Spiritual Reading for Thursday – Seventeenth Week After Pentecost

Archbishop Jerome Lloyd OSJVPosted by

Spiritual Reading

“A SIGN WHICH SHALL BE CONTRADICTED”

The Son of God was not content to appear as a man, or even as a sinful man. He desired further to choose the most lowly and humble life among men; so that Isaias called Him the last, the most humble of men: Despised and the most abject of men (Is. liii. 3). Jeremias said: He shall be filled with reproaches (Lam. iii. 30. And David, that He should be: The reproach of men, and the outcast of the people (Ps. xxi. 7). And for this did Jesus Christ wish to be born in the most abject state that could be imagined. What ignominy for a man, even though he be poor, to be born in a stable! Who is there so poor as to be born in a stable? The poor are born in their huts, at least on beds of straw. Stables are fit only for beasts and worms; and the Son of God chose to be born on this earth like a worm: I am a worm, and no man (Ps. xxi. 7). Yes, says St. Augustine, in such humility did the King of the Universe choose to be born, in order to show us His majesty and power in His very humility, so that He might through His example make those men, who are born full of pride, love humility.

An Angel announced to the shepherds the birth of the Messias; and the signs he gave them by which they might find Him and recognize Him were all signs of humility. When you shall find a child, said he, in a stable, wrapped up in rags, and lying in a manger on the straw, know that it is your Saviour: And this shall be a sign unto you; you shall find the infant wrapped in swaddling-clothes, and laid in a manger (Luke ii. 12). In such a state is it that we find a God Who is coming to this earth to destroy pride.

The life Jesus Christ led in exile in Egypt was in conformity with His birth. During those years He lived as a stranger, unknown, and in poverty, in the midst of pagans. Who knew Him there? Who made any account of Him?

He returned to Judea, and continued to live the same sort of a life. He lived for thirty years in a workshop, supposed by all to be the son of a common workman, doing the work of a serving-boy, poor, unnoticed, despised. In that Holy Family there were no servants. “Joseph and Mary,” writes St. Peter Chrysologus, “have neither servant nor servant-maid: they themselves are at once master and servant.” There was but one servant in that family, and He was the Son of God, Who wished to become the Son of Man, that is, of Mary, that He might be an humble Servant, and obey a man and a woman as their servant: And he was subject to them (Luke ii. 51).

After thirty years of hidden life, the time came that our Saviour was to appear in public to preach the heavenly doctrines He had come from Heaven to teach us; and therefore it was necessary that he should make Himself known as the true Son of God. But, O my God! how many were there that acknowledged and honoured Him as He deserved? Besides the few disciples who followed Him, all the rest, instead of honouring Him, despised Him as a vile man and an impostor. Ah, then was verified in the fullest manner the prophecy of Simeon: This child is set … for a sign which shall be contradicted (Luke ii. 34). Jesus Christ was contradicted and despised by all: He was despised in His doctrine; for when He declared that He was the only-begotten Son of God, He was called a blasphemer, and as such was condemned to death. He hath blasphemed! He is guilty of death (Matt. xxvi. 65-66). His wisdom was despised, for He was esteemed a fool without sense: He is mad: why hear you him? (Jo. x. 20). His morals were reproached as being scandalous — they called Him a glutton, a drunkard, and the friend of wicked people: Behold a man that is a glutton, and a drinker of wine, a friend of publicans and sinners (Luke vii. 34). He was accused of being a sorcerer, and of having commerce with devils: By the prince of devils, he casteth out devils (Matt. ix. 34). He was called a heretic, and one possessed by the devil: Do we not say well, that thou art a Samaritan, and hast a devil? (Jo. viii. 48). A deceiver: For that seducer said, etc. (Matt. xxvii. 63). In fine, Jesus Christ was considered by all the people so wicked a man that there was no need of a tribunal to condemn Him to be crucified: If he were not a malefactor, we would not have delivered him up to thee (Jo. xviii. 30).

At last the Saviour came to the end of His life and to His Passion; and, O God, what contempt and ill-treatment did He not then receive! He was betrayed and sold by one of His own disciples for thirty pieces of money, a less price than would be given for a beast. By another disciple He was denied. He was dragged through the streets of Jerusalem bound like a thief, abandoned by all, even by His few remaining disciples. He was treated shamefully as a slave, when He was scourged. He was struck on the face in public. He was treated as a fool, when Herod had a white garment put on Him, that He might be thought a foolish person without any sense: “He despised Him as ignorant,” says St. Bonaventure, “because He did not answer a word; as foolish, because He did not defend Himself.” He was treated as a mock king when they put into His hand a reed, instead of a sceptre, a tattered red garment upon His shoulders instead of the purple, and a wreath of thorns on His head for a crown. After thus deriding Him, they saluted Him: Hail, King of the Jews! and then they covered Him with spitting and blows: and spitting upon him (Matt. xxvii. 30); and they gave him blows (Jo. xix. 3).

Finally, Jesus Christ willed to die; but by what a death! By the most ignominious death, the death of the Cross: He humbled himself, becoming obedient unto death, even to the death of the cross (Phil. ii. 8). Any one who suffered the death of the Cross at that time was considered the vilest and most wicked of criminals: Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree (Gal. iii. 13). Therefore, the names of those who were crucified were always held as cursed and infamous; so that the Apostle wrote: Christ is made a curse for us (Gal. iii. 13). St. Athanasius, commenting on this passage, says: “He is called a curse, because He bore the curse for us.” Jesus took upon Himself this curse that He might save us from eternal malediction. But where, Lord, exclaims St. Thomas of Villanova, where is Thy beauty, where is Thy majesty in the midst of so much ignominy? And he answers: “Ask not; God has gone out of Himself.” And the Saint’s meaning was this: that we should not seek for glory and majesty in Jesus Christ, since He had come to give us an example of humility, and manifest the love that He bears towards men; and that this love had made Him, as it were, go out of Himself.

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