JESUS COMES TO LEAD AN AFFLICTED LIFE
Having joy set before him he endured the cross (Heb. xii. 2).
In creating man in the beginning, God did not place him on earth to suffer, but put him into the paradise of pleasure (Gen. ii. 15). He put man in a place of delight in order that he might pass thence to Heaven where he would enjoy for all eternity the glory of the blessed. But by sin man unhappily made himself unworthy of his earthly Paradise, and closed against himself the gates of the Heavenly Paradise, wilfully condemning himself to death and to everlasting misery. But what did the Son of God do to rescue man from such a state of misery? From being blessed and most happy as He was He chose to be afflicted and tormented. Our Redeemer could, indeed, have rescued us from the hands of our enemies without suffering. He could have come on earth and continued in His happiness, leading a life full of joys, and receiving the honour due to Him as King and Lord of all. One drop of His Blood, a single tear of His offered to God would have redeemed the world, and a countless number of worlds, on account of the Infinite dignity of His Person. But no! — having joy set before Him, He endured the Cross. He renounced all pleasures and honours and made choice on earth of a life full of toil and ignominy. “What was sufficient for Redemption,” says St. John Chrysostom, “was not sufficient for love.”
Yes, because this Man was born on purpose to suffer, therefore He took to Himself a body particularly adapted for suffering. As the Apostle tells us, He said to His Eternal Father as He came into this world: Sacrifice and oblation Thou wouldst not, but a body thou hast fitted to me (Heb. x. 5). Thou hast given Me a body as I requested of Thee, delicate, sensitive, and made for suffering. I gladly accept this body and offer it to Thee; because by suffering in this body all the pains which will accompany Me through life and finally cause My death upon the Cross, I shall propitiate Thee on behalf of the human race, and gain for Myself the love of men.
Glory be to God in the highest (Luke ii. 14). I thank Thee, O Jesus, in the name of all mankind, but I thank Thee especially for myself, a miserable sinner. What would have become of me, what hope could I have had of pardon and salvation, if Thou, my Saviour, hadst not come down from Heaven to save me? Therefore do I praise Thee, and thank Thee, and love Thee.
Behold, then, Jesus has scarcely entered into this world when He begins His sacrifice by beginning to suffer. While an Infant in His Mother’s womb, Jesus endures for nine months the darkness of that prison; He endures all the pain and is fully alive to all He endures. Jesus was in wisdom, not in age, a Man, while yet unborn, says St. Bernard. He comes forth from His Mother’s womb; but He comes forth to fresh suffering. He chooses to be born in the depth of the winter in a cavern, where beasts find stabling, and at the hour of midnight! He is born in such poverty that He has no fire to warm Him, or clothes to screen Him from the winter’s cold. “A noble pulpit is that manger!” says St. Thomas of Villanova. Oh, how well does Jesus teach us the love of suffering in the grotto of Bethlehem!
If thou wishest to love Jesus Christ, learn from Him how thou must love Him. “Learn from Christ how thou must love Christ,” says St. Bernard. Rejoice to suffer something for the God Who suffered so much for thee. The desire of pleasing Jesus Christ, and of showing Him the love they bore Him was what rendered the Saints hungry and thirsty, not for honours and pleasures, but for sufferings and contempt. This made the Apostle say: God forbid that I should glory save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ (Gal. vi. 14). And St. Teresa: “Either to suffer or to die!” And St. Mary Magdalen de Pazzi: “To suffer and not to die!” And St. John of the Cross: “O Lord, that I may suffer and be despised for Thy sake!”
O my dear Redeemer, I praise Thine infinite Mercy! I praise Thine infinite Charity! I love Thee above all things, I love Thee more than myself. I love Thee with my whole soul and I give myself all to Thee. Receive, O Sacred Infant, these acts of love. If they are cold because they come from a frozen heart, do Thou inflame this poor heart of mine, a heart that has offended Thee, but is now penitent. O most holy Mary, obtain for me the grace to live always bound to thy Son by the blessed chains of love. Pray to Him for me. This is my hope.