation?
4. When I fall to temptation, am I truly sorry for my sin and do I humbly seek Gods mercy?
1. Make a nightly examination of conscience considering each day what specific temptations you faced, and whether you were successful in resisting them.
2. Make a commitment to identify someone who has harmed you in some way and forgive them, both in your heart and through a personal approach.
3. The next time we face a difficult situation, pray for the virtue of hope, contemplating the reality that by uniting our suffering with Christ, our suffering has redemptive value.
4. Resolve to go to confession on a more regular basis.
Unit TWO: Mary, witness to suffering with love and faith
In Mel Gibsons The Passion of the Christ, we see Mary in a way that is very different from Hollywoods traditional depiction. We are used to seeing Mary as beautiful, young, with a warm smile, loving eyes, and of course a character born without sin. In The Passion, Mary retains her sinless character, her sweetness, her gentle manner, but she is no longer the teenager who carried the Son of Man in her womb.
She is nearing 50 years of age. She has the wrinkles of an aging mother, the worry lines of one who knows the suffering that is to come - but pleads in her heart that it not be so. Her robe is dusty and stained with blood - the blood of her own son. Physically this depiction of Mary is very different for us. Emotionally, however, we may have felt more connected to Mary, as the reality of how Mary suffered in witnessing the suffering of her son speaks to our lives in a more relevant and powerful way.
United with Mary through suffering
We all experience sadness through our own suffering, and have witnessed the suffering of those close to us. In The Passion we see how Mary witnessed the terrible ordeals of her own son being humiliated before the church elders, dragged before Pilate for judgment, scourged nearly unto death, and finally nailed to a cross to die. We now realize the fullness of Marys humanity as we saw the intensity of her shock, disbelief and intense sorrow as she remained with her son into his death.
The ordeal of Jesus persecution and death are so horrific that nearly all of his followers abandoned him, yet Mary, Mary Magdalene and his apostle John remained. What enabled Mary to remain with Jesus and persevere through this suffering? How does the answer to this question speak to our lives today? Marys love for Jesus as his mother, and her faith and hope in his divinity enabled her to endure the path to his death. And 2000 years later it is this same love for our fellow man and faith in God that enable us to persevere through any suffering the world may present.
Often when someone else is suffering, the best way we can help is in simply being with them, and praying for them. We wish we could do more, yet often we cannot cure the illness or remove the injustice that causes the suffering. In The Passion, Mary knew she couldnt stop the torture and death of her son, yet her love for Jesus compelled her to remain with him despite the suffering this caused her. For Mary, her suffering was so intense that she had to be supported by Magdalene and the apostle John as she lingered between consciousness and unconsciousness.
The intensity of both Marys suffering and her love for her son are vividly portrayed in the scene where Mary and John scurry through the narrow streets in an attempt to see Jesus. Christ appears from behind the buildings ahead. His body weakened by scourging and the crown of thorns; he bends under the weight of the cross and falls to the rocky street. Mary stops short of the scene. She slumps on a doorstep, sighing in grief, immobilized by shock and fear. She knows that her son is divine. She knows that this was to be his earthly fate. But she remains a human mother watching her child suffer.
She is brought back to action by a flashback in her mind. It is an image of Jesus as a little boy, falling and calling for his mother. Stirred by that memory, she runs to her son weighed down by the cross and comforts him. Although Mary couldnt save Jesus from death, she did everything that she could, and we can only imagine how much Marys simple act of love meant to Jesus in the midst of his suffering.
Mary as our model for witnessing suffering
Was Marys ability to endure her sons death a story of the past, or does it in some way speak to each of our lives today? The answer is definitively the latter- for all of us suffer and witness suffering.
Each of us can resolve to imitate Mary in our own lives, by reaching out in love and compassion to assist and comfort others whom are suffering. At times this can be relatively easy, such as simply spending time with a friend whom is suffering with a problem and may need someone to listen. At other times the witnessing of suffering may require much greater effort, such as when a loved one is dying from a painful illness.
During the times when our suffering is most intense, we can remember Mary in The Passion. Yes it can be hard, and at times we may feel as Mary did- that we cant go on. Yet Mary teaches us that through our love for others, rooted in our love for God, and faith in the resurrection and power of Gods grace, we have the strength and courage to persevere through any suffering the world presents.
Perseverance - trying hard and continuously despite hardships and obstacles
Love - the theological virtue by which we love God above all else for His sake, and other people as ourselves for love of God.
Facilitators Guide: Mary, witness to suffering with love and faith in The Passion of the Christ
The purpose of Mary, witness to suffering is to:
Help us to understand and imitate Mary as a model for witnessing suffering in our world
Foster hope that we can imitate Mary in witnessing the suffering of others through love for others, faith and hope in the resurrection, and faith in Gods grace
Foster hope that we can personally endure the most radical of suffering based on love for God, faith and hope in the resurrection, and faith in Gods grace
Help us to appreciate the power of simple acts of love in reaching out someone else who is suffering
Prayer: Lord, thank you for the gift of Mary as our perfect mother and model for how we as Christians witness suffering in our fallen world. Help us to remember Mary as our model as she comforted others in need with loving compassion, and with faith in Your resurrection and grace.
1. Mary, more than anyone else, knew what would happen to Jesus. She also had unflinching faith in his resurrection. Why, then, did she still suffer so much during his trial and passion?
2. Mary was able to stand at the cross while other fled. What gave her that strength?
3. We all have things in our life that dont turn out as we would like. What does Marys example teach us about coping with our disappointments/sufferings?
4. At the end of the movie Mary cradles Jesus in her arms, supporting him much like Michelangelos Pieta. Her eyes rise and look directly outward, directly at us. Her eyes seem to ask: why?...how?...how could you? How did this scene affect you and how would we answer these questions?
5. Communications technology enables us to become better informed of the suffering of people throughout the world. At times the vastness of the worlds problems may seem overwhelming, and it is a natural tendency become desensitized. How does Marys witnessing to suffering speak to these issues?
6. With our nation at war, some American mothers have faced the loss of a son. How can Marys example be a comfort?
7. The 12 apostles had following Christ for three years. They had the benefit of seeing his amazing miracles and listened to his teaching. Yet, when it would seem he needed them most, why was John the only one to be found?
Contrast this with the actions of the apostles after the resurrection and receiving the Holy Spirit through Pentecost. What does this tell us about the power of Gods grace and the Holy Spirit?
Personal Reflection/ Writing
A) Was there a disappointment in your life that you felt you simply could not endure? Was there a time when it seemed that your closest friends, those you loved most, had abandoned you? Write about such a time and how Mary could serve as a model for helping you to persevere.
B) Write a personal prayer to Mary that you can use the next time you have an opportunity to witness suffering.
1. The sorrowful mysteries of the rosary give us a wonderful way to meditate on Christs suffering during his passion. Pray those mysteries, meditating on Mary during each of those mysteries, where she was, what she was enduring.
2. Organize a group to pray at an abortion clinic. At these clinics the most innocent of life is being taken, and here we have the opportunity to imitate Mary as a prayerful witness to their suffering.
3. The United States has dozens of Marian shrines. A visit to one can be a wonderful way to honor Our Lady and grow closer to her.
For a directory of Marian shrines: www.udayton.edu/mary/resources/shrines/us.html
For a listing of various Catholic shrines: www.catholicshrines.net
For an illustrated, detailed version of the sorrowful mysteries: www.rosary-center.org/sorrow.htm
The University of Daytons Mary Page has a wealth of resources about the Mother of Our Lord: www.udayton.edu/mary/
UNIT THREE: Obedience to the Father in The Passion of the Christ
We like to think that we are really grown up when we can do our own thing. Jesus Christ challenges that assumption. Obedience to God is where the real power lies. It is a different kind of power: the power to set men free.
By his loving obedience to the Father, unto death, even death on a cross (Phil 2:8), Jesus fulfils the atoning mission (cf. Is 53:10) of the suffering Servant, who will make many righteous; and he shall bear their iniquities (Is 53:11; cf. Rom 5:19)
Obedience is not easy for us. It wasnt for Christ as a man either. In Mel Gibsons film, The Passion of the Christ, there are many moments in which Christ's obedience to the Father stands out. Lets talk about three especially powerful ones.
Agony in Gethsemani
"Let this cup pass... not my will but Thy will be done." (Lk 22:39-42)
The Gospel of Luke gives a detailed account of the Agony. In the dark, Jesus has his battle about the apparent futility of the Passion.
First, what he is about to undergo seems useless because it is a suffering that human nature automatically rejects; for no one likes the idea of pain. Christ knows he is about to go through the worst type of pain that man can dream up for another man.
Second, Christs agony is increased because he realizes that his sacrifice would not work for some souls- those who refuse to obey God and their conscience.
Finally, the gratuitous nature of the Passion makes it seem senseless. It could have happened in another form. However, God wanted to show His love for us in this extreme fashion and wanted Christ to give us the maximum example of obedience: "unto death, death on a Cross" (Flp 2:8).
Back in the beginning of his public ministry, Jesus had been tempted by the devil in the desert. (Lk 4: 13). Jesus had been victorious over the devil in the desert, and the Gospel says that the devil had "departed from him until an opportune time". That opportune time is now, when Jesus is to make His final decision to obey the Father to the last consequences.
That decision was made in prayer, as must our decisions. Here we find our Lord giving the perfect example of how to live our lives. Prayer is not a superfluous addition. Prayer is essential to human existence because we are creatures of God, in need of Him. We are not doing God a favor when we pray, but we are receiving heavenly favors from Him when we pray. This is called grace.
There was certainly the temptation of the devil for Jesus to abandon the idea of the Cross and obedience. The movie shows this very well. Jesus overcomes the devil again because He will obey God the Father. The devil always goes for disobedience.
"Father, my heart is ready" (Cf. Mt 27:26; Mk 15:15; Lk 23:16; Jn 19:1).
There are many moments to comment in this moving scene. First, Jesus does not resist when they fasten Him to the pillar. He is not fighting against the Passion, because of His love for us. He willingly accepts suffering to save us from eternal condemnation. He doesn't scream and kick, or cause a scandal while they literally rip Him apart with their diabolical instruments of torture. It is horrible what my sins have done to Jesus.
There is an especially moving moment which meaningfully demonstrates Christ's obedience. After the first round of bruising that they give Him with their switches, Jesus falls to the floor. That is the way the body reacts. When they relent from that onslaught, He realizes He is down and lifts Himself back up. "Father, my heart is ready", He says. Jesus knows that this is the ransom for sin, and He is no sissy. Christ's love for us is incalculable. "Why, one will hardly die for a righteous man -- though perhaps for a good man one will dare even to die. But God shows his love for us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us" (Rom 5: 7-8). Loving obedience and obedience for love, that is the mystery of the Christ's passion and death.
Christ's death on the cross
"Father into Thy hands I commend My Spirit. (Lk 23:46).
Some perhaps surrealistic happenings during the crucifixion and death of Jesus are depicted in The Passion. These are the attempts of an artist to show that all of creation was trembling due to the fact that God, the Author of life itself coming as Man, was being put to death by men. Though this happened in a specific place in the world, it was the sins of all of us that crucified Jesus.
The devil was thinking (his mind so obscured by pride), that this was finally the moment of his victory over Jesus and God. What a dreamer! Jesus, through His humility and obedience was willfully winning our redemption.
Jesus knew he was winning, even though winning meant living all the pain and loneliness that man feels in his soul when he sins. For this reason Christ quoted Scripture from that excruciating position: "My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me" (PS 22)? Then to fulfill the Scripture said: "I thirst". He is obeying the Father, even through what was written about Him in the ancient Scriptures (because inspired by God) was horrible and full of pain! Jesus is able to recognize God's will wherever it may come from.
Then He finally says the words the audience is awaiting Him to say: "Father into Thy hands I commend My Spirit." By that time the tension is overwhelming. When will this torture finish? You feel it is not soon enough; too weighty the expectation.
Jesus wanted it that way. He does not measure out grudgingly his love for us and for the Father. He is not petty but magnanimous, because that is not the way his Father is. Jesus shows the depth of true love. No fair mixing in egotism or personal pleasures. Love is obedient and long-suffering. There is no valid substitute. Either it goes all the way to giving one's whole life, or it is not true love. Small pieces of the heart will never pump life-supplying blood.
Obedience- the virtue of submitting our will to the will of God.
Humility- the moral virtue that restrains the unruly desire for personal greatness. Humility leads us to an orderly love of self based on a true appreciation of our position with respect to God and neighbors; the virtue of being without pride.
Facilitators Guide: Obedience to the Father in The Passion of the Christ
The purpose of Obedience to the Father is to:
To contemplate Christs obedience to the Father
To use His example as our model of submitting our will to Gods will
Prayer: Lord, help us to realize that it is only in submitting our will to yours that we will only truly be free. Give us the grace to rid ourselves of our pride.
1. Do you think that Gods way of saving us (the Passion, death, and resurrection of Christ) makes God still seem distant and uncaring about man? What do you think this way of saving us shows about how much man is worth to God?
2. Do you think that God wants to force us to love and obey him? Does the Passion of Christ force us to love God? How does it help us to love and obey God?
3. In what other moments of Christ's life can we see His obedience? Why is obedience important in the role of the Redeemer?
4. As a Christian, to whom should I be obedient? God? Our parents? Teachers? Boss? Husband?
5. Like Jesus, are my decisions made in prayer?
1. What specific incidents in my life have I been disobedient? Is there a pattern in these? Was it pride that kept me from being obedient? What concrete things can I do to root out my pride?
2. Write a page about the Christian virtue of obedience. Be sure to include some Scripture passages. Cite example of saints living out obedience.
Mediate on one of the Bible passages below. How does it speak to me and my life?
Biblical texts on obedience (see a concordance) essential passages: 1Sam 15:22; Jn 5:19; 8:29; Rm 5:19, Flp 2:8; Heb 5:8; 10:6.
UNIT FOUR: Pilate asks What is truth?
The Pontius Pilate of The Passion of the Christ is a more multi-dimensional man than traditionally portrayed in film. Not just a mean-spirited bureaucrat, he is an all-too-human proxy for modern man. Sadly, we may see a little of Pilate in ourselves.
A product of the Roman military, Pilate is a results-oriented ruler who finds himself in a most uncomfortable situation; he must determine Christs fate.
Should he give the enemies of Christ the blood they desire? Should he stand up for the rights of an innocent man? A pragmatic man to whom everything is relative, he simply does not know. His political skills face a moral dilemma and come up wanting.
For Pilate, the ends justify the means. He wants to keep peace, to prevent civil unrest. In his final analysis, the death of an innocent man is an acceptable price to achieve his goal.
Are there Pilates in our own time?
The film compels us to ask whether there are Pilates in our world today. We have all seen and heard politicians say and do just about anything in the hope of getting votes. In the 2004 election cycle, some candidates have openly stated that their views will reflect the wishes of the majority, even if those wishes run counter to their personal moral or religious beliefs. Like Pilate, they hope to give the people what they want.
Corporate executives face the pressure of meeting shareholder expectations, and face the personal temptation of throwing out ethics to maximize personal financial gain. Some have given into these pressures and temptations by misstating financial statements, and in some cases eliminating jobs with little consideration for the value and dignity every person deserves.
A little Pilate in all of us?
In the movie, Pilate is torn. He thinks Jesus is innocent. His wife, Claudia, tells him that Jesus is a holy man and should not be punished. Jesus has many supporters, who will be angry if he is harmed. On the other hand, the church leaders want Jesus to be crucified; if they are not placated, Pilate might have a revolt on his hands. And a revolt would displease Pilates boss, Tiberius. How often in our lives do we place strategic objectives such as power, money, or even the desire to be popular ahead of truth and doing what is morally correct?
The Roman Governor doesnt turn to the law or a moral code of right or wrong to help him. He sits and hangs his head, asking what is truth? He hasnt a clue.
Pilate truly is between a rock and a hard place. And without a sense of truth, he tries everything he can think of to weasel out of a decision. He sends Christ to Herod; Herod sends him back. He scourges him; the crowd asks for more. He offers to release him; the crowd wants Barabbas freed. In our lives do we at times place too much importance on pleasing others, instead of focusing on the truth and doing what is morally correct?
Pilate washes his hands, literally, of the affair. But he looks to be a broken man. Deep within, he knows that he cannot escape his part in Jesus fate. Washing his hands will not bring him peace, will not erase the pain he feels, will not bring him closer to the definition of truth.
He feels the emptiness we all feel when we make a decision without relying on the truth, without determining what is right and sticking with it. Like Pilate, we can decide to make a decision that seems to maintain the peace. But if it isnt based on the truth, can it really give us peace in the long run?
Truth- John 18: 37 For this I was born, and for this I have come into the world, to bear witness to the truth. Every one who is of the truth hears my voice.
THE SPLENDOR OF TRUTH shines forth in the works of the Creator and, in a special way, in man, created in the image and likeness of God (cf. Gen 1:26). Truth enlightens man's intelligence and shapes his freedom, leading him to know and love the Lord. Hence the Psalmist prays: "Let the light of your face shine on us, O Lord" (Ps 4:6). - Veritatis Splendor
The purpose of What is Truth is to:
Examine the evil and consequences of placing the desire to please others and to avoid difficult decisions over morality
Examine the evil and consequences of placing strategic interests such as power, money and popularity over morality
Challenge participants to use the above moral errors of Pilate as a basis for examining our own lives, and our culture.
Raise awareness of the importance of objective truth
Prayer: Lord, gives us the strength that Pilate lacked, the strength to seek Your truth and act in harmony with it. May we have the courage to do the right thing, even when it is not the popular thing.
1. Pilate believes Christ is innocent, but still allows him to be tortured and killed. Why didnt he release him?
2. Pilate tried to satisfy everyone. Did he satisfy anyone?
3. Pilate asks, What is truth? What does this suggest about his decision-making process?
4. We have witnessed major business scandals in the past several years and business schools are increasingly concerned with teaching ethics. Are there parallels between Pilate and modern corporate executives who have become embroiled in financial scandal?
5. At times we all find ourselves between a rock and a hard place. Lets discuss hypothetical and real-life scenarios where doing the right thing may be unpopular.
1. Pilate joins a very select group of named personages in the Nicene Creed: The Father, the Holy Spirit, Christ, Mary - and Pontius Pilate. For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate. He was one man, but was he in some ways a proxy for all men? Think about Pilates dilemma and how it led to his infamous role in history.
2. Review times in your life when you made a decision just to keep people happy.
Did it work out?
Would it have been better to simply play it straight?
What choice were you confronted with?
What was the motivation behind your decision? What were the ethical dimensions of the choice? (why each option is right or wrong)
1. I will meditate on an area of my life in which I have acted like Pilate, and take a concrete measure to correct this weakness.
2. There are numerous university websites that offer articles and case studies on business ethics. A reading of the history around cases such as Enron can give insight to the ultimate results of executives not acting morally.
3. Do a biographical sketch on Pilate and what happened to him after his encounter with Christ.
For biographical information about Pontius Pilate www.newadvent.org/cathen/12083c.htm
Business Ethics magazines site has numerous articles: www.business-ethics.com/
Loyola Marymount Universitys Center for Ethics and Business has a wealth of information about business ethics: www.ethicsandbusiness.org/
For the history and text of the Nicene Creed: www.newadvent.org/cathen/11049a.htm
UNIT FIVE: Christs self-giving love and freedom
After seeing Christs self-giving love in the movie The Passion, we are compelled to ask how do we individually define love, and what is our societys view of love? Love is a word whose meaning has been spun so weirdly in our time that it has in many ways lost connection with the divine meaning. In 21st century America, loving someone means making them feel good, emotionally or physically. Feel good, but dont bind. The fundamental idea of love binding a man and woman together for life is difficult work, so in a culture that promotes self-gratification, we have chosen to cast it aside.
Weve broken it not because love is wrong, but because there is something we value more than love- our personal freedom. Freedom has become our absolute good, the highest value humanity strives after. If love binds one person to another, it limits personal freedom. See the quandary?
Everyone knows Jesus is all about love, but all he does in The Passion is suffer. In the Garden of Gethsemane, his anxiety and fear press him so intensely that he sweats blood. Is that loving? Lashed by the whip, his flesh ripped by the torturers cruel instruments, Christ sags to his knees, blood spattering the pavement. Stupidly, insanely, he struggles to stand, and freely chooses to do so-is that loving? The two torture specialists are driven demonic by this display of courage and nobility, and they unleash all the fury their brawny muscles and metal-tipped leather can inflict. How does this brutality relate to love?
Freedom fulfilled through love
Pope John Paul II teaches that freedom is not greater than love, but rather freedom is fulfilled in self-giving love. Freedom is not mans absolute goal, love is. Freedom without love is useless, like so many wheels free to roll anywhere; the wheels are useless without a vehicle to harness them-love is that vehicle. Love is far greater than freedom, for a person can be happy without freedom as long as he loves.
Freedom intensifies love, proves it genuine. That is where suffering plugs in. Because genuine love must be freely given, loves intensity is seen by the amount of suffering it bears-because everyone hates suffering and strives to avoid it. So if a person freely chooses to suffer for someone else, for love, then that love is great. Suffering is a thermometer, which shows loves temperature, the degree of its reality.
That is why watching The Passion moves us to admire and love Jesus Christ. He chose freely to undergo his unfathomable suffering, which forever marks the zenith both of a mans love for other men, and Gods love for man. This is a love that is best defined as self-giving, as St Paul writes: He poured himself out for us. Viewed from the perspective that Christs Passion affords, our understanding of love and freedom changes radically. Instead of love giving me something like enjoyment and fulfillment, I look to give of myself, to bring fulfillment and joy to others by serving them, even if in serving others I endure suffering.
Revolutionary- that is Christs love. It ignites, breaks up and shakes up our lives. Look at the individuals who were touched by Christs love-they all bought a share in suffering, and discovered love. Pilates wife Claudia could not prevent Jesus scourging; the only thing she can do is offer Mary linen cloths with which to wipe her sons blood from the pavement. Her sharing in Marys own agony upon watching her son flayed alive, opens her to an act of love, offering her friendship to Mary through a humble gesture. Simon of Cyrenes sharing in carrying the cross opens him to understand the self-giving nature of Jesus sacrifice. Simon will not be crucified, is not beaten, but his closeness to Jesus Christ while carrying the cross reveals to him Jesus patience, humility and overpowering love for the very men who kill him. Simons world is blown to bits, for instead of avoiding suffering, he wants to take it on in order to protect this man Jesus whom he has not known but has experienced.
Freedoms purpose is revealed in love motivating us to serve others. Suffering intensifies and purifies love, makes it genuine, real, solid. And the ultimate experience of love IS Jesus Christ, but he is a challenge, the rock against whom the waves of every generation crash and are divided: some follow Christ along the path of self-giving love, others reject Him in the hopes of discovering a self-fulfilling love. The reality of the resurrection shows us that if we choose Christs path of self-giving love, then we will find true peace and everlasting life.
Freedom - the power, rooted in will and reason, to perform (or not) deliberate actions on ones own responsibility.
Love - the theological virtue by which we love God above all else for his sake, and other people as ourselves for love of God.
Suffering - experience of pain, distress, injury. Suffering with Christ is sharing in his redemptive sacrifice of crucifixion.
The purpose of this unit is to:
Consider the value our culture places on personal freedom relative to self-giving love
Encourage contemplation of the meaning of self-giving love and how human freedom finds its fulfillment in self-giving love
Help participants understand the value of freely choosing to suffer as an expression of self-giving love.
Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank you for granting us the gift of our freedom and Christs example of self-giving love. We pray that strengthened with your grace, we will freely choose to offer our lives in loving service to our fellow man.
1. One person commented after seeing the movie, I forgot. I forgot how much Christ loves me- individually, so much so that He suffered immensely to save me.
Did seeing the movie change your perspective on Christs suffering for your salvation, and the degree to which Christ loves you?
What can we do on a daily basis to remember Christs sacrifice for us and his love for us? (Potential discussion tips: contemplate Christs suffering in daily prayer, especially through the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary; make a point of remembering Christs suffering for us every time we have an opportunity to give of ourselves for another person.)
2. What does the popular culture teach us about love? Lets discuss specific things that we can do in our daily lives to counter these images within our families, schools, and places of work.
1. Consider a time in our lives when someone else freely chose to sacrifice to help us. How did this act of self-giving love affect us?
2. When suffering is imposed upon us, how do we approach our cross? Do we run away from the cross? Do we remember how Jesus accepted the cross? Do we pick up the cross, and if so, do we do it joyfully? Do we run toward the cross?
1. The next time we have an opportunity to serve someone in a way that involves true sacrifice, we will choose to do so with a joyful heart, remembering that it is an opportunity to imitate Christs self-giving love.
2. The next time suffering is imposed upon us, we will choose to accept our suffering with a joyful heart, embracing it as an opportunity to freely offer our suffering in self-giving love for the redemption of others sins.
Copyright February 10, 2004, REPRINTED WITH THE PERMISSION OF
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Our Faith in Action is current events and issues-based program comprised of monthly lessons that helps junior high, high school and college students understand-- and inspire them to live out-- the Catholic Faith and Christian virtues.
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Understand the teachings of the Catholic faith
Critically analyze current events and issues of the world from the perspective of their faith
Critically analyze events and issues in their personal lives from the perspective of their faith
Realize opportunities to live out their faith and Christian virtues by learning the stories of others living out their faith, and through specific recommended activities
Realize the power of our faith and the virtues in helping them to live meaningful lives, addressing the problems of the world, and building Gods kingdom on earth.
Content: Lessons focus on the following topics:
Stories of individuals and groups living Christian virtues
Current events that have a religious dimension for Catholics such as the Partial Birth Abortion Ban, marriage amendment, stem-cell research
Statements / writings from of the Holy Father
Catholic Catechism teachings that correspond to the topic
Highlights of Church Youth Gatherings.
Stories of saints.
Discussion questions, reflection/writing, recommended apostolic activities, resolution ideas
Great recommendation you have. I read Barbet's book every year. If one can read his personal reflections on the Passion without soaking the pages with one's tears, one knows they are spiritually dead.
The world grows smaller :)
|Issue Date: February 20, 2004
"The Passion" Study Guide
The Passion of the Christ is a powerful film certain to leave viewers, young and old alike, with questions. High-profile controversies have guaranteed that large audiences will see the film, and many people will want a chance to talk. Whether one likes The Passion or disapproves of it is not the point. The movies prominence creates a teaching moment and an opportunity for reflection on a central tenet of the Christian faith.
With realities such as globalization making us increasingly aware of other cultures and religions, questions loom on the horizon regarding the universal influence of Jesus the Christ. New insights are not only welcomed, but have been encouraged throughout history. The Christian community is a breathing, living organism, a pilgrim people sustained by a rich tradition of collective wisdom.
The situations depicted in this recreation of the passion of Jesus, then, can not tell the entire story, for it continues to unfold within and around us. However, the scenes force us to reconsider the meaning of our own baptism and how we ourselves would tell the story and the interpretation we would give each event.
This brief guide is intended to help teachers, youth group leaders, Bible study leaders and parents organize discussions of The Passion. It also contains a brief list of supplementary materials.
A good starting point in preparation for the conversation is to read one or more of the actual passages from the Bible: Matthew 26:1-28:20; Mark 14:1-16:20; Luke 22:1-24:53; John 13:1-20:31.
Discussion Topic #1: The Passion
The heart of the film is the suffering of Jesus, from his arrest in the garden through his death on the cross. The discussion should allow viewers to voice their reaction to the violence they have witnessed, and then reflect upon its meaning for us today.
1. How did you react to these scenes of intense violence -- for example, the flogging of Jesus by the Roman centurions? Did the violence ever seem excessive or sensationalistic? What did you feel for Jesus watching his suffering? What does Jesus suffering say to us about violence and suffering in our world today?
2. What do you imagine Jesus is thinking and feeling during these events? Do you think Jesus experienced an absence of God during his suffering on the cross? Or is Jesus cry, My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? a sign of hope for all who suffer?
3. The church believes that Jesus is both fully human and fully divine. Where did you see Jesus humanity in The Passion? Where did you see his divinity? Did you think one dominated the other, or was the presentation balanced?
4. At certain key moments in the suffering of Christ, such as the opening scene in the garden, during the flogging, and at the crucifixion, we see a personification of evil the devil. Why do you think the moviemakers did this?
5. If God is all-loving, why would he allow his Son to suffer in such a horrific manner? Do you think God can stop suffering in the world? Do you think God suffers with us?
6. Through the centuries, great theologians have come up with different explanations for what the suffering and death of Christ accomplished. Watching the film, what message did you get about why Jesus suffered and died?
7. During the crucifixion sequence, we see a flashback in which Jesus recalls key moments from the Last Supper. What point do you think the moviemakers were trying to make here?
8. Do you feel that in some way we are all responsible for Jesus suffering after having watched this film?
9. Did the film make you want to pray? If so, what did you want to say, or to share?
Discussion Topic #2: Images of the Jews
Because of the public controversy over anti-Semitism, the issue of the depiction of the Jews must inevitably be part of the discussion. One aim should be to help people distinguish between their personal reaction, and an empathetic capacity to understand how others might react.
1. How did you feel the Jewish people were presented in The Passion? Did you find the presentation offensive or biased?
2. Does the movie blame the Jews for the death of Jesus? Does it make the Romans look better than the Jews?
3. Regardless of how you reacted personally, can you understand why some people might be concerned with the images of Jews in The Passion?
4. Are you aware of how the suffering and death of Jesus has been used by some Christians over the centuries to justify mistreatment of Jews? Does that mean that moviemakers should take special care in the way these images are presented?
5. Read over the Criteria for the Evaluation of Dramatizations of the Passion, issued by the U.S. bishops Committee for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs in 1988: www.bc.edu/research/cjl/meta-elements/texts/documents/catholic/Passion_Plays.htm. How does The Passion rate according to these criteria? If it does not follow the criteria in some ways, would the film have been better or worse if it had followed them?
6. What does the Catholic church teach about its relationship with Judaism? (See especially the U.S. bishops 1975 Statement on Catholic/Jewish Relations in The Bible, the Jews and the Death of Jesus.)
7.What do you personally know about Judaism? Does the film make you want to know more?
Discussion Topic #3: Mary
Mary is one of the central figures in The Passion, and hence the film offers an opportunity to help viewers understand what the church teaches about the mother of Jesus.
1. What image of Mary did you get from the film?
2. From the brief images in the film, what role do you imagine Mary played among the early disciples of Jesus?
3. We see several flashback sequences involving Mary and Jesus. Why do you think the moviemakers did this?
4. The church believes that Mary is a role model for every Christian. What qualities of Mary do you think came through most clearly in the movie? How can they offer a model for Christian life?
5. The Catholic church has sometimes been criticized for placing too much emphasis on Mary. From what you saw in the film, what is an appropriate attitude that Christians should have towards Mary?
Discussion Topic #4: The Disciples
The disciples of Jesus dont figure prominently in The Passion, but because they are prototypes for the Christians of every generation, viewers should be encouraged to talk about them.
1.What image of Peter did you get from The Passion? Did the image of Peter in the film affect the way you think about the pope and his role in the church?
2. What about the beloved disciple? What image do you have of him?
3. Is there a difference between the male and female followers of Jesus in The Passion? What would you say that it is?
4. Discuss the depiction of Judas in The Passion. What does the film suggest his motive was to betray Jesus? What did you think about his reactions after the arrest of Jesus?
5. Since all Christians are disciples of Jesus, what can we learn about discipleship from The Passion? What does it mean to follow Jesus?
Discussion Topic #5: Private Revelation
Several scenes in The Passion are based not on the Gospels but on non-scriptural sources such as the writings of Sr. Anne Catherine Emmerich, a 19th-century German visionary and stigmatic. Part of the educational task is therefore to sort out the scriptural and non-scriptural elements.
1. Can you identify scenes in The Passion that do not come from the New Testament? (Examples: Jesus is wrapped in chains in the garden, and at one point thrown off a bridge; Jesus is bruised and bloody before any Gospel says anyone has struck him; Mary wipes up the blood of Jesus with towels given to her by Pilates wife; a crow plucks out the eye of one of the thieves crucified with Jesus.)
2. What did such scenes add to the movie? Having read the New Testament accounts, how did this extra material change the story? Did you find these extra scenes to be helpful?
3. Did these extra scenes affect the way the Jews are portrayed?
4. Revelation means Gods self-communication to us. The most recognized forms of revelation are the Bible and church tradition. What other forms of revelation are there? How is God revealed to us in our everyday lives?
Discussion Topic #6: Jesus Resurrection
The passion of Jesus is inseparable from the resurrection of Jesus. The first cannot be properly understood or interpreted without the latter. Mel Gibsons film focuses primarily on the passion, while giving only brief attention to the resurrection.
1. If you had the opportunity to sit in the directors chair, how might you end the film?
2. Have you experienced the mystery of death and resurrection in your own life? Would you be willing to die for another? It is said that it is only through death that we are raised to new life. What do you think this means?
3. Do you think people would be as interested in a film about Jesus resurrection? Why or why not?
4. Do you think the passion or the resurrection is more important?
5. What do you think the poor and the sick would say about this film? Would you encourage them to see it?
National Catholic Reporter, February 20, 2004
And then come back here and discuss this Study Guide.
All I can say is that it is very powerful while being very tender. (Yes, I cried -- and I was the last one out of the theater -- I just couldn't move.)
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I'm very uneasy with this juridical theory of substitutionary atonement, and it's my understanding that the Church does not propose a settled theory of precisely how the mystery of atonement is accomplished.
To begin with, to whom is this "ransom" paid? To the devil, to obtain the release of souls? But the devil has no rights. He is due nothing, not even the souls of the damned, who are lost as a consequence of their alienation from Christ. Is the ransom due to the Father, then? To suggest this is to propose a theory of a violent, irrational Father demanding appeasement before souls can be released from a devil who's almost his agent.
The Catholic Encyclopaedia has an excellent article on the Doctrine of the Atonement. I commend to you especially the debate between Anselm (arguing for satisfaction of sin) and Abelard (the Passion sparks a loving human response to God).
My own modest proposal is that the passion is nuptial, a revelation of the Bridegroom in the fullness of his kenotic gift of self. In my eyes the Crucifixion is not an achievement, a mode of acting. It's existential and revelatory.
A lot of nuttiness gets put forth under the banner of Christianity, but if you're looking for a rational, intellectually rigorous approach that maintains integrity with scripture, you have to look to the Catholic Church. I'm sorry you feel let down by your education, but if you take a look at the Catholic Encyclopaedia and the Catechism of the Catholic Church, you'll find reliable reference that respect your intelligence and need for integrity.
Great pick. This is one of the books that Mel relied on to depict the scourging and the crucifixion. I read this book years and years ago when I was first introduced to the Shroud of Turin.
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