CONSIDERATIONS ON THE PASSION OF JESUS CHRIST
The Divine Priest, Jesus Christ, Who was both Priest and Victim, by the sacrifice of His life for the salvation of men completed the Sacrifice of the Cross and accomplished the work of the world’s Redemption. By His death Jesus Christ stripped our death of its terrors. Until then it was but the punishment of rebels; but by grace and the merits of our Saviour it becomes a sacrifice so dear to God that when we unite it to the death of Jesus, it makes us worthy to enjoy the same glory that God enjoys, and to hear Him one day say to us, as we hope: Enter thou into the joy of thy Lord! (Matt. xxv.21).
Thus death, which was an object of pain and dread, was changed by the death of Jesus into a passage from a state of peril and danger of hell, into one of security and of eternal blessedness, and from the miseries of this life to the boundless delights of Paradise.
Therefore the Saints have ever regarded death with joy and desire, and no longer with fear. St. Augustine says that they who love the Crucified One “live with patience and die with joy.” And common experience shows that they who in life have been most troubled with persecutions, temptations, scruples, or other painful events are in death most comforted by Jesus Crucified, conquering with great peace of mind all the terrors and pains of death. And if it has sometimes happened that some of the Saints, as we read in their Lives, died in great fear of death, the Lord God permitted this in order to increase their merits; because the more painful the sacrifice, the more acceptable it was to God, and the more profitable to them for eternity.
Oh, how much more bitter was death of old, before the time of the death of Jesus Christ! The Saviour was not yet come, and men sighed for His coming: they waited for His promise, but they knew not when it would be fulfilled. The devil had great power upon earth; Heaven was closed to men. But after the death of the Redeemer, hell was conquered. Divine grace was given to souls, God was reconciled to men, and the Kingdom of Heaven was opened to all those who die innocent, or have expiated their sins by repentance. And if some who die in grace do not immediately enter Heaven, this only results from the faults of which they are not yet cleansed; and death merely bursts their bonds, in order that they may be free to unite themselves perfectly to God, from Whom they are far away in this land of exile.
Let us, then, take heed, O Christian souls, while we are in this exile, not to look at death as a misfortune, but as the end of our pilgrimage, which is full of difficulties and dangers, and as the beginning of our eternal happiness, which we hope one day to attain through the merits of Jesus Christ. And with this thought of Heaven, let us detach ourselves as much as possible from earthly things, which may cause us to lose Heaven and give us over to eternal pains. Let us offer ourselves to God declaring that we wish to die when it pleases Him, and to accept death in the manner and at the time which He has appointed; ever praying Him that, through the merits of Jesus Christ, He will cause us to depart from this life in His grace.
O my Jesus and my Saviour, Who, to obtain for me a happy death, hast chosen for Thyself a death so painful and desolate. I abandon myself into the arms of Thy mercy. For many years past I have deserved to be in hell, for the sins I have committed against Thee, and to be separated from Thee forever. But Thou, instead of punishing me as I deserved, hast called me to repentance, and I hope that now Thou hast pardoned me; but if Thou hast not already pardoned me through my fault, pardon me now that in sorrow I ask for mercy at Thy feet. O my Jesus, I could die of grief when I think of the injuries I have offered Thee! “O Blood of the Innocent, wash away the sins of the penitent!” pardon me, and give me grace to love Thee with all my strength till death; and when I shall reach the end of my life, make me to die burning with love for Thee, that I may continue to love Thee forever. Jesus, henceforth I unite my death to Thy holy death, through which I hope to be saved. In thee, O Lord, have I hoped; let me never be confounded (Ps. xxx. 2).
O thou great Mother of God, next to Jesus thou art my hope. “In thee, O Lady, have I hoped; I shall not be confounded forever.”