THE GRATITUDE THAT WE OWE TO JESUS CHRIST FOR HIS PASSION.
Jesus died for us; we ought to live and die for Him.
St. Augustine says that Jesus Christ, having first given his life for us, has bound us to give our life for him; and, further, that when we go to the Eucharistic table to communicate, as we go to feed there upon the body and blood of Jesus Christ, we ought also, in gratitude, to prepare for him the offering of our blood and of our life, if there is need for us to give either of them for his glory.1
Full of tenderness are the words of St. Francis de Sales on this text of St. Paul: The charity of Christ presseth us.2 To what does it press us? To love him. But let us hear what St. Francis de. Sales says: “When we know that Jesus has loved us even to death, and that the death of the cross, is not this to feel our hearts constrained by a violence as great as it is full of delight?”3 And then he adds, “My Jesus gives himself wholly to me, and I give myself wholly to him; I will live and die upon his breast, and neither death nor life shall ever separate me from him.”
St. Peter, in order that we might remember to be ever grateful to our Saviour, reminds us that we were not redeemed from the slavery of hell with gold or silver, but with the precious blood of Jesus Christ, which he sacrificed for us, as an innocent lamb, upon the altar of the cross.4 Great, therefore, will be the punishment of those who are thankless for such a blessing, if they do not correspond to it. It is true that Jesus came to save all men who were lost;5 but it is also true what was said by the Venerable Simeon, when Mary presented the child Jesus in the temple: Behold, this child is placed for the fall and the rising again of many in Israel, and as a sign which shall be spoken against.6 By the words for the rising again he expresses the salvation which all believers should receive from Jesus Christ, who by faith should rise from death to the life of grace. But first, by the words he is set for the fall, he foretells that many shall fall into a greater ruin by their ingratitude to the Son of God, who came into the world to become a contradiction to his enemies, as the following words imply: He shall be a sign which shall be spoken against; for Jesus Christ was set up as a sign, against which were hurled all the calumnies, the injuries, and the insults which the Jews devised against him. And this sign is spoken against not only by the Jews of the present day, who deny him to be the Messiah, but by those Christians who ungratefully return his love with offences, and by neglecting his commands.
Our Redeemer, says St. Paul, went so far as to give his life for us, in order to make himself the Lord of all our hearts, by displaying to us his love in dying for us. For this Christ both died and rose again, that He might be Lord of the dead and of the living.7 No, writes the Apostle, we are no longer our own, since we have been redeemed by the blood of Jesus Christ. Whether we live, therefore, or die, we are the Lords.8 Wherefore, if we do not love him and obey his precepts, of which the first is that we should love him, we are not only ungrateful, but unjust, and deserve a double punishment. The obligation of a slave rescued by Jesus Christ from the hands of the devil is, to devote himself wholly to love and serve him, whether he live or die.
St. John Chrysostom makes an excellent reflection upon the above-quoted text of St. Paul, saying that God has more care for us than we have for ourselves; and therefore regards our life as his own riches, and our death as his own loss; so that if we die, we die not to ourselves, but also to God.9 Oh, how great is our glory while we live in this valley of tears, in the midst of so many dangers of perishing, that we should be able to say, “We are the Lord’s,” we are his possession; he will take care to preserve us in his grace in this life, and to keep us with himself throughout eternity in the life that is to come!
What it is to live and die for Jesus.
Jesus Christ, then, died for every one of us, in order that every one of us might live only to his Redeemer, who died for love of him. Christ died for us all, that both they who live should live no longer to themselves, but to Him who died for them and rose again.10 He that lives for himself directs all his desires, fears, and pains, and places all his happiness in himself. But he that lives to Jesus Christ places all his desires in loving and pleasing him; all his joys in gratifying him; all his fears are that he should displease him. He is only afflicted when he sees Jesus despised, and he only rejoices in seeing him loved by others. This it is to live to Jesus Christ, and this he justly claims from us all. To gain this he has bestowed all the pains which he suffered for love of us. Does he ask too much in this? No, says St. Gregory, he cannot ask too much, when he has given such tokens of his love to us, that he seems to have become a fool for our sake.11 Without reserve he has given himself wholly for us; he has, therefore, a right to require that we should give ourselves wholly to him, and should fix all our love upon him; and if we take from him any portion of it, by loving anything either apart from him or not for his sake, he has reason to complain of us; for then we do not love him as we should, says St. Augustine.12
And what but creatures can we love except Jesus Christ? And, in comparison with Jesus Christ, what are creatures but worms of the earth, dust, smoke, and vanity? To St. Clement, Pope, was offered a heap of silver, gold, and gems, if he would renounce Jesus Christ; the saint, however, gave only a sigh, and then exclaimed, “O my Jesus, Thou infinite good! how dost Thou endure to be esteemed by men as less than the rubbish of this earth?” “No,” says St. Bernard, “it was not rashness which made the martyrs encounter hot irons, nails, and the most cruel deaths; it was love for Jesus Christ, when they saw him dead upon the cross.”13 For us all the example of St. Mark and St. Marcellian is of value, who, when they were fastened with nails through their hands and feet, were rebuked by the tyrants as fools for suffering so cruel a torment rather than renounce Jesus Christ; while they replied that they had never known greater delights than they now experienced when transfixed with these nails.14 And all saints, in order to give pleasure to Jesus Christ, who was thus tormented and despised for our sake, gladly embrace poverty, persecutions, contempt, infirmities, pains, and death. Souls betrothed to Jesus Christ upon the cross know nothing more glorious to them than to bear the signs of the crucified, which are his sufferings. Let us hear what St. Augustine says to us: “To you it is not lawful to love a little; let him who was wholly fixed upon the cross for you be wholly fixed in your hearts.”15 Let us, therefore, unite ourselves wholly to St. Paul, and say with him, I am crucified with Christ. I live, and yet not I, for Christ liveth in me, who loved me, and gave Himself for me.16 On this St. Bernard remarks, “It is as if he had said, To all other things I am dead; I have no sensation, I pay no regard; but the things which are of Christ, these find me a living man, and prepared to act upon them.17 Therefore St. Paul says, To me to live is Christ;18 meaning by these brief words, “Jesus Christ is my life, for he is all my thoughts, all my intentions, all my hope, all my desire, because he is all my love.” “It is a sure promise; if we are dead with him, we shall also live with him; if we suffer with him, we shall also reign with him; if we deny him, he will also deny us.” The kings of the earth, after a victory over their enemies, confer a part of all they have gained upon those who have fought on their side. Thus does Jesus Christ on the day of judgment; he gives a share of the blessings of heaven to all who have toiled and suffered for his glory.
The Apostle says, If we are dead with Him, we shall also live with Him.19 To die with Christ means the denial of ourselves, that is, of our own inclinations, which, if we do not deny, we shall come to deny Jesus Christ, who will justly deny us on the day of account. And here we must remark, that we not only deny Jesus Christ when we deny the faith, but also when we refuse to obey him in anything he desires of us; as, for example, when, for love of him, we will not forgive an injury we have received, when we give way to the love of vain honor, when we will not break through a friendship which imperils the friendship of Jesus Christ, or yield to the fear of being counted ungrateful, while our first gratitude is due to Jesus Christ, who has given his blood and life for us, which no creature whatever has done for us.
O divine love! how is it that thou art despised by men? O man! look at this cross of the Son of God, who, as an innocent lamb, sacrifices himself to pay for thy sins, and thus to gain thy love! Look at him, look at him and love him!
O my Jesus, O infinitely lovely! grant that I may no longer live ungrateful to so great a good! For the past I have lived in forgetfulness of Thy love, and of all Thou hast suffered for me; but henceforth I would think of nothing but loving Thee. O wounds of Jesus, stricken with love! O blood of Jesus, inebriated with love! O death of Jesus! cause me to die to every love which is not love for him. O Jesus! I love Thee above everything. I love Thee with all my soul; I love Thee more than myself. I love Thee, and because I love Thee, I would die of grief because I have so often turned my back upon Thee, and have despised Thy grace. By Thy merits, O my crucified Saviour, give me Thy love, and make me all Thine own.
O Mary, my hope! make me love Jesus Christ, and I ask nothing more.
1“Debitores nos fecit, qui primus exhibuit. Mensa qua sit, nostis; ibi eat corpus et sanguis Christi; qui accedit ad talem mensam, præparet talia.” – In Jo. tr. 47.
2“Charitas Christi urget nos.” – 2 Cor. v. 14.
3Love of God, B. 7. ch. 8.
4“Scientes quod non corruptibilibus auro vel argento redempti estis . . . , sed pretioso sanguine, quasi agni immaculati, Christi” – 1 Pet. i. 18.
5“Venit enim Filius hominis quærere et salvum facere quod perierat.” – Luke, xix. 10.
6“Ecce positns est hic in ruinam et in resurrectionem multorum in Israel, et in signum cui contradicetur.” – Ibid. ii. 34.
7“In hoc enim Christus mortuus est et resurrexit, ut et mortuorum et vivorum dominetur.” – Rom. xiv. 9.
8“Sive ergo vivimus, sive morimur, Domini sumus.” – Ibid. 8.
9“Majorem nostri habet curam Deus, quam nos ipsi; vitam nostram divitias suas, et mortem damnum, æstimat; non enim nobis ipsis tantum morimur, sed si morimur, Domino morimur.”
10“Pro omnibus mortuus est Christus, ut, et qui vivant, jam non sibi vivant, sed ei qui pro ipsis mortuus est et resurrexit.” – 2 Cor. v. 15.
11“Stultum visum est in pro hominibus Auctor vita moreretur.” – In Evang. hom. 6.
12“Minus te amat, qui tecum aliquid amat, quod non propter te amat.” – Conf. l. 10, c. 20.
13“Neque hoc facit stupor, sed amor.” – In Cant. s. 61.
14“Nunquam tam jucunde epulati sumus, quam cum hic fixi esse cœpimus.”
15“Parum vobis amare non licet; toto vobis figatur in corde, qui pro vobis est fixus in cruce.” – De S. Virginit. c. 55.
16“Christo confixus sum cruci; vivo autem jam non ego, vivit vero in me Christus . . . , qui dilexit me, et tradidit semetipsum pro me.” – Gal. ii. 19.
17“Vivo jam non ego, vivit vero in me Christus. Ac si diceret: Ad alia omnia mortuus sum; non sentio, non attendo; si quæ vero sunt Christi, hæc me vivum inveniunt et paratum.” – In Quadr. s. 7.
18“Mihi enim vivere Christus est.” – Phil. i. 21.
19“Fidelis sermo; nam si commortui sumus, et convivemus; si sustinebimus, et conregnabimus; si negaverimus, et ille negabit nos.” – 2 Tim. ii. 11.