The Word Among Us

January 2009 Issue

Exploring a Love unto Death

An new book examines Jesus' journey to the cross.

By: Ann Bottenhorn

Exploring a Love unto Death: An new book examines Jesus' journey to the cross. by Ann Bottenhorn

Every Lent, we are invited to join Jesus on a familiar journey. We follow along from his entrance into Jerusalem to his suffering at Gethsemane and his death at Golgotha, before finally bursting forth in rejoicing at his resurrection on Easter Sunday.

When I think about all the Stations of the Cross I have attended over the years and all the time I have spent reading and meditating on the gospel accounts of the passion, I come to the conclusion that at least some of my Easter rejoicing stems from relief that it's over. I've finished thinking about the brutality and sorrow of Jesus' last days on earth—at least for awhile!

But these sorrowful events take on another character if we look at them with a wider lens. This is the thought that came to me as I read a new Bible study by Jeanne Kun, Jesus' Journey to the Cross.

An Age-Old Longing. As the introduction points out, Jesus' journey to the cross was set in motion long before he became a man. It began in the garden of Eden, where our first parents enjoyed intimate friendship with their Creator. Then, through disobedience, they broke their fellowship with God, and sin entered the world.

But this thought was new to me: The desire to be like God—to know him intimately, to enjoy his presence, even to become like him—is planted in our hearts from creation. Eve wanted to be like her Creator. Having walked in fellowship with him in the garden, she knew: He is wise. He is love. With him are peace, joy, and comfort above any other.

Unfortunately, Eve was deceived into thinking that she could become like God by choosing a path that was opposed to his plan. It was to free humanity from this deception and bring us back to God that Jesus came. Through his life, but especially through his suffering, death, and resurrection, he opened the way for us to experience the power of God's love once again and to be transformed by his Spirit. He made it possible for us to obtain our heart's deepest desire, a share in God's own nature.

Journeying to God. Jesus' Journey to the Cross visits six key events of the passion story to help us trace the way back to God: Jesus' entry into Jerusalem, the Last Supper, Gethsemane, his arrest and trial, the crucifixion, and finally the resurrection.

Each of these six sessions starts with the relevant Scripture passage, printed in full, followed by a short, helpful commentary. Insightful questions gently challenge and stir readers' thoughts about the passage and its relevance to their lives. Guidance for applying Scripture is abundantly available in sections titled "Understand," "Grow," "Reflect," and "Act." Quotations and insights from the Fathers of the Church, contemporary writers, and the Catechism are included, as well as information on the history, geography, and culture of first-century Palestine.

All of this makes for a graceful, thorough, and intimate walk with Jesus as he journeys to the cross and empty tomb.

Destination: Joy! Though you can "journey with Jesus" at whatever pace suits you, I followed the author's advice to "read each Scripture passage slowly and carefully" and give myself the time to "pursue any thoughts it brings to mind." By making the journey a little more slowly, I found myself relaxing and listening more alertly for the Holy Spirit. "Walking at the side of Jesus" became less a metaphor and more a reality as I began to experience his love more personally.

And this is the ultimate goal of Jesus' Journey to the Cross: to take us to a place where we experience, rest in, and grow in God's love. A place where we become increasingly open to his work and obedient to his will, even when it is at odds with our own. A place where, through the transforming power of the cross, we walk in trusting friendship with God.

So this year, I'm looking forward to rejoicing in the resurrection at Easter—not because Lent is over but because God's saving work continues on in us. From Eden to Golgotha to the new creation in Christ—it's an awesome journey!

Ann Bottenhorn lives in Jacksonville, Florida.