By our sins we also contributed to embitter with affliction the whole life of our Saviour. But let us thank His goodness in giving us time to remedy the evil which has been done.
How, then, are we to remedy it? By bearing patiently all the crosses which He sends us for our good. And He Himself tells us how we can bear these troubles with patience: Put me as a seal upon thy heart (Cant. viii. 6). Put upon thy heart the image of Christ crucified. That is to say: Consider My example and the pains which I have suffered for thee; and so shalt thou bear all crosses in peace. St. Augustine says that this heavenly Physician made Himself weak, that He might heal our weakness by His own infirmity. "Wondrous medicine! The Physician deigns to become sick, to heal His patient by His own infirmity," according to that which Isaias spoke: By his bruises we are healed (Is. liii. 5). To heal our souls, which are weakened by sin, the medicine of suffering is the one necessary remedy, and Jesus Christ desired to be the first to taste it, that we who are the true sinners should not refuse to take it also: "The Physician drinks first, that the sick man also may not hesitate to drink."
Believing this, says St. Epiphanius, as true followers of Jesus Christ, we ought to thank Him when He sends us crosses: "It is a virtue peculiar to a Christian to give thanks when in adversity." And this is reasonable, because by sending us crosses He makes us like to Himself. St. John Chrysostom makes an observation which is very consoling. He says that when we thank God for His benefits, we do but give Him that which we owe Him; but that when we suffer some pain with patience for His love, then God in a certain way becomes our debtor: "If you thank God for good things you pay a debt; if you thank Him for evil things, you make Him your debtor."
II. If thou wouldst render love to Jesus Christ, says St. Bernard, learn from Him how thou must love Him: "Learn from Christ how to love Christ." Be happy to suffer something for that God Who has suffered so much for thee. The desire of pleasing Jesus Christ, and of making known to Him the love they bore Him, was that which rendered the Saints hungry and thirsty, not for honours and pleasures but for sufferings and contempt. God forbid that I should glory save in the Cross of Our Lord Jesus Christ (Gal. vi. 14), said St. Paul. St. Teresa used to say: "Either to suffer or to die!" And St. Mary Magdalen de Pazzi: "To suffer and not to die!" And the Venerable Sister Mary of Jesus Crucified, a Sicilian nun, was so enamoured of suffering that she went so far as to say: "Truly Paradise is beautiful, but one thing is wanting — there is no suffering there."
If we have not the generosity to desire and seek for sufferings, let us at least try to accept with patience those tribulations which God sends us for our good.
And when God sends us crosses, not only let us be resigned, but let us also thank Him, since it is a sign that He means to pardon our sins, and save us from hell which we have deserved. He who has offended God must be punished, and therefore we ought always to beg of Him to chastise us in this world, and not in the next. That sinner is to be pitied who does not receive his chastisement in this life, but, on the contrary, is prosperous. May God preserve us from that mercy of which Isaias speaks: Let us have pity on the wicked (Is. xxvi. 10). "I do not want this mercy," says St. Bernard; "such pity is worse than any anger." O Lord, I do not desire this kind of mercy, for it is more terrible than any chastisement. When God does not punish a sinner in this life, it is a sign that He waits to punish him in eternity, where the punishment will have no end.
From the price thy Redeemer had to pay learn the value of His gifts and the gravity of sin, says St. Laurence Justinian. When we see a God dead on the Cross, we ought to consider the great gift He has made us in giving us His Blood to redeem us from hell, and at the same time to understand the malice of sin, which made the death of a God necessary to obtain pardon for us. O Eternal God, nothing terrifies me more than to see Thy Son punished by so cruel a death on account of sin!
(For First Friday of February)
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