THE POWER OF THE PASSION OF JESUS CHRIST TO ENKINDLE DIVINE LOVE IN EVERY HEART
I. WHAT THE PASSION OF JESUS CHRIST HAS DONE FOR GOD AND FOR US.
Father Balthassar Alvarez, a great servant of God, used to say that we must not think we have made any progress in the way of God until we have come to keep Jesus crucified ever in our heart. And St. Francis de Sales said that “the love which does not spring from the Passion is feeble.” Yes, because we cannot have a more powerful motive for loving God than the Passion of Jesus Christ, by which we know that the Eternal Father, to prove His exceeding love for us, was pleased to send His only-begotten Son upon earth to die for us sinners. Hence the Apostle says that God, through the excess of love wherewith He loved us, willed that the death of His Son should convey life to us: For his exceeding charity wherewith he loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together in Christ (Ephes. ii. 4). And this was precisely the expression used by Moses and Elias on Mount Tabor, in speaking of the Passion of Jesus Christ. They did not know how to give it any other appellation than an excess of love: And they spoke of his excess, which he should consummate in Jerusalem (Luke ix. 31).
When our Saviour came into the world, the shepherds heard the Angels singing: Glory to God in the highest (Luke ii. 14). But the humiliation of the Son of God in becoming Man through His love for man, might have seemed rather to obscure than to manifest the Divine glory; but no; and there was no means by which the glory of God could have been better manifested in the world than by Jesus Christ dying for the salvation of mankind, since the Passion of Jesus Christ has made us realize how great is the Mercy of God, in that a God was willing to die to save sinners, and to die, moreover, by a death so painful and ignominious. St. John Chrysostom says that the Passion of Jesus Christ was not an ordinary suffering, nor His death like the death of other men.
It has made us know the Divine Wisdom. Had our Redeemer been merely God, He could not have made satisfaction for man; for God could not make satisfaction to Himself in place of man; nor could God make satisfaction by means of suffering, being impassible. On the other hand, had He been merely man, man could not have made satisfaction for the grievous injury done by him to the Divine Majesty. What, then, did God do? He sent His very own Son, true God as the Father, to take human flesh, that as Man He might by His death pay the debt due to the divine Justice, and as God might make full satisfaction to it.
It has, moreover, made us understand how great is Divine Justice. St. John Chrysostom says that God reveals to us the greatness of His Justice, not so much by hell in which He punishes sinners, as by the sight of Jesus on the Cross; since in hell creatures are punished for the sins of their own, but on the Cross we behold a God cruelly treated in order to make satisfaction for the sins of men. What obligation had Jesus Christ to die for us? He was offered because it was his own will (Is. liii. 7). He might justly have abandoned man to his perdition; but His love for us would not let Him see us lost; wherefore He chose to give Himself up to so painful a death in order to obtain for us salvation: He hath loved us, and delivered himself up for us. (Eph. v. 2).
From all eternity He loved man: I have loved thee with an everlasting love (Jer. xxxi. 3). But then, seeing that His Justice obliged Him to condemn man, and to keep him at a distance, separated from Himself in hell, His Mercy urged Him to find a way by which He might be able to save him. But how? By making satisfaction Himself to the divine Justice by His own death. And consequently He willed that there should be affixed to the Cross whereon He died the sentence of condemnation to eternal death which man had merited, in order that it might remain there, cancelled in His Blood. Blotting out the writing of the decree that was against us, which was contrary to us, he hath taken the same out of the way, fastening it to the cross (Col. ii. 14). And thus, through the merits of His own Blood, He pardons all our sins: Forgiving you all offences (Col. ii. 13). And at the same time He despoils the devils of the rights they had acquired over us, carrying along with Him in triumph not only ourselves, but even our enemies, whose prey we had become. And despoiling the principalities and powers, he hath exposed them confidently in open show, triumphing over them in himself (Col. ii. 15). On which Theophylact comments: “As a Conqueror in triumph, carrying with Him the booty and the enemy.”
Hence, when satisfying divine Justice on the Cross, Jesus Christ speaks but of Mercy. He prays His Father to have mercy on the very Jews who had contrived His death, and on His murderers who were putting Him to death: Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do (Luke xxiii. 34). While He was on the Cross, instead of punishing the two thieves, who had just before reviled Him — And they that were crucified with him reviled him (Mark xv. 32) — when He heard one asking for mercy: Lord, remember me when thou shalt come into thy kingdom (Luke xxiii. 42), overflowing with mercy, He promised him Paradise that very day: This day thou shalt be with me in paradise (Luke xxiii. 43). Then, before He expired, He gave to us, in the person of St. John, His own Mother to be our Mother: He saith to the disciple: Behold thy mother. (Jo. xix. 27). There upon the Cross He declares Himself content in having done everything to obtain salvation for us, and He completes the sacrifice by His death: Afterwards Jesus, knowing that all things were now accomplished … said: It is consummated; and bowing his head he gave up the ghost (Jo. xix. 28).
And behold, by the death of Jesus Christ, man is set free from sin and from the power of the devil; and, moreover, is raised to grace, and to a greater degree of grace than Adam lost: And where sin abounded, says St. Paul, grace did more abound (Rom. v. 20). It remains therefore for us, writes the Apostle, to have frequent recourse with all confidence to the throne of grace, which Jesus crucified is, in order to receive from His Mercy the grace of salvation, together with aid to overcome the temptations of the world and of hell: Let us go therefore with confidence to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace in seasonable aid (Heb. iv. 16).