Alone with God, Holy Tuesday
Alone with God
By Father J. Heyrman, S.J.
Tuesday, Holy Week
JESUS TREADS THE WINE-PRESS ALONE, YET HE WAS IN TOUCH WITH ALL MANKIND
1. The loneliness of Jesus began when His disciples abandoned Him in the Garden to the vengeance of His enemies and it reached its highest point on the Cross, when it tore from His Heart the cry of distress, “My God, my God why hast Thou forsaken me?” (Deus meus! Deus meus! ut quid dereliquisti me?) – Mark 15:34.
2. Petition: That, full of reverence and compassion, we may remain close to Jesus in this “interior banishment”, and find in it the strength to bear with fortitude the trial of loneliness if God sends it to us for our chastisement.
I. One for the Sake of All
Caiphas, the high-priest of that year, had arrived at the conclusion that Jesus must be done away with: From the standpoint of religion as well as of politics He had made Himself intolerable. On the one hand He was undermining authority of the rulers with the people; on the other, He had gained so powerful an influence on the masses that at any moment He could start a rebellion against the Romans.
“If we let Him alone,” the chief priests and the Pharisees said, “all will believe in Him; and the Romans will come and take away our place and nation …” But one of them, named Caiphas, being the high-priest of that year, said to them, You know nothing; neither do you consider that it is expedient for you that one man should die for the people and that the whole nation perish not. (And this he spoke not of himself: but being the high-priest of that year, he prophesied that Jesus should die for the nation. And not only for the nation, but to gather together in one the children of God that were dispersed)” (John 11: 47-52).
How very true those words have proved to be, “One shall die for the sake of all”! Though the high-priest was not aware of it, his words, dictated by mere politics and evil intention, took on a spiritual and world-wide meaning: they did but promulgate the eternal divine decree which was about to receive its glorious fulfillment.
Puny and short-sighted man frames his own wicked plans: “Why have the Gentiles raged and the people devised vain things? The kings of the earth stood up, and the princes met together, against the Lord and against His Christ … He that dwelleth in heaven shall laugh at them, and the Lord shall deride them” (Ps. 2:1,2,4). No man can elude the almighty grasp of the infinitely wise, infinitely good, infinitely merciful God: “To them that love Him, He makes all things work together unto good” (Romans 8: 28).
II. Jesus Bears His Sufferings Alone
Of necessity, Jesus was lonely all His life. “He dwelt amongst us”, but to understand Him was not possible to anyone, not even to His Apostles, nay nor to His Holy Mother (Though She was the closest to Him on this earth). In starker loneliness He suffered, in utter loneliness He died.
During His Agony He had no one to keep watch with Him. From His arrest onward He beheld around Him only faces distorted with hatred and envy. The Liturgy of Matins makes Him say, “I have trodden the winepress alone … and I have looked for one that would grieve with me: but there was no one” (Ps. 68:21). On the way to Calvary one man was found, or rather ‘compelled’, to help Him carry the cross: and the Gospel further mentions “women who bewailed and lamented Him” as He passed carrying His cross. Besides that, Christian piety beholds Veronica boldly making her way through the crowd and wiping the blood, sweat and dirt off His sacred countenance and an ancient tradition permits us to believe that His Mother met Him while He carried His cross. But in His innermost heart, where no one could penetrate, He ever remained totally alone.
Then shortly before He expired on the cross, this abysmal loneliness reached its greatest depths. Before the Passion He had said to His apostles, “Behold, the hour comes that you shall leave me alone, and yet I am not alone; the Father is with me” (John 16:32). But now the hour has struck when even the Father seems to abandon Him: We hear Him crying with a loud voice, “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken me?” This is indeed and awful mystery. How close to the brink of eternal banishment did the Father in fact lead His beloved Son, who was “to redeem us from the curse by being made a curse for us” (Gal. 3:13).
III. Jesus in His Sufferings Was Reaching out to All Men
His sufferings benefited all men. Everything in Jesus was “given in partnership” to all men. All He was, all HE had, all He did was given to be imparted to us – without any consideration for Himself; everything without reserve … up to the very last drop of His Blood; His whole human nature, and through His human nature His divine Nature too …
Ruysbroeck calls Him “the lover of each and every man”. “Consider now,” he writes, “how Christ gave Himself to all with complete surrender. His ardent Sacerdotal Prayer was addressed to the Father in favour of all that should be saved. He reached out to the universality of men in His love, His teaching, His rebukes; in solacing gently, in giving liberally, in pardoning mercifully and compassionately. His soul and Body, His life and death, His labours and toil were, and are still being passed on to all. His Sacraments and His graces are dispensed to all. Whenever He as much as partook of food or drink to sustain His Body, He intended thereby to bring profit to the universality of those that shall live, until the end of the world. He considered nothing as His exclusive possession, but whatever was His He made it ours too: His Body and Soul, His Mother and disciples, His garments and cloak. He ate and drank for our sake, He lived and died for our sake … His sorrows and sufferings alone, and His destitution, did He claim for Himself; but all the advantage and the benefit that accrued from them He bestows on us and the glory of His merits shall be shared by all for ever and ever.
Prayer: Grant, Almighty and everlasting God, that we may so celebrate the mysteries of the Passion of our Lord as to deserve to obtain the remission of our sins. Through the same Christ our Lord, who livest and reignest world without end. (Collect, today’s Mass).
Parce Domine, parce populo tuo: ne in aeternum irascaris nobis.