Spiritual Reading for Good Friday ~ St Alphonsus Liguori

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Spiritual Reading


Meditation on the Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ is a great means of acquiring Divine love. It is certain that the fact of Jesus Christ being so little loved in the world arises from the negligence and ingratitude of mankind, and from not considering, at least occasionally, how much He has suffered for us, and the love wherewith He has suffered for us. “To mankind it has appeared foolish,” as St. Gregory observes, “that God should die for us.” It seems folly says the Saint, that God should have been willing to die in order to save us miserable slaves; and, nevertheless, it is of Faith that He has done so. He has loved us, and delivered himself for us. (Eph. v. 2). And He has willed to shed all His Blood in order to wash away our sins therewith: Who hath loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood. (Apoc. i. 5).

St. Bonaventure says: “My God, so much hast Thou loved me, that through Thy love for me, Thou dost seem to have gone so far as even to have hated Thyself.” Besides, He has yet further willed that He Himself should become our Food in Holy Communion. And here the angelic Doctor, St. Thomas, speaking of this Most Holy Sacrament, says that God has so humbled Himself for us, that it is as if He were our servant, and each of us His God: “as though He were the servant of men, and each of them were God’s God.”

Hence it is that the Apostle says: For the charity of Christ presseth us. (2 Cor. v. 14). St. Paul says that the love Jesus Christ has borne us constrains us, and, in a certain sense, forces us, to love Him. O my God, what is there that men will not do out of love for some creature on which they have set their affections! And how little is their love for One Who is, moreover, God! For One Whose goodness and loveliness are infinite, and Who has even gone so far as to die upon a Cross for each one of us! Ah, let us all follow the example of the Apostle who said: But God forbid that I should glory save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. (Gal. vi. 14). So spoke the holy Apostle; and what greater glory can I hope for in the world than that of having a God to sacrifice His Blood and Life, out of love for me?

And this is what everyone who has Faith must say, and if he has Faith, how will it be possible for him to love any other than God? O my God! how can a soul–contemplating Jesus crucified, as, suspended on three nails, He hangs from those same Wounds of His in His Hands and Feet, and dies of sheer anguish, through His love for us–not perceive itself drawn, and, as it were, constrained, to love Him with all its powers?

Let a soul be as cold as it can be in Divine love; if it have Faith, I know not how it be possible for it not to find itself urged to love Jesus Christ. Even the most hasty consideration of the Holy Scripture reveals to us the love which He manifested towards us in His Passion, and in the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar. As regards His Passion, we read in Isaias: Surely he hath borne our infirmities and carried our sorrows; and in the verse that follows: But he was wounded for our iniquities; he was bruised for our sins. (Is. liii. 4). So that it is of Faith that Jesus Christ has willed to suffer in His own person pains and afflictions, to set free from them us sinners to whom they were justly due. And why is it that He has done so, if it be not for the love He bore towards us? Christ hath loved us, and hath delivered himself for us (Eph. v. 2), as St. Paul says. And St. John says: Who hath loved us and washed us from our sins in his own blood. (Apoc. i. 5). And in respect to the Sacrament of the Eucharist, it was Jesus Himself Who said to us all when He instituted it: Take ye, and eat; this is my body. (1 Cor. xi. 24). And in another passage: He that eateth my flesh and drinketh my blood abideth in me and I in him. (John vi. 57). How can anyone who has Faith read this without feeling himself, as it were, forced to love his Redeemer, Who, after having sacrificed His Blood and Life out of love for him, left him His own Body in the Sacrament of the Altar, to be the Food of his soul, and the means of uniting him wholly to Himself in Holy Communion?

We may add one more brief reflection on the Passion of Jesus Christ. He shows Himself to us on the Cross pierced by three nails, with His Blood issuing from every pore, and agonizing in the pangs of death. I ask, why is it that Jesus manifests Himself to us in such a pitiable condition? Is it, perchance, that we may compassionate Him? No: it is not so much to gain our compassion as to become the object of our love that He has reduced Himself to so miserable a state. It ought to have been a motive more than sufficient to gain our love had He given us to know that His love for us was for all eternity: I have loved thee with an everlasting love. (Jer. xxxi. 3). But seeing that this was not enough for our lukewarmness, the Lord, in order to move us to love Him according to His desires, willed thus to give us indeed a practical demonstration of the love He bore us, by showing Himself to us covered with Wounds, and dying with anguish through His love for us, that by means of His sufferings we may understand the immensity and tenderness of the love He cherishes towards us; as it is so well expressed in these words of St. Paul: He has loved us and delivered himself for us. (Eph. v. 2).

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