The Lord wrought the miracle of the multiplication of food recorded by St. John through compassion for the bodily needs of those poor people. But far more tender is His compassion for the necessities of the souls of poor sinners who are deprived of Divine grace. O infinite love of our God towards sinners, exclaims St. Bernard, to redeem a slave, neither has the Father spared His Son, nor the Son Himself!
I. Through the bowels of His mercy towards men who groaned under the slavery of sin and Satan, our most loving Redeemer descended from Heaven to earth, to redeem and save them from eternal torments by His own death. Such was the language of St. Zachary, the father of the Baptist, when the Blessed Virgin, who had already become Mother of the Eternal Word, entered his house. Through the bowels of the mercy of our God, in which the Orient from on high hath visited us. (Luke i. 78).
Jesus Christ, the Good Shepherd, Who came into the world to obtain salvation for us His sheep, has said: I am come that they may have life, and may have it more abundantly. (Jo. x. 10). Mark the expression, more abundantly, which signifies that the Son of Man came on earth not only to restore us to the life of grace we lost, but to give us a better life than that which we forfeited by sin. Yes; for as St. Leo says, the benefits which we have derived from the death of Jesus are greater than the injury which the devil has done us by sin. The same doctrine is taught by the Apostle who says that, where sin abounded, grace did more abound. (Rom. v. 20).
But, my Lord, since Thou didst resolve to take human flesh, would not a single prayer offered by Thee be sufficient for the redemption of all men? What need, then, was there of leading a life of poverty, humiliation, and contempt for thirty-three years, of suffering a cruel and shameful death on an infamous gibbet, and of shedding all Thy Blood by dint of torments? I know well, answers Jesus Christ, that one drop of My Blood, or a simple prayer, would be sufficient for the salvation of the world; but neither would be sufficient to show the love which I bear to men: and therefore, to be loved by men when they should see Me dead on the Cross for the love of them, I have resolved to submit to so many torments and to so painful a death. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd giveth his life for his sheep...I lay down my life for my sheep. (Jo. x. 11-15).
II. O men! O men! what greater proof of love could the Son of God give us than to lay down His life for us His sheep? In this we have known the charity of God: because he hath laid down his life for us. (1 Jo. iii. 16). No one, says the Saviour, can show greater love to his friends than to give his life for them. Greater love than this no man hath, that a man lay down his life for his friends. (Jo. xv. 13). But Thou, O Lord, hast died not only for friends, but for us who were Thy enemies by sin. When we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son. (Rom. v. 10). O infinite love of our God, exclaims St. Bernard; "to spare a slave neither the Father spared the Son, nor the Son Himself." To pardon us, who were rebellious servants, the Father would not pardon the Son, and the Son would not pardon Himself, but, by His death, has satisfied the Divine justice for the sins which we have committed.
When Jesus Christ was near His Passion, He went one day to Samaria; the Samaritans refused to receive Him. Indignant at the insult offered by the Samaritans to their Master, St. James and St. John, turning to Jesus, said: Lord, wilt thou that we command fire to come down from heaven and consume them? (Luke ix. 54). But Jesus, Who was all sweetness, even to those who insulted Him, answered: You know not of what spirit you are. The Son of Man came not to destroy souls, but to save. He severely rebuked the disciples. What spirit is this, He said, which possesses you? It is not My spirit: Mine is the spirit of patience and compassion; for I am come, not to destroy, but to save the souls of men: and you speak of fire, of punishment, and of vengeance. Hence, in another place, He said to His disciples: Learn of me, because I am meek and humble of heart. (Matt. xi. 29). I do not desire you to learn of Me to chastise, but to be meek, and to bear and pardon injuries.
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