By Susan Ciancio
The Netflix series Stranger Things has been one of the most anticipated shows of the summer. Like many people, I enjoy the series (though the usage of God’s name in vain is unnecessary and truly hurts my heart). But the show is something I began watching with my older son a few years ago, so we were excited to watch the fourth season together. We’re a bit behind and have only the final two episodes left to watch. Yesterday, as we watched the third-to-last episode where (slight spoiler alert to follow!) Joyce frees Hopper from the Russian prison, I was struck by their reunion.
It doesn’t matter if you don’t watch the show or aren’t familiar with the plot. Suffice it to say that the character of Jim Hopper was imprisoned in a secret Russian facility. His girlfriend Joyce thought he was dead until he was able to get her a message. She defied the odds and was able to make her way into the prison (with some help) and free him.
Their reunion was incredibly touching because the look on Hopper’s face was a mix of amazement, love, humility, and gratefulness. I could imagine him thinking, “You did all this to save me?”
You could tell that he felt cherished and loved, yet unworthy all at once.
As I thought about Joyce’s actions and the grateful look on Hopper’s face when he hugged her, I began to think of all that Christ did to save us. Of course, I’m not comparing a character on a TV show to Christ; I’m only using her actions and Hopper’s gratitude for them to illustrate how much more intensely we should feel that gratitude when we look at the crucifix.
If we want to know how much God loves us, we need only look at the sacrifice Christ made by coming here and dying for our sins. As Fr. Mike Schmitz once said, “It is not the nails that kept Jesus on the cross. It’s His love for you.”
Christ’s love for us is hard for us to imagine. What He allowed Himself to go through is hard to imagine. The Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary are meant to help us focus on just how much Christ loves us. We can walk with Him in His pain, and we can walk with Him in His fears, for He was human as well as divine.
We can picture Jesus’ agony in the Garden of Gethsemane. He knows what will happen, yet He fears it. He asks His Father to take the cup away—if it is His will. He knows that it is not.
Jesus is then arrested, questioned, and mocked. He is scourged at the pillar and crowned with thorns. He is then forced to carry His heavy cross to Golgotha, where soldiers drove nails through his flesh as they nailed Him to the cross. Then He hung there in the hot sun, dying a slow and agonizing death.
He did this for you. He did this for me.
When we look at the crucifix, we should feel not just sorrow, but amazement. We should feel unworthy as the recipients of His love. And we should be grateful.
But do we thank Him?
As we go about our days, do we think about His sacrifice? Do we think about His pain? Or are we too focused on worldly things to contemplate these facts?
I think the reason why I was so struck by the look on Hopper’s face was because of the wonder he felt that someone else could do something so brave and loving for him.
So as we look at Christ on the crucifix, let us allow ourselves to also be filled with wonder as we ask Him: “You did all this to save me?”
We know that His answer is a resounding yes.
And as we think about Christ’s yes, let us feel grateful, loved, and adored because what He gave us was an incredible gift that we are not worthy of.
Joyce may have saved Hopper’s life, but Christ saved our souls.
As we reflect on all Christ did—and still does—for us, let us also contemplate Mary standing at the foot of the cross, her heart breaking yet overflowing with love. It was her yes—her fiat—to God that helped give the world such a gift.
And finally, let us think about how we too can say yes to God today and every day as we work to build a culture of life and teach our children to do so. Let us resolve to spend more time in prayer at the crucifix giving thanks for Christ’s sacrifice. And then let us live our lives expressing that gratitude.
CLSP has a beautiful lesson called Honoring the Blessed Mother that will help your children understand Mary’s yes to God. It’s on sale now in our store.