Morning Meditation for Friday – Seventeenth Week after Pentecost ~ St Alphonsus Liguori

Archbishop Jerome Lloyd OSJVPosted by

Morning Meditation

“LET THIS MIND BE IN YOU WHICH WAS ALSO IN CHRIST JESUS.”

It is of Faith that Jesus Christ the true Son of God, for the love of men, humbled Himself so as to be born in a stable, and to lead a despised life, and in the end, to die by the hands of executioners on an infamous gibbet. Now, after all God has done and suffered for the love of man, will man refuse to humble himself for the love of God?

I.

It is of Faith that Jesus Christ the true Son of God, for the love of men, humbled Himself so as to be born in a stable, and to lead a despised life, and in the end, to die by the hands of executioners on an infamous gibbet. “O grace! O power of love!” exclaims St. Bernard, “didst Thou, O Most High, become the lowest of all!” O power of Divine love! The Greatest of all has made Himself the lowest of all! “Who did this?” asks the Saint. “It was love, regardless of dignity. Love triumphs over God.” Love does not consider dignity when there is question of winning for itself the person it loves. God, who can never be conquered by any one, has been conquered by love; for it was love that compelled Him to make Himself man, and to sacrifice Himself for the love of man in an ocean of sorrows and contempt. “He emptied Himself,” concludes St. Bernard, “that thou mayest know that it was through love that the Highest made Himself equal to thee.” The Divine Word, Who is Majesty itself, humbled Himself so far as to annihilate Himself, that mankind might know how much God loved men.

St. Bernard goes on to say, the more our God abased Himself, so much the more did He show forth His goodness and love: “The lower He showed Himself to be in His humanity, the greater did He declare Himself in goodness.”

II.

Now, after a God has done and suffered so much for the love of man, will man have a repugnance to humble himself for the love of God? Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus (Phil. ii. 5). He who is not humble, and who does not seek to imitate the humility of Jesus Christ, is not worthy of the name of Christian; for Jesus Christ, as St. Augustine says, came into the world in an humble way to put down pride. The pride of man was the disease which drew from Heaven this Divine Physician, loaded Him with ignominies, and caused Him to die on the Cross. Let the proud man be ashamed then at least when he sees that a God so humbled Himself in order to cure him of pride: “Because of this very vice of pride, God came in humility. This disease drew Him down from Heaven, humbled Him even to the form of a servant, overwhelmed with calumnies, nailed Him upon the Cross. Blush, then, O man, to be proud, for whom God has become humble.” And St. Peter Damian writes: “To raise us He lowered Himself.” God chose to abase Himself that He might raise us out of the mire of our sins, and place us in the company of the Angels in Heaven: Lifting up the poor out of the dunghill, that he may place him with princes, the princes of his people (Ps. cxii. 7). His abasement in our exaltation! Oh, the greatness of Divine love! exclaims St. Augustine. For the sake of man a God takes upon Himself contempt, that He may share His honour with man. He makes Himself familiar with grief and pain, that man may have salvation: He even suffers death, to obtain life for man. “O wondrous condescension! He comes to receive contempt that He may confer honours; He comes to be satiated with grief that He may give salvation; He comes to undergo death, that He may bestow life.”

By choosing for Himself so humble a birth, so lowly a life, and so ignominious a death, Jesus Christ ennobled and took away all bitterness from contempt and opprobrium. This is why the Saints were always so fond and even desirous of being despised. They seemed not to be able to desire or seek anything in this world but to be despised and trodden underfoot for the love of Jesus Christ. When the Divine Word came upon this earth, that Prophecy of Isaias was truly fulfilled: In the dens where dragons dwelt before, shall rise up the verdure of the reed and the bulrush (Is. xxxv. 7) — that where the demons, the spirits of pride, dwelt, there, at the sight of the humility of Jesus Christ, should arise the spirit of humility. The reed signifies humility, says St. Ugo, commenting on this passage; the humble man is empty in his own eyes; the humble are not full of themselves, as the proud are, but empty of self, considering what is only the truth: that all they have is the gift of God.

From this we may well understand that an humble soul is as dear to God as the proud heart is odious in His eyes. But is it possible, says St. Bernard, for people to be proud after seeing the life of Jesus Christ? “Where the Divine Majesty annihilates itself a worm swells with pride!” Is it possible that a mere worm, loaded with sins, should be proud, when the God of infinite majesty and purity humbles himself so much to teach us to be humble!

Proud people are not acceptable with God. St. Augustine warns us: “Lift yourself up and God departs from you; humble yourself and God comes to you.” The Lord flies from the proud, but, on the contrary, He cannot despise a heart that humbles itself, even though it should be a sinful one: A contrite and humble heart, O God, thou wilt not despise (Ps. 1. 19). God has promised to hear all who pray to Him: Ask, and it shall be given you … For every one that asketh receiveth (Matt. vii. 7). But He has declared that He will not listen to the proud, as St. James tells us: God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble (James iv. 6). He resists the prayers of the proud, and does not listen to them; but He cannot deny any grace to the humble, whatever they ask. In fact, St. Teresa says that the greatest graces she ever received were those which were granted her when she humbled herself most in the presence of God. The prayer of the humble penetrates into Heaven by its own efficacy, without needing any one to present it; and it does not depart without obtaining from God what it desires: The prayer of him that humbleth himself shall pierce the clouds … and he will not depart till the Most High behold (Ecclus. xxxv. 21).

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