In today’s Gospel we are presented with the very moving image of Jesus hanging on the cross and being mocked by those around him. He makes no rebuke nor offers any retaliatory remark. He simply accepts what is said to him and about him.
What a difficult challenge to accept this model Jesus presents to us! If someone criticizes me or mocks me in some way, my first instinct is to defend myself, not to accept his or her judgmental words. And yet, Jesus shows me that is not the spirit in which I should respond.
I have experienced situations similar to the one we find in today’s Gospel, although my reasons for being silent were different than those of Jesus. While living in Chile and doing volunteer work, there were many times when I was quite incapable of responding to people, simply because I did not have the vocabulary. On more than one occasion I was treated as a person of inferior intelligence, incapable of expressing an intelligent thought or making a valuable contribution to a conversation. Each time that happened, every fiber in my being wanted to scream out: “I am intelligent! I just graduated from a prestigious university in the United States! I am above the thinking level of a four year-old! How can you treat me in this way?” And yet, all I could do was say “si” or “no” and swallow my frustration and hurt pride.
That became a wonderful lesson for me in humility. For the first time in my life I was rendered speechless and incapable of defending myself to those who were “attacking” me. However, unlike Jesus, it wasn’t that I chose not to respond; I simply couldn’t respond!
I have since come to cherish those moments, even though they were once extremely painful parts of my Chilean experience. Those instances of being silent are now the standards by which I measure my likeness to Christ when I am being criticized or judged. I hold on to those times in Chile when I had no option but to remain silent, and I remember Jesus hanging on the cross, humble in the presence of his traitors and executioners. It is that image that makes me less quick to defend myself and to accept the model of humility that Jesus offers in the gospel.
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