The way the Jesus’ burial linens are described in John’s Gospel is key to understanding…
Why did Jesus have to suffer so much for us?
Question: In a recent religion lesson in my second-grade classroom, we were talking about Jesus dying on the cross for our sins, and one student raised his hand and said that he knew why Jesus died — to redeem our sins and, through his resurrection, to open the gates of heaven — but the student didn’t know why Jesus had to die such a violent death, with so much torture and suffering. What does the Church teach on this?
— Name withheld, Fort Wayne, Indiana
Answer: There are different ways to address this concern. From the perspective of our sins, Jesus died so horribly because that is what our redemption costs. We tend to underestimate just how awful our sins are and the kind of suffering they have set loose in the world. Hence Jesus takes up and experiences the full load of human suffering we have inflicted on each other. He paints a picture of the disfiguring and painful effects of our disobedience. It begs a question from us: “Lord, are our sins really that bad?” “Yes,” comes the answer.
From the perspective of love, we see the immense love of our savior for us that he undergoes such suffering to save us. This, too, begs a question: “Lord, is my soul worth this much?” “Yes,” comes the answer.
There is also the perspective supplied by St. Thomas Aquinas, which points to the comprehensiveness of Christ’s sufferings, so that, in a general way, he experienced all the sufferings commonly experienced by man. St. Thomas writes:
“Speaking generically, [Christ] did endure every human suffering. This admits of a threefold [application]. First of all, on the part of men: for He endured something from Gentiles and from Jews; from men and from women, as is clear from the women servants who accused Peter. He suffered from the rulers, from their servants and from the mob, according to Psalm 2:1-2: ‘Why have the Gentiles raged, and the people devised vain things? The kings of the earth stood up, and the princes met together, against the Lord and against His Christ.’ He suffered from friends and acquaintances, as is manifest from Judas betraying and Peter denying Him.
“Secondly, the same is evident on the part of the sufferings which a man can endure. For Christ suffered from friends abandoning Him; in His reputation, from the blasphemies hurled at Him; in His honor and glory, from the mockeries and the insults heaped upon Him; in things, for He was despoiled of His garments; in His soul, from sadness, weariness, and fear; in His body, from wounds and scourgings.
“Thirdly, it may be considered with regard to His bodily members. In His head He suffered from the crown of piercing thorns; in His hands and feet, from the fastening of the nails; on His face from the blows and spittle; and from the lashes over His entire body. Moreover, He suffered in all His bodily senses: in touch, by being scourged and nailed; in taste, by being given vinegar and gall to drink; in smell, by being fastened to the gibbet in a place reeking with the stench of corpses, ‘which is called Calvary’; in hearing, by being tormented with the cries of blasphemers and scorners; in sight, by beholding the tears of His Mother and of the disciple whom He loved.” (Summa Theologiae, III, 46.5)
And hence, in these ways, Christ comprehensively experienced all the sorts of ways we suffer. Scripture says: “He was spurned and avoided by men, a man of suffering, knowing pain, Like one from whom you turn your face, spurned, and we held him in no esteem. Yet it was our pain that he bore, our sufferings he endured. We thought of him as stricken, struck down by God and afflicted, But he was pierced for our sins, crushed for our iniquity. He bore the punishment that makes us whole, by his wounds we were healed. We had all gone astray like sheep, all following our own way; But the Lord laid upon him the guilt of us all” (Is 53:3-6)
Finally, we must consign some of the answer to the often mysterious providence of God who deemed that this sort of death was both necessary and efficacious for us.
Wearing a rosary
Question: Is there a Church law against wearing a rosary like a necklace?
— Michael Dunn, Brooklyn, New York
Answer: While there is no Church law forbidding the wearing of a rosary like a necklace, it is not an appropriate use of it. A rosary is meant to be used as an item of devotional prayer and to assist the act of praying. It is not jewelry or a kind of amulet, or meant to be hung from rearview mirrors. That said, these are not the worst of crimes and are often done devotionally. It is just misguided by usurping the main purpose of the rosary.