REFLECTIONS AND AFFECTIONS ON THE PASSION OF JESUS CHRIST
What greater proof of love, says Our Saviour Himself, can a friend show towards the person he loves than to give his life for his sake? Greater love than this no man hath, that a man lay down his life for his friends. (John xv. 13). But Thou, O most loving Jesus, says St. Bernard, hast done more than this, since Thou hast given Thy life for us, who are not Thy friends, but Thy enemies, and rebels against Thee: “Thou hast a greater charity, Lord, in giving Thy life for Thy enemies.” And this is what the Apostle observes when he writes: He commendeth his charity towards us, because when as yet we were sinners, according to the time Christ died for us. (Rom. v. 8, 9). Thou wouldst then die for me, Thy enemy, O my Jesus; and can I yet resist so much love? Behold, here I am; since Thou dost so anxiously desire that I should love Thee, I will drive away every other love from my breast, and will love Thee alone.
St. John Chrysostom says, that the principal end Jesus had in His Passion was to discover to us His love, and thus to draw our hearts to Himself by the remembrance of the pains He has endured for us: “This was the principal cause of the Passion of Our Lord; He wished it to be known how great was the love of God for man, of God Who would rather be loved than feared.” St. Thomas adds, that we may, through the Passion of Jesus, know the greatness of the love that God bears to man: “By this man understands the greatness of the love of God to man”; and St. John had said before: In this we have known the charity of God, because he hath laid down his life for us. (1 John iii. 16). O my Jesus, Immaculate Lamb sacrificed on the Cross for me, tantus labor non sit cassus; let not all that Thou hast suffered for me be lost, but accomplish in me the object of Thy great sufferings. Oh, bind me entirely with sweet chains of Thy love, in order that I may not leave Thee, and that I may never more be separated from Thee: “Most sweet Jesus, suffer me not to be separated from Thee.”
St. Luke relates that Moses and Elias on Mount Tabor, speaking of the Passion of Jesus Christ, called it an excess: and they spoke of his excess that he should accomplish in Jerusalem. (Luke ix. 31). “Yes,” says St. Bonaventure, and rightly was the Passion of Jesus called an excess, for “it was an excess of suffering, and an excess of love.” And a devout author adds, “What more could He suffer that He has not endured? The excess of His love reached the highest point.” Yes, indeed, for the Divine law imposes on men no other obligation than that of loving their neighbours as themselves; but Jesus has loved man more than Himself: “He loved these more than Himself,” says St. Cyril. Thou didst then, O my beloved Redeemer, — I will say to Thee with St. Augustine — love me more than Thyself, since to save me Thou wouldst lose Thy Divine life — a life infinitely more precious than the lives of all men and angels put together. Thou didst love me more than Thyself, because Thou wert willing to die for me.
O infinite God, exclaims the Abbot Guerric, Thou hast for the love of men (if it is lawful to say so) become prodigal of Thyself. “Yes, indeed,” he adds, “since Thou hast not been satisfied with bestowing Thy gifts, but Thou hast also given Thyself to recover lost man.” O prodigy, O excess of love, worthy only of infinite goodness! “And who,” says St. Thomas of Villanova, “will ever be able, Lord, to understand even in the slightest degree the immensity of Thy love in having loved us miserable worms so much, that Thou didst choose to die, even upon a Cross, for us?” “Oh, how this love,” continues the same Saint, “exceeds all measure, all understanding!”