THE PRACTICE OF THE LOVE OF JESUS CHRIST.
V. — HOW DESERVING JESUS CHRIST IS OF OUR LOVE ON ACCOUNT OF THE LOVE HE HAS SHOWN US IN HIS PASSION.
The Blessed John of Avila, who was so enamoured with the love of Jesus Christ that he never failed in any of his sermons to speak of the love which Jesus Christ bears towards us, in a treatise on the love this most loving Redeemer bears to men, has expressed himself in sentiments so full of the fire of devotion and of such beauty that I desire to insert them here. He says: “Thou, O Redeemer, hast loved man in such a manner that whoso reflects upon this love cannot do less than love Thee; for Thy love offers violence to hearts: as the Apostle says: The charity of Christ presseth us (2 Cor. v. 14). The source of the love of Jesus Christ for men is His love for His Eternal Father. Hence He said on Maundy Thursday: That the world may know that I love the Father, arise, let us go hence (John xiv. 31). But whither? To die for men upon the Cross!
“No human intellect can conceive how strongly this fire burns in the Heart of Jesus Christ. As He was commanded to suffer death once, so, had He been commanded to die a thousand times, His love had been sufficient to endure it. And if what He suffered for all men had been imposed upon Him for the salvation of each single soul, He would have done the same for each in particular as He did for all. And as He remained three hours upon the Cross, so, had it been necessary, His love would have made Him remain there even to the Day of Judgment. So that Jesus Christ loved much more than He suffered. O Divine love, how far greater wert Thou than Thou didst outwardly seem to be; for though so many wounds and bruises tell us of great love, still they do not tell all its greatness. There was far more within than that which appeared externally. That was but as a spark which bounded forth from the vast ocean of infinite love. The greatest mark of love is to lay down our life for our friends. But this was not a sufficient mark for Jesus Christ wherewith to express His love.”
“This is the love which causes holy souls to lose themselves, and to stand amazed when once they have been allowed to know it. From it spring those burning sentiments of ardour, the desire of Martyrdom, joy in sufferings, exultation under the storms of distress, the strength to walk on burning coals as if they were roses, a thirst for sufferings, rejoicing in what the world dreads, embracing that which it abhors. St. Ambrose says that the soul which is espoused to Jesus Christ upon the Cross thinks nothing so glorious as to bear upon itself the marks of the Crucified One.
“But how, O my Lover, shall I repay this Thy love? It is right that blood should be compensated by blood. May I behold myself dyed in this Blood and nailed to this Cross! O holy Cross, receive me also! O crown of thorns, enlarge thyself, that I too may place thee on my head! O nails, leave those innocent hands of my Lord, and come and pierce my heart with compassion and with love! For Thou, my Jesus, didst die, as St. Paul says, in order to gain dominion over the living and the dead, not by means of chastisements but by love. For to this end Christ died and rose again: that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living (Rom. xiv. 9).”