Sunday after the Ascension
The Passion and the Death of Jesus Christ
Jesus upon the Cross
Jesus upon the Cross was a spectacle which filled heaven and earth with amazement, at the sight of an Almighty God, the Lord of all, dying upon an infamous gibbet, condemned as a malefactor between two other male-factors. It was a spectacle of justice, in displaying the Eternal Father, in order that his justice might be satisfied; punishing the sins of men in the person of his only-begotten Son, loved by him as himself. It was a spectacle of mercy, displaying his innocent Son dying a death so shameful and so bitter, in order to save his creatures from the punishment that was due to them. Especially was it a sight of love, in displaying a God who offered and gave his life to redeem from death his slaves and enemies.
It is this spectacle which ever was and ever will be the dearest object of the contemplations of the saints, through which they have counted it little to strip themselves of all earthly pleasures and goods, and to embrace with desire and joy both pain and death, in order to make some return of gratitude to a God who died for love of them.
Comforted by the sight of Jesus derided upon the Cross, the saints have loved contempt more than worldly people have loved all the honors of the world. At the sight of Jesus naked and dying upon the Cross, they have sought to abandon all the good things of this earth. At the sight of him all wounded upon the cross, while the blood flowed forth from all his limbs, they have learnt to abhor sensual pleasures, and have sought to afflict their flesh as much as they could, in order to accompany with their own sufferings the sufferings of the Crucified. At the sight of the obedience and conformity of will retained by Jesus Christ to the will of his Father, they have labored to conquer all those appetites which were not conformed to the divine pleasure; while many, though occupied in works of piety, yet, knowing that to be deprived of their own will was the sacrifice the most welcome to the heart of God which they could offer, have entered into some religious Order, to lead a life of obedience, and subject their own will to that of others. At the sight of the patience of Jesus Christ, in being willing to suffer so many pains and insults for the love of us, they have received with satisfaction and joy injuries, infirmities, persecutions, and the torments of tyrants. At the sight of the love which Jesus Christ has shown to us in sacrificing to God his life upon the Cross for us, they have sacrificed to Jesus Christ all they possessed, - their property, their pleasures, their honours, and their life.
How is it, then, that so many Christians, although they know by faith that Jesus Christ died for love of them, instead of devoting themselves wholly to love and serve him, devote themselves to offend and despise him for the sake of brief and miserable pleasures? Whence comes this ingratitude? It comes from their forgetfulness of the Passion and death of Jesus Christ. And, O my God, what will be their remorse and shame at the day of judgement, when the Lord shall reproach them with all that he has done and suffered for them?
Let us not, then, cease, O devout souls, ever to keep before our eyes Jesus crucified, and dying in the midst of torments and insults through love of us. From the Passion of Jesus Christ all the saints have drawn those flames of love which made them forget all the good things of this world, and even their own selves, to give themselves up wholly to love and please this divine Saviour, who has so loved men that it seems as if he could not have done more in order to be loved by them. In a word, the cross, that is, the Passion of Jesus Christ, is that which will gain for us the victory over all our passions and all the temptations that hell will hold out to us, in order to separate us from God. The cross is the road and ladder by which we mount to heaven. Happy he who embraces it during his life, and does not put it off till the hour of death. He that dies embracing the cross has a sure pledge of eternal life, which is promised to all those who follow Jesus Christ with their cross.
O my crucified Jesus! To make Thyself loved by men Thou has spared nothing; Thou hast even given Thy life with a most painful death; how, then, can men who love their kindred, their friends, and even animals from whom they receive any token of affection, be so ungrateful to Thee as to despise Thy grace and Thy love, for the sake of miserable and vain delights! Oh, miserable that I am, I am one of those ungrateful beings who, for things of no worth, have renounced Thy friendship, and have turned my back upon Thee. I have deserved that Thou shouldst drive me from Thy face, as I have often banished Thee from my heart. But I know that Thou dost not cease to ask my heart of me: Thou shalt love the Lord Thy God. (Diliges Dominum Deum tuum – Deut. Vi.5.) Yea, O my Jesus, as Thou desirest that I should love Thee and offerest me pardon, I renounce all creatures, and henceforth I desire to love Thee alone, my Creator and my Redeemer. Thou dost deserve to be the only object of my soul’s love.
O Mary, Mother of God, and refuge of sinners, pray for me; obtain for me the grace of loving God, and I ask of nothing more.