THE PRACTICE OF THE LOVE OF JESUS CHRIST.
IV. — HOW DESERVING JESUS CHRIST IS OF OUR LOVE ON ACCOUNT OF THE LOVE HE HAS SHOWN US IN HIS PASSION.
The love of Jesus Christ towards men created in Him a longing desire for the moment of His death, when His love should be fully manifested to them; hence He was wont to say in His lifetime: I have a baptism wherewith I am to be baptized, and how am I straitened till it be accomplished! (Luke xii. 50). I have to be baptized in My own Blood; and how do I feel Myself straitened with the desire that the hour of My Passion may soon arrive; for then man will know the love I bear him! Hence St. John, speaking of that night in which Jesus began His Passion, writes: Jesus knowing that his hour was come, that he should pass out of this world to the Father; having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them unto the end (John xiii. 1). The Redeemer called that hour His own hour (horra ejus), because the time of His death was the time desired by Him, as it was then that He wished to give men the last proof of His love, by dying for them upon a Cross, overwhelmed by sorrows.
But what could have ever induced a God to die as a malefactor upon a Cross between two sinners with such insult to His Divine Majesty? “What did this?” asks St. Bernard. He answers: “It was love, careless of its dignity.” Ah, love indeed, when it tries to make itself known, does not seek what is becoming to the dignity of the lover, but what will serve best to declare itself to the object loved. St. Francis of Paula, therefore, had good reason to cry out at the sight of a Crucifix: “O charity! O charity! O charity!” And in like manner, when we look upon Jesus on the Cross, we should all exclaim: O love! O love! O love!
Ah, if Faith had not assured us of it, who could have ever believed that a God, almighty, most happy, and the Lord of all, should have condescended to love man to such an extent that He seems to go out of Himself for the love of him? We have seen Wisdom itself, that is the Eternal Word, become foolish through the excessive love He bore to man! So spoke St. Laurence Justinian. “We see Wisdom itself infatuated through excess of love.” St. Mary Magdalene de Pazzi said the same. One day, being in an ecstasy, she took a wooden Crucifix in her hands and cried out: “Yes, my Jesus, Thou art mad with love! I repeat it, and I will say it for ever: My Jesus, Thou art mad with love!” But no, says St. Denis the Areopagite: “No, it is not madness, but the ordinary effect of Divine love, which makes him who loves go out of himself in order to give himself up entirely to the object of his love: Divine love causes ecstasy.”
Oh, if men would only pause and, looking at Jesus on the Cross, consider the love He has borne each one of them! “With what love,” says St. Francis de Sales, “would not our souls become enkindled at the sight of those flames which are in the Redeemer’s breast! And oh, what happiness, to be able to be consumed by that same fire with which our God burns for us! What joy, to be united to God by the chains of love!” St. Bonaventure called the Wounds of Jesus Christ, Wounds which pierce the most senseless hearts, and which inflame the most icy souls. How many darts of love come forth from those Wounds, to wound the hardest hearts! Oh, what flames issue from the burning Heart of Jesus Christ to inflame the coldest souls! And chains, how many, from that wounded side, to bind the most stubborn wills!