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A Reflection by Vincent Pham

written on the bus ride departing Barcelona, Spain

had the chance to see and reflect on Barcelona’s iconic Basilica of Sagrada
Familia’s exterior during Chaminade College School’s 2019 Europe trip. As a
fanatic on Catholicism, I was in awe with not only the grandeur size of the
Basilica, but also the rich symbolism that Antonio Gaudi’s incorporation of Catholic
symbols on the exterior. However, the façade that was inspirational was that of the
Passion. It is of complete contrast with the Nativity façade which depicted scenes of the
Birth of Jesus and Marian scenes, but the Passion scene was somber.

That night, walking back to the hotel, I let Gaudi’s depictions of the Passion sink
in. The ultimate theme that came into mind is that of authentic heroism.

The Europe trip came just weeks after completing the reading William
Shakespeare’s Hamlet in Mr. Freitas’ class. Therefore, my thoughts about the play were
still fresh in mind. Hamlet suffered much, from the death of his father, his mother’s
haste marriage with Claudius and he also must face the reality that Claudius killed his
father. Yet, Hamlet does not exert any forgiveness towards his enemy, Claudius. Not
showing forgiveness is one thing, but he plans out a bloody revenge against him.

Jesus on the other hand is an innocent man. He did no wrong. Yet, even in
human fear, in the Garden of Gethsemane, he freely gave himself up to the enemy. He
was tried, he was scourged, he was forced to carry a heavy cross. Ultimately, he was
crucified on a cross, offered his hands to be outstretched, offering himself as “Salutaris
Hostia”, or “Saving Victim”. Every time he spoke, he had to gain strength to lift himself
up. I am not going deep into the logistics of crucifixion, but when the crucified victim
wanted to breathe, he had to but force on to his nailed feet and used that force to push
himself up to breathe. It was a very painful process as each movement caused sharp
pain (since the nails were purposely drawn through the ankle and wrist, not the soles of
the feet or the palm of the hand as depicted in art, so that the nails would come in
contact with a nerve that would cause the pain). Jesus, however, did not say any words
of hate towards those who executed him. Rather he used every breath to say words of
love, words of forgiveness, such as, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what
they are doing.” (Luke 23:24) This quote is often known as one of the “Seven Last
Words of Jesus”. These were words of forgiveness, words of love to the enemy, not only
his direct enemies, but us sinners, sinners who have offended him. Imagine, you being
innocently executed by your enemies, how do you find that courage to say, “I forgive
you”? As a human being, it is very difficult.

Looking at Gaudi’s Passion façade, looking at a totally naked man, outstretched

on the cross, which to the Jews at the time of Jesus, was a scene of terror, from Jesus’
resurrection onwards, became for Christians a sign of victory. The cross which was once
an image of execution has now become for Christians a sign of victory. It is a sign of
heroism – authentic heroism. Jesus is a hero for all because to be a hero is to “give up
one’s life for their friends” (see John 15:13). Yet, “friends” here does not mean selective
friends, but includes people who deserve to be friends and even haters.

Hamlet depicts a blood thirsty revenge, one that is very typical of man. Man,
since the beginning of time (see Genesis 4:1-16), has had that urge to revenge. The
Passion of Jesus Christ depicts a bloodless “revenge”, one of total love. It is consisted of
the same love that man has within every person but elevated to a higher level, a higher
level of heroism. Indeed, it is difficult to give up of oneself and forgive the enemy but
heroism comes with a price. What price will you pay to be an authentic hero?

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