Jesus’ Passion and Death

Summary of Catechism paragraphs 595-637:

  • Jesus’ Passion — from the Latin word for “suffering” — and His death on the Cross were not caused by chance or circumstances, but rather formed part of the mystery of God’s plan.
  • From all eternity, God foreknew how individual human beings would act according to their free will; yet out of pure love, the Father still chose to send the Son, and Jesus willingly embraced His self-sacrifice for us.
  • Sin brought death into the world, but Jesus used His own death to conquer death, defeat the power of evil, and liberate us from both sin and death.
  • Jesus absorbed the whole horror of the world’s evil when taking our sins upon Himself; His mental and spiritual anguish, as witnessed in the agony in the garden, added immeasurably to the excruciating physical pain He suffered.
  • Jesus died for each and every individual human being who has ever lived, and will ever live, over the entire sweep of history — for each one of us personally, not just for a faceless mass of humanity in general.
  • Hence all of us, as sinners, are the authors of His Passion; for this reason it is wrong to focus blame on the Jewish leaders of Jesus’ time, or any other individuals who were involved in His trial and crucifixion.
  • After Jesus died, He descended into the realm of the dead to free the spirits of the holy ones who had been waiting for the Savior to open the way to heaven; this signifies that Jesus’ redemptive action extends to people of all times and places.
  •  Jesus is able to bring about perfect atonement for our sins, and reconcile us with God, because He is both God and man; therefore Jesus is the unique and definitive sacrifice.
  •  Jesus completes and surpasses the sacrifices of the Old Covenant: He is the Lamb of God slain for us in the ultimate Passover (Paschal) sacrifice, and He fulfills Isaiah’s prophecy of the Suffering Servant, whose death brings about redemption.
  • Jesus instituted the Eucharist as a perpetual memorial of His once-for-all sacrifice: at the Last Supper, He anticipated His voluntary offering to the Father, and with the command to “Do this in memory of me,” He established the sacrifice of the New Covenant.

Live Your Faith

We reflect on Jesus’ suffering, not only to feel sorrow for our sins, but to absorb the depth of His love for us.

He could have redeemed us in countless other ways. Yet He chose to go to the furthest extremity, sparing nothing, pouring Himself out entirely, that we might never doubt His love.

It is this very sacrifice, accomplished once for all, that we experience at Mass — not by repeating what happened at Calvary all over again, but by Christ’s single sacrifice being made present to us, so that we enter into the mystery of our redemption.

This understanding of a “memorial” is deeply rooted in Sacred Scripture. We glimpse it in Israel’s celebration of Passover, which is not a simple act of calling to mind, but a making-present of the saving events that had already occurred in time.

Let us respond to Jesus’ great love by dedicating ourselves unreservedly to Him.

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