Presence Of God
O Jesus, help me to enter into the mystery of Your Passion; deign to associate me with it, so that I may participate in Your Resurrection.
I. Today Passiontide begins, a time especially consecrated to the remembrance and loving contemplation of the sorrows of Jesus. The veiled crucifix and statues, the absence of the Gloria in the Mass and the Gloria Patri in the responsories of the Divine Office, — are all signs of mourning by which the Church commemorates Our Lord’s Passion. Pope St. Leo exhorts us to participate "in the Cross of Christ, in order that we also may do something which will unite us to what He has done for us, for as the Apostle says, ‘ if we suffer with Him, we shall be glorified with Him. ’" Therefore, we must not only meditate on Jesus’ sufferings, but also take part in them; only by bearing His Passion in our heart and in our body (2Co. 4, 10) shall we be able to share in its fruits. So it is that in the liturgy of this season the Church repeats more insistently than ever: "Ifyou hear the voice of the Lord, harden not your hearts." The voice of the Lord makes itself heard these days, not by words, but by the eloquent testimony of deeds, by the great events of the Passion—a mystery which gives us the most convincing proof of His infinite love for us. Let us, therefore, open our heart to the sublime lessons of the Passion: let us see how much Jesus has loved us and how much we ought to love Him in return; let us learn that, if we wish to follow Him, we, too, must suffer and bear the Cross with Him and after Him. At the same time, let us open our heart to a lively hope; for our salvation is in the Passion of Jesus. In today’s Epistle (Heb 9,11-15) St. Paul presents to us the maj’estic figure of Christ, the Eternal High Priest, who "by His Blood, entered once into the holies, [that is, heaven] having obtained eternal redemption." The Passion of Jesus has redeemed us; it has opened once again our Father’s house to us; it is then the motive for our hope.
II. The Gospel (Jo. 8, 46-59) narrates an instance of the pressing hostility of the Jews, an evident prelude to the Passion of Jesus. In their hardened hearts they had absolutely refused to acknowledge the mission of the Savior; as a result, they schemed in a thousand ways to oppose His teachings and to belittle Him before the people by declaring Him a liar and one possessed by the devil. Their animosity had increased to the point where they decided to stone Him: "They took up stones therefore to cast at Him." Jesus’ death was already decreed by the Jews, but the hour fixed by His Father had not yet come, so "Jesus hid Himself, and went out of the Temple."
This passage in the Gospel allows us to consider the conduct of Jesus in the presence of His persecutors: we see zeal for their souls, meekness, personal disinterestedness, and total abandonment to God. St. Gregory the Great wrote: "Consider, beloved brethren, the meekness of the Lord. He, who had come to remit sins, said, ‘ Which of you will convince Me ofsin? ’ He, who by virtue of His divinity, could justify sinners, does not disdain to prove by reasoning that He is not a sinner."
The calumnies continued: "Thou art a Samaritan and hast a devil." The divine Master answered, always with meekness, only what was necessary to testify to the truth: "I have not a devil, but I honor My Father, and you have dishonored Me." Then He placed His reputation and His cause in the hands of God. "I seek not My own glory; there is One that seeketh and judgeth." In the meantime, throughout all the discussions, He did not cease to instruct and to enlighten minds, attempting to draw them away from error. Always forgetful of Himself, He thought only of the good ofsouls. It was precisely in these painful circumstances that Jesus gave us precious instruction: "He that is of God, heareth the words of God... If any man keep My word, he shall not see death forever." Let us gather these lessons from the lips of our persecuted Master, and keep them in our heart with a jealous care. In our day, too, the world is filled with His enemies, those who oppose His doctrine and despise His Passion. Let us, at least, believe in Him and be His faithful friends.
"Praise be to You, O most merciful God, who willed to redeem us and restore us by the Passion, the sufferings, the scorn, and the poverty of Your Son, when we were wretched outcasts and condemned prisoners. I run to Your Cross, O Christ—to suffering, scorn, and poverty; with all my strength I desire to be transformed in You, O suffering God-Man, who loved me so much that You endured a horrible, shameful death for the sole purpose of saving me, and to give me an example, so that I would be able to endure adversity for love of You. It is the perfection and true proof of love to conform myself to You, O Crucified One, who for my sins willed to undergo a cruel death, delivering Yourself entirely to tortures, as a victim. O my suffering God, only by reading the book of Your life and death shall I be able to know You and to penetrate Your mystery. Grant me, then, a profound spirit of prayer, a pious, humble, attentive prayer, springing not only from my lips, but also from my heart and soul, so that I shall be able to understand the lessons of Your Passion!
"In this book, I see Your infinite goodness and mercy, which made You take upon Yourself our condemnation, our scorn, our sufferings, rather than leave us in such a wretched state. I see the unlimited bounty, the care, the diligence You showed to save us and lead us back to the heavenly kingdom. I see the infinite wisdom by which You redeemed us, saved us, and glorified us in an ineffable manner, through Your mercy, without harming Your justice. While You died a painful death, You vivified everything and destroyed that death common to us all.
"Yet more, in the book of Your Cross I see Your infinite meekness, by which, although being cursed, You did not curse nor avenge Yourself, but on the contrary, You pardoned and won heaven for the very ones who were crucifying You" (St. Angela of Foligno).
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