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Tuesday - Third Week after Epiphany -- ST. FRANCIS DE SALES (January 29th)

Jesus embraced afflictions for our sake

From book "Evening Meditations for all days of the year from texts of Saint Alphonsus of Liguori"... I. The Apostle, St. Paul, speaking of the Divine ...

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Evening Meditations

Saint Alphonsus

I. The Apostle, St. Paul, speaking of the Divine Beatitude, calls God the only happy, the only powerful One: The blessed and only mighty (1 Tim. vi. 15). And with reason, because all the happiness which can be enjoyed by us, His creatures, is nothing more than the smallest participation in the infinite happiness of God.

God in creating man at the beginning did not place him on earth to suffer, but put him in the paradise of pleasure (Gen. ii. 15). He put man in a place of delights in order that he might pass thence to Heaven where he should enjoy for all eternity the glory of the Blessed. But by sin unhappy man made himself unworthy of the earthly, and closed against himself the gates of the heavenly, Paradise, wilfully condemning himself to death and everlasting misery. But in order to rescue man from such a state of ruin, what did the Son of God do? From being blessed and happy as He was He chose to become afflicted and tormented. He made a choice on earth of a life of toil and ignominies. Our Lord revealed to St. Margaret of Cortona that in His whole life He never experienced the smallest degree of sensible consolation: Great as the sea is thy destruction (Lam. ii. 13). The life of Jesus Christ was bitter as the sea, which is thoroughly bitter and salt, and contains not one drop of sweet water. And therefore Isaias rightly calls Jesus Christ a Man of sorrows (Is. liii. 3), as though He had been capable on this earth of nothing but anguish and sorrow. St. Thomas says that the Redeemer did not simply take sorrow on Himself, but that "He endured sorrow in its highest degree"; whereby He would signify that He chose to be the most afflicted Man that had ever been upon earth, or should ever be hereafter.

He comes forth, then, from the prison of His Mother's womb, but for what? Is it perhaps to enjoy Himself? He comes forth to fresh suffering, for He chose to be born in the depth of Winter in a cavern where beasts find stabling, and at the hour of midnight. And He is born in such poverty that He has no fire to warm Him, nor clothes enough to screen Him from the cold. "A grand pulpit is that manger," says St. Thomas of Villanova. Oh, how well does Jesus teach us the love of suffering in the grotto of Bethlehem!

II. "In the stable," adds Salmeron, "all is vile to the sight, unpleasant to the hearing, offensive to the smell, hard and revolting to the touch." - Everything in the stable is painful: everything is painful to the sight, for one sees nothing but rugged and dark rocks; everything is painful to the hearing, for He hears only the cries of brute beasts; everything is painful to the smell, from the stench of the litter that is scattered around; and everything is painful to the touch, for His cradle is only a narrow manger, and His bed only a handful of straw. Look on this Infant God, how He lies bound up in swaddling clothes, so that He cannot stir. "God endures," said St. Zeno, "to be bound in swaddling-clothes, because He had come to pay the debts of the whole world." And hereupon St. Augustine remarks, "O Blessed rags, with which we wipe away the uncleanness of sins!" Observe Him how He trembles with cold; how He weeps, to let us know that He suffers, and offers to the Eternal Father those first tears to release us from that endless wailing which we had deserved! "Blessed tears," says St. Thomas of Villanova, "which blot out our iniquities!" O tears for us most blessed, since they obtain for us the pardon of our sins!

And thus did the life of Jesus Christ continue always in affliction and sorrow. But a short time after He was born He was obliged to fly as an exile into Egypt to escape death at the hands of Herod. Then, in that barbarous country He passed many years of His childhood poor and unknown. Nor was the life which He led on His return from Egypt, dwelling at Nazareth, very different up to the time when He suffered death at the hands of the executioners on the Cross in a sea of sorrows and infamy.

O Jesus, my Saviour, I praise Thee, I thank Thee and I love Thee. I love Thee above all things; I love Thee more than myself; I love Thee with all my soul and I give myself all to Thee. Most holy Mary, my refuge and my consolation, recommend me to thy Son.

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Monday - Third Week after Epiphany