THE LOVE SHOWN TO US BY JESUS CHRIST IN HIS PASSION.
God so loved men, that He gave His own Son to redeem them.
St. Francis de Sales called Mount Calvary “the mountain of lovers,” and says that the love which springs not from the Passion is weak;1 meaning, that the Passion of Jesus Christ is the most powerful incentive to inflame us to love our Saviour. To be able to comprehend a part (for to comprehend the whole is impossible) of the great love which God has shown us in the Passion of Jesus Christ, it is sufficient to glance at what is said of it in the divine Scriptures, of which I shall here set forth some of the principal passages. Nor let any one complain that I thus repeat the texts which I have already repeated several times in my other works when speaking of the Passion. Many writers of mischievous books constantly repeat their immodest jests, in order the more to excite the passions of their thoughtless readers; and shall it not be permitted to me to repeat those holy texts which most inflame souls with divine love?
Speaking of this love, Jesus himself said, God so loved the world, that He gave His only-begotten Son.2 The word so expresses much. It teaches us that when God gave his only-begotten Son, he displayed to us a love which we can never attain to comprehend. Through sin we were all dead, having lost the life of grace; but the Eternal Father, in order to make known his goodness to the world, and to show us how much he loved us, chose to send on earth his Son, that by his death he might restore to us the life we had lost. In this appeared the love of God to us, in that God sent His only-begotten Son into the world, that we might live by Him.3 Thus, in order to pardon us, God refused that pardon to his own Son, desiring that he should take upon him to satisfy the divine justice for all our faults; He spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all.4 The words delivered up are used because God gave him into the hands of the executioners, that they might load him with insults and pains, until he died of agony on a shameful tree. Thus he first loaded him with all our sins. The Lord laid on Him the iniquity of us all. And then he chose to see him consumed with the most bitter inward and outward pangs and afflictions: For the wickedness of My people I have stricken Him. The Lord bruised Him in infirmity.5
St. Paul, considering this love of God, goes on to say: On account of the too great love with which He loved us, when we were dead in sins, He raised us up in Christ.6 The Apostle calls it his too great love. Could there be anything indeed in excess in God? Yes; by this he means us to understand that God has done such things for us, that if faith had not assured us of them, none could have believed them. And therefore the Church cries out in astonishment, “Oh, wonderful is that which Thy love towards us has thought fit to do! O inestimable Love of love! that Thou mightest redeem Thy servant, Thou hast delivered up Thy Son.”7 Remark here the expression of the Church, Love of love; for the love of God to us is more than that he has shown to any other creatures. God, being love itself,8 as St. John says, he loves all his creatures; Thou lovest all things that are, and hatest nothing that Thou hast made.9 But the love that he bears to man seems to be that which is the dearest and most beloved to him, for it appears as though, in love, he had preferred man to the angels, since he has been willing to die for men and not for the fallen angels.
The Son of God offered Himself for the Love of us.
Speaking. then, of the love of the Son of God for man, let us remember that when he saw on one side man lost through sin, and on the other the divine justice requiring a perfect satisfaction for the offences committed by man, who was himself unable to offer such a satisfaction, he voluntarily offered himself to make satisfaction: He was offered, because he willed it.10 And this humble lamb gave himself to the torturers, suffering them to lacerate his flesh, and to lead him to death, without lamenting or opening his mouth, as it was foretold: He shall be brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep is dumb before its shearer, and openeth not its mouth.11 St. Paul writes that Jesus Christ accepted the death of the cross to obey his Father.12 But let us not imagine that the Redeemer was crucified solely to obey his Father, and not with his own full will; he freely offered himself to this death, and of his own will chose to die for man, moved by the love he bore him, as he himself declares by St. John: I lay down My life; no man will take it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself.13 And he said that it was the work of the Good Shepherd, to give his life for his sheep.14 And why was this? what obligation was there on the shepherd to give his life for the sheep? He loved us, and gave Himself for us.15
This, indeed, our loving Redeemer himself declared, when he said, If I be lifted up from the earth, I will draw all men unto Me;16 thereby showing the kind of death that he would die upon the cross, as the Evangelist himself explains it: He said this, signifying by what death He would die.17 On these words St. John Chrysostom remarks, that he draws them as it were from the hands of a tyrant.18 By his death he draws us from the hands of Lucifer, who, as a tyrant, keeps us enchained as his slaves, to torment us after our death forever in hell.
Miserable had we been if Jesus Christ had not died for us! We should all have been imprisoned in hell. For us who had deserved hell, it is a great motive to us to love Jesus Christ, to think, that by his death, he has delivered us from this hell, by pouring forth his blood.
Let us, then, in passing, glance at the pains of hell, where at this hour are so many wretched souls. Oh, miserable beings! there they are sunk in a sea of fire, where they endure ceaseless agony, since in this fire they experience pains of all kinds. There they are given into the hands of devils, who, full of fury, are busied only in tormenting these miserable condemned ones. There, still more than by the fire and the other tortures, are they tormented by remorse of conscience in recollecting the sins of their life, which were the cause of their damnation. There they see the way of escape from this abyss of torments ever closed. There they find themselves forever excluded from the company of the saints, and from their country, heaven, for which they were created. But what most afflicts them, and constitutes their hell, is to see themselves abandoned by God, and condemned to be unable evermore to love him, and to look upon themselves with hatred and madness.
From this hell Jesus Christ has delivered us, redeeming us not with gold or any earthly good thing, but by giving his own life and blood upon the cross.19 The kings of the earth send their subjects to die in war to preserve their own security; Jesus Christ chose himself to die, in order to give safety to his creatures.
Jesus died not only for us all, but for each one of us.
Behold Jesus, then, presented by the scribes and priests to Pilate as a malefactor, that he might judge him and condemn him to the death of the cross; and see how they follow him, in order to see him condemned and crucified. Oh, marvellous thing, cries St. Augustine, to see the judge judged; to see justice condemned; to see life dying!20 And for what cause were these marvels accomplished, except through the love which Jesus Christ bore to men? He loved us, and gave Himself for us.21 Oh that these words of St. Paul were ever before our eyes! Truly then would every affection for earthly things depart from our heart. and we should think only of loving our Redeemer, reflecting that it was love which brought him to pour forth all his blood, to make for us a bath of salvation. He hath loved us, and washed us from our sins in His own blood.22 St. Bernardine of Sienna says that Jesus Christ from the cross looked at every single sin of every one of us, and offered his blood for every one of them.23 In a word, love brought the Lord of all to appear the most vile and low of all things upon earth.
“O power of love!” cries St. Bernard; “the Supreme God of all is made the lowest of all! Who hath done this? Love, forgetting its dignity, powerful in its affections. Love triumphs over divinity.”24 Love hath done this, because, in order to make itself known to the beloved, it hath brought the loving one to lay aside his dignity, and to do that alone which aids and pleases the beloved. Therefore, St. Bernard says that God, who can be conquered by none, causes himself to be conquered by the love which he bore for men.
We must further reflect that whatever Jesus Christ suffered in his Passion, he suffered for each one of us individually; on which account St. Paul says, I live in the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and delivered Himself for me.25 And what the Apostle said, every one of us may say; wherefore St. Augustine writes that man was redeemed at such a price that he seems to be of equal value with God.26 The saint also goes on to say, “Thou hast loved me, not as Thyself, but more than Thyself, since, to deliver me from death, Thou hast been willing to die for me.”27
But since Jesus could have saved us by a single drop of his blood, why did he pour it all forth in torments, even so as to die of mere agony upon the cross? “Yes,” says St. Bernard, “what a drop might have done, he chose to do with a stream, in order to show us the excessive love he bore us.”28 He calls it excessive, as Moses and Elias on Mount Thabor called the Passion of the Redeemer an excess,—an excess of mercy and love; They spoke of His excess, which He was about to accomplish at Jerusalem.29 St. Augustine, speaking of the Passion of our Lord, says “that his mercy exceeded the debt of our sins.”30 Thus, the value of the death of Jesus Christ being infinite, infinitely exceeded the satisfaction due by us for our sins to the divine justice. Truly had the Apostle cause to say, God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.31 And what St. Paul says, we may all say; what greater glory can we have, or hope for in the world, than to see a God dying for love of us?
O Eternal God, I have dishonored Thee by my sins; but Jesus, by making satisfaction for me by his death, has more than abundantly restored the honor due to Thee; for the love of Jesus, then, have mercy upon me. And Thou, my Redeemer, who hast died for me, in order to oblige me to love Thee, grant that I may love Thee. For, having despised Thy grace and Thy love, I have deserved to be condemned to be able to love Thee no more. But, O my Jesus, give me every punishment but this. And therefore, I pray Thee, consign me not to hell, for in hell I cannot love Thee. Cause me to love Thee, and then chastise me as Thou wilt. Deprive me of everything, but not of Thyself. I accept every infirmity, every ignominy, every pain that Thou willest me to suffer; it is enough that I love Thee. Now, I know, by the light Thou hast given me, that Thou art most worthy of love, and hast so much loved me: I trust to live no longer without loving Thee. For the time past I have loved creatures, and have turned my back upon Thee, the infinite good; but now I say to Thee, that I would love Thee alone, and nothing else. O my beloved Saviour, if Thou seest that at any future time I should cease to love Thee, I pray Thee to cause me first to die; and I shall be content to die before I am separated from Thee.
O holy Virgin Mary and Mother of God, help me with thy prayers; obtain for me, that I may never cease to love my Jesus, who died for me and thee, my queen, who hast already obtained for me so many mercies.
1Love of God, b. 12, ch. 13.
2“Sic enim Deus dilexit mundum, ut Filium suum unigenitum daret.” – John, iii. 16.
3“In hoc apparuit charitas Dei in nobis, quoniam Filium suum unigenitum misit Deus in mundum, ut vivamus per eum.” – 1 John, iv. 9.
4“Qui etiam proprio Filio suo non pepercit, sed pro nobis omnibus tradidit illum.” – Rom. viii. 32.
5“Posuit Dominus in eo iniquitatem omnium nostrum. – Propter scelus populi mei percussi eum . . . et Dominus voluit conterere eum in infirmitate.” – Isa. liii. 6-8.
6“Propter nimiam charitatem suam qua dilexit nos, et cum essemus mortui peccatis, convivificavit nos in Christo.” – Eph. ii. 5.
7“O mira circa nos tuæ pietatis dignatio! o inæstimabilis dilectio charitatis! ut servum redimeres, Filium tradidisti.” – In Sabb. S.
8“Deus charitas est.” – 1 John, iv. 8.
9“Diligis enim omnia, quæ sunt, et nihil odisti eorum, quæ fecisti.” – Wisd. xi. 25.
10“Oblatus est, quia ipse voluit.” – Isa. liii. 7.
11“Sicut ovis ad occisionem ducetur, et quasi agnus coram tondente se obmutescet, et non aperiet os suum.” – Ibid.
12“Factus obediens usque ad mortem, mortem autem crucis.” – Phil. ii. 8.
13“Ego pono animam meam. . . . Nemo tollit eam a me, sed ego pono eam a meipso.” – John, x. 17.
14“Ego sum Pastor bonus. Bonus pastor animam suam dat pro ovibus suis.” – John, x. 11.
15“Dilexit nos, et tradidit semetipsum pro nobis.” – Eph. v. 2.
16“Et ego, si exaltatus fuero a terra, omnia traham ad meipsum.” – John, xii. 32.
17“Hoc autem dicebat significans qua morte easel moriturus.” – Ibid.
18“ ‘Omnia traham,’ quasi a tyranno detenta.”
19“Non pro te dedit aurum, non prædia, sed proprium cruorem, in crucis moriendo patibulo.” – De Cont. m. c. 7.
20“Ut judex judicaretur, Justitia damnaretur, Vita moreretur.” – Serm. 191, E. B.
21“Dilexit nos, et tradidit semetipsum pro nobis.” – Eph. v. 2.
22“Qui dilexit nos, et lavit nos a peccatis nostris in sanguine suo.” – Apoc. i. 5.
23“Ad quamlibet culpam singularem habuit aspectum.” – T. ii. s. 56, a. 1, c. 1.
24“O Amoris vim! Summus omnium imus factus est omnium. Quis hoc fecit? Amor, dignitatis nescius, affectu potens. Triumphat de Deo Amor.” – In Cant. s. 64.
25“In fide vivo Filii Dei, qui dilexit me, et tradidit semetipsum pro me.” – Gal. ii. 20.
26“Tam copioso munere redemptio agitur, ut homo Deum valere videatur.” – De Dilig. D. c. 6.
27“Dilexisti me plus quam te, quia voluisti mori pro me.” – Sol. an, ad D. c. 13.
28“Quod potuit gotta, voluit unda.”
29“Et dicebant excessum ejus, quem completurus erat in Jerusalem.” – Luke, ix. 31.
30“Misericordiam magnam invenimus, pretium majus omni debito.” – Cur D. H. l. 3, c. 21.
31“Mihi autem absit gloriari, nisi in cruce Domini nostri Jesu Christi.” – Gal. vi. 14.