This painting is one of my favorite depictions of both the crucifixion and the Sacred Heart of Jesus. I'm afraid I do not know the artist, nor the date it was painted. I came across the canvas in a small chapel in an Italian town in the mountains about a half hour outside of Rome, called Rocca di Papa. (The town is actually where the Pope has a summer residence.) It was about six years ago and I was a seminarian at the Pontifical North American College in Rome. I was so struck by the image that I pulled out my phone and captured a shot.
Acts of the Apostles chapter 27 recounts the naval voyage of St. Paul to Rome. Paul was a prisoner in Jerusalem and, being a Roman citizen, was transferred to the capital for trial. During the voyage his ship encountered a severe storm. Badly damaged and having drifted out to sea, way off course, the crew was despondent. The captain and sailors had lost hope and were refusing to eat. All was lost. Then Paul, the least of the apostles, took charge. Standing up in chains, he exhorted the men. “I urge you, therefore, to take some food; it will help you survive. Not a hair of the head of anyone of you will be lost” (Acts 27: 34-35).
When I hear the song One by Three Dog Night I hear a hymn about the Holy Trinity. "One is the loneliest number" is the refrain sung over and over again in the song. So true! One is lonely. That is precisely why God is not one, but three. “But I am not alone, because the Father is with me” (Jn 16:32). Our God is three persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. If God was not Triune—if he was one, that is—he would be alone, which means he would have needed to create the world. He would have depended on the world for companionship. This would make God jealous, angry, and vengeful. He needs our worship. He needs our love. If he doesn't receive our love, we will be punished. This is how the Ancient Greeks and Romans viewed God—and sometimes us too, I think. But, as it stands, this is not the case. God is not alone. He is already in relation with himself. He is independent and happily so. Thus, God does not need the world and he is not angry. The reason God chose to create the world was so that we could share the awesome love that he experiences in heaven in himself.
There's a lot of evil and tragedy in this world. One way we can react to it is to fault God, to blame him for being absent. Or we can look a bit more closely and see perhaps how some good has arisen from the tragedy. What comes to my mind, as an example of this, is alcoholism. It's destroyed careers, families, even lives. In the darkness of alcoholism, however, God has brought forth a light. Just look at Alcoholics Anonymous. What AA fosters in the individual is the virtue of abandonment. The alcoholic learns it is not willpower or some intellectual conviction that will bring him or her out of the addiction. It is a surrender of the will over to our Lord. God's grace alone can bring the alcoholic out of the stranglehold. If the person hands himself over to Jesus completely, Jesus will save him. “With God, all things are possible” (Matt 19:26).