“A MERCIFUL HIGH-PRIEST”
The infinite Mercy of God induced Him to descend from Heaven to earth to free us from eternal death. But in order that He might not only save us, but be able to feel compassion for our miseries He willed to become man capable of suffering and similar to other men. For we have not a High-Priest who cannot have compassion on our infirmities … wherefore, it behoved him in all things to be made like unto his brethren, that he might become a merciful … High-Priest (Heb. iv. 15; ii. 17).
What a tender compassion Jesus Christ has for poor sinners! This makes Him say, He is that Shepherd who goes after the lost sheep, and on finding it, arranges a banquet, saying: Rejoice with me, because I have found my sheep that was lost. And he lays it upon his shoulders rejoicing (Luke xv. 5-6); and thus He carefully keeps possession of it in His fond embrace for fear He should lose it again. His tender compassion caused Him, too, to say that He is that loving Father Who, whenever the prodigal son returns to His feet, does not thrust him away, but embraces and kisses him, and as it were faints away for the consolation and joy He feels in beholding his repentance: And running to him, he fell upon his neck and kissed him (Luke xv. 20). He says: I stand at the gate and knock (Apoc. iii. 20). Although driven away from the soul by sin, He does not abandon her, but places Himself at the door of her heart and pleads and knocks to gain readmittance. He said to His disciples, who with an indiscreet zeal would have called down vengeance on those who repulsed them: You know not of what spirit you are (Luke ix. 55). You see that I have so much compassion on sinners, and do you desire vengeance on them? You are not of My spirit. Finally, this compassion made Jesus say: Come to me, all you that labour and are burdened, and I will refresh you (Matt. xi. 28). Come to me, all you that are afflicted and weary with the burden of your sins, and I will give you rest.
Oh no, let us not be afraid of Jesus Christ; but let us be afraid of our own obstinacy, if after offending Him we will not listen to His voice, inviting us to be reconciled. If we persist in our obstinacy, Jesus Christ will be constrained to condemn us; but if we repent of the evil we have done, what fear need we have of Jesus Christ? Who has to pronounce sentence on us? Think, says St. Paul, that the self-same Redeemer has to sentence thee Who died just that He might not condemn thee; that self-same One Who, that He might pardon thee, hath given Himself no pardon: “In order to redeem the servant,” says St. Bernard, “He hath not spared Himself.”
O Redeemer of my soul, my soul is now enamoured of Thee, and loves Thee. Thou hast loved me above measure, so that, overcome by Thy love, I may no longer resist its winning appeals, but surrender myself, and fix all my love on Thee. I love Thee, then, O infinite Goodness! I love Thee, O most lovable God! Do Thou never cease to enkindle more and more in my heart the flames and fiery darts of love. For Thy own glory cause Thyself to be greatly loved by one who so greatly offended Thee. Mary, my Mother, thou art the hope, the refuge of sinners; assist a sinner who desires to prove faithful to his God; help me to love Him, and to love Him exceedingly.
O sinner, go to the stable of Bethlehem, and thank the Infant Jesus, all shivering with cold in that cave for thy sake, moaning and weeping for thee on a bundle of straw. Give thanks to this thy Redeemer, Who has come down from Heaven to call thee to Himself and to save thee. If thou art desirous of pardon, He is awaiting thee in the Manger to pardon thee. Go quickly, then, and obtain thy pardon; and afterwards do not forget the excessive love Jesus Christ has borne thee: Forget not the kindness of thy surety (Ecclus. xxix. 19). Forget not that high favour He has done thee by making Himself Surety for thy debts to God, in taking on Himself the chastisement deserved by thee; do not forget it, and love Him for it. And know further, that shouldst thou love Him, thy past sins will not stand in the way of thy receiving from God those specially great and choice graces which He is wont to bestow on His most beloved souls: All things work together unto good (Rom. viii. 28). Yes, even the remembrance of the sins he has committed contributes to the advantage of the sinner who bewails and destests them, because this very thing will make him more humble and more pleasing to God, when he sees how God has welcomed him into the loving arms of His mercy: There shall be joy in heaven upon one sinner that doth penance more than upon ninety-nine just (Luke xv. 7).
But of what sinner is it to be understood that he gives more joy to Heaven than a whole multitude of just ones? It is to be understood of the sinner who, out of gratiude to the Divine goodness, devotes himself wholly and fervently to the love of God, after the example of a St. Paul, a St. Mary Magdalen, a St. Mary of Egypt, a St. Augustine, and a St. Margaret of Cortona. To this last Saint in particular, who had formerly spent several years in sin, God revealed the place prepared for her in Heaven, amongst the Seraphim; and even during her life He showed her many signal favours, insomuch that, beholding herself so favoured, she one day said to God: “O Lord, how is it that Thou lavishest so many graces on me? Hast Thou, then, forgotten the sins I committed against Thee?” And God thus answered her: “And do you not know that when a soul repents of its faults I no longer remember all the outrages it has been guilty of towards Me?” This same God had long ago announced by His Prophet Ezechiel: If the wicked do penance … I will not remember all his iniquities (Ezech. xviii. 21).
Our sins, then, do not prevent us from becoming saints; God offers us every assistance if we only desire it and ask it. It only remains for us to give ourselves entirely to God, and to devote to His love at least the remainder of our days. Come, then, let us bestir ourselves; what are we doing? If we fail, we fail because of ourselves, not because of God. May we never be so unfortunate as to turn all these mercies and loving calls of God into subjects of remorse and despair upon our death-bed, at that last moment when no more time is left to do anything, when the night sets in and no man can work (Jo. ix. 4).
O my Redeemer and my God, and who am I that Thou shouldst have loved me, and still continuest to love me, so much? What hast Thou ever received from me that has obliged Thee to love me so much? What except slights and provocations, which were a reason for Thee to abandon me, and to banish me forever from Thy face? Pardon me, O my beloved Infant, for I am sorry with my whole heart for every displeasure I have given Thee. But know that I shall not be content with a simple pardon; I desire also the grace to love Thee ardently; I wish to make compensation by my love as much as possible for the past ingratitude which I have shown Thee.