REFLECTIONS AND AFFECTIONS ON THE PASSION OF JESUS CHRIST
“Two things,” says Cicero, “make us know a lover — his doing good to his beloved, and suffering torments for him; and the latter is the greatest sign of true love.” God has, indeed, already shown His love for man by many benefits bestowed upon him; but His love would not have been satisfied by only doing good to man, as says St. Peter Chrysologus, if He had not found the means to prove to him how much He loved him by also suffering and dying for him, as He did by taking upon Him human flesh: “But He held it to be little if He showed His love without suffering.” And what greater means could God have discovered to prove to us the immense love which He bears us than by making Himself Man and suffering for us? In no other way could the love of God for us be shown so well,” writes St. Gregory Nazianzen. My beloved Jesus, how much hast Thou laboured to show me Thy love, and to make me enamoured of Thy goodness. Great indeed, then, would be the injury I should do Thee, if I were to love Thee but little, or to love anything else but Thee.
Ah, when He showed Himself to us, a God wounded, crucified, and dying, did He not indeed, says Cornelius a Lapide, give us the greatest proofs of the love that He bears us? “God showed His utmost love on the Cross.” And before him St. Bernard said that Jesus, in His Passion, showed us that His love towards us could not be greater than it was: “In the shame of the Passion is shown the greatest and incomparable love.” The Apostle writes, that, when Jesus Christ chose to die for our salvation, then appeared how far the love of God extended towards us miserable creatures: The goodness and kindness of God our Saviour appeared. (Tit. iii. 4). O my most loving Saviour, I feel indeed that all Thy Wounds speak to me of the love Thou bearest me. And who after so many proofs of Thy love could resist loving Thee in return? St. Teresa was indeed right, O most amiable Jesus, when she said that he who loves Thee not, gives a proof that he does not know Thee.
Jesus Christ could easily have obtained salvation for us without suffering, and in leading a life of ease and delight; but no, St. Paul says, having joy set before him he endured the cross. (Heb. xii. 2). He refused the riches, the delights, the honours of the world, and chose for Himself a life of poverty, and a death full of suffering and ignominy. And wherefore? Would it not have sufficed for Him to have offered to His Eternal Father one single prayer for the pardon of man? — for this prayer, being of infinite value, would have been sufficient to save the world, and infinite worlds besides. Why, then, did He choose for Himself so much suffering, and a death so cruel, that an author has said very truly, that through mere pain the soul of Jesus separated itself from His Body? To what purpose so much cost in order to save man? St. John Chrysostom answers: a single prayer of Jesus would indeed have sufficed to redeem us; but it was not sufficient to show us the love that our God has borne us — “That which sufficed to redeem us was not sufficient for love.” And St. Thomas confirms this when he says, “Christ, in suffering from love, offered to God more than the expiation of the offence of the human race demanded.” Because Jesus loved us so much, He desired to be loved very much by us; and therefore He did everything that He could, even unto suffering for us, in order to conciliate our love, and to show that there was nothing more that He could do to make us love Him: “He endured much weariness,” says St. Bernard, “that He might bind man to love Him much.”