THE INGRATITUDE OF MEN MADE JESUS SUFFER MOST.
We must also well understand here that the pains which Jesus Christ endured in His Passion, in the scourging and the crowning with thorns, in the Crucifixion, His agony and death, and in all the other torments and ignominies which He suffered at the end of His life, He also suffered from the beginning. From the beginning of His life He had always before His eyes the sad vision of all the torments He would have to suffer when about to leave this earth, as He predicted by the mouth of David: My sorrow is continually before me (Ps. xxxvii. 18). We hide from the sick man the knife or the fire with which he is to be cut or cauterized in order to regain his health; but Jesus would not have the Instruments of His Passion, by which He was to lose His life that He might gain for us eternal life, hidden from His sight. He desired always to have before His eyes the scourge, the thorns, the nails, the Cross, which were to drain all the Blood from His veins, till He died of pure grief, deprived of all consolation.
One day Jesus Christ crucified appeared to Sister Magdalen Orisini who had been suffering a heavy affliction for a long time, to comfort her by the remembrance of His Passion, and to animate her to bear her cross with patience. She said to Him: “But Thou, my Lord, wast only Three Hours on the Cross, while I have suffered this pain for many years.” Then our Lord from the Cross replied: “Ignorant creature that thou art! from the first moment that I was in the womb of Mary I suffered all that I had afterwards to suffer in my death.” “Christ,” says Novarinus, “even in the womb of His Mother, had the impression of the Cross on His mind; so that no sooner was He born than He might be said to have the principality on his shoulders (Is. ix. 6).” So, then, my Redeemer, throughout Thy whole life I shall find Thee nowhere but on the Cross. Lord, I find Thee nowhere but on the Cross! Yes, for the Cross on which Jesus Christ died was ever in His mind to torment Him. Even while sleeping, says Bellarmine, the sight of the Cross was present to the Heart of Jesus: “Christ had His Cross always before His eyes. When He slept, His Heart watched; nor was it ever free from the vision of the Cross.”
It was, however, not so much the sorrows of His Passion that saddened and embittered the life of our Redeemer, as the sight of all the sins men would commit after His death. These were the cruel executioners which made Him live in continual agony, oppressed by such an overwhelming grief that it alone would have been enough to make Him die of pure sorrow. Father Lessius says that the sight alone of the ingratitude of mankind would have been sufficient to make Jesus Christ die of grief a thousand times.
The scourges, the Cross, death itself, were not hateful objects to Him, but most dear, chosen and desired by Himself. He had offered Himself spontaneously to suffer them: He was offered because it was his own will (Is. liii. 7). He did not give His life against His will, but by His own election, as He tells us by St. John: I lay down my life for my sheep (Jo. x. 15). This was indeed the chief desire of His whole life, that the time of His Passion should arrive, so that the Redemption of mankind might be completed. For this reason He said on the night preceding His death: With desire I have desired to eat this Pasch with you before I suffer (Luke xxii. 15). And before this time arrived He seemed to console Himself by saying, I have a baptism, wherewith I am to be baptised; and how am I straitened until it be accomplished! (Luke xii. 50). I must be baptized with the Baptism of My own Blood, not indeed to wash My own soul, but those of my sheep, from the stains of their sin; and how ardently do I desire the arrival of the hour when I shall be bleeding and dead on the Cross! St. Ambrose says that the Redeemer was not affected “by the fear of death, but by the delay of our Redemption.” St. Zeno tells us Jesus Christ chose for Himself the trade of a carpenter in this world: Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary? (Mark vi. 3), because as carpenters are always handling wood and nails, it would seem that Jesus exercising this trade took pleasure in such things, seeing that they represented to Him better than anything else the Nails and the Cross by which He willed to suffer.
Thus we see it was not so much the thought of His Passion that afflicted the Heart of our Redeemer, as the ingratitude with which mankind would repay His love. It was this ingratitude which made Him weep in the Stable of Bethlehem; which caused Him to sweat Blood in His deadly agony in the Garden of Gethsemane; which filled Him with such sorrow that He says even that it alone was sufficient to make Him die: My soul is sorrowful even to death (Matt. xxvi. 38), and, finally, this ingratitude it was which caused Him to die in desolation on the Cross.