Love of Jesus Crucified
By Reginald Walsh, OP
Devotion for the Passion
No aspect of our Blessed Lord’s life is made so much of by the saints as His Passion; and at the same time nothing is so neglected, or indeed condemned, by unbelievers and by the worldly Christian. All the saints, says Saint Alphonsus, cherished a tender devotion towards Jesus Christ in His Passion; this is the only means by which they sanctified themselves. He who desires, says Saint Bonaventure, to go on advancing from virtue to virtue, from grace to grace, should meditate continually on the Passion of Jesus. Indeed, the sufferings of the God-man are the most mysterious part of the mystery of the Incarnation.
Why did Our Lord choose to suffer and suffer so intensely in soul and body? The reason—as we learn from the saints—is, that suffering gives a certain intensity to acts of the will, which nothing else can give. Our Lord chose it to prove the reality and depth of His love for us. Saint Thomas says: “He wished it to be known how much God loved man.”
An act of the will or of the heart may be strong and intense; but unless it is done under stress of pain, it is wanting in a certain species of intensity. We may test this in our own experience. There is a moment when, let us say, we kneel before Our Lord, happy, contented, peaceful, full of joy; our heart lifts itself up to love God, and to belong to Him, is indeed the only delight we crave. Then suppose we suddenly experience some suffering, annoyance, humiliation, darkness, contempt, grief or physical pain, observe what happens: up to that moment we were unconscious of self; things ran smoothly, peacefully, pleasantly; we seemed to have merged our weak nature in God and God’s love, and, as far as it went, adhesion to God’s Will was genuine. Now there starts up into sight, self, with all its susceptibilities and selfishness—self, which stands importunate beside us, protesting, crying, wailing, resisting. Then one of two things happens: either our adhesion and fidelity to God is broken, our recollection is scattered, and our loving attention and activity stopped dead by attention to that hurt and smarting self, or we refuse to be turned from God even by interior or exterior pain, we seize the pain or trouble or bitterness, and offer it, turning it into fuel to feed the flame of our heart, and so we intensify the act of our union and love.
Test of Suffering
Suffering, of whatever kind or form, always has one of these two effects. Suffering spoils many people. There are numbers of pious souls who turn away from God through suffering. Self and its claims to attention are too strong—and then, love and devotion or fidelity to Our Lord gives way to self-pity, murmuring, resistance, bitterness.
Punishment and purification too frequently embitter the heart where self prevails, turn it from its Divine Master and Lover—and harden it in perversity….But if under sufferings, humiliations, trials, and repugnances, we have the light, grace, and courage to accept them in submission, in resignation, and self-humiliation, and with a closer movement to the bosom of our Heavenly Father, our loving Lord and Master, then, never, never has our love of that Father in Heaven, that blessed Master, been more thorough, more effective, and more intensely sincere.
The history of the Sacred Passion and Death of Our Lord contains excellencies and advantages of its own above all other subjects on which we can exercise ourselves in meditation. Meditation on the Passion of Our Lord is good for all persons and for all conditions of men. It has power to turn sinners from evil and rouse them to sorrow for their sins and abhorrence of them. It gives strength and a most powerful example of virtue to those who are making progress, and it is the most forcible incentive to love for the perfect.
Again, as the Passion of Our Lord was the last act of His life, so also it contains all that is highest and most complete in perfection; all Our Lord’s examples of virtue, which were scattered over the whole of His life, shine forth still more highly in the Passion; all the instruction contained in His discourses, all His doctrine, and all His most excellent counsels are preached in His Passion. All the depth of suffering that anyone can undergo, all the extremities of misery to which anyone may be brought—all are in the Passion: all deliverance from illusion and all learning of the truth are in the Passion; all knowledge, understanding, and heavenly wisdom are to be found in the Passion. The great Apostle of the Gentiles said that he knew nothing but Christ crucified, and because of the greatness of the treasure herein hidden, we find that the saints occupied themselves continually in the thought of it, as may be proved from their works and treatises.
The love of Jesus crucified! Oh, believe that this transforming and ennobling love, though it be a divine gift, and therefore not ours to command, is yet within the reach of anyone who will dispose himself for it by resolutely carrying out that simple yet comprehensive program which is so often set before us—generosity and confidence. There is abundant room for the exercise of generosity in that process of purification—the purification of past sin, and the purification of those inordinate inclinations that beset us—and that are the chief obstacles to the increase of Christ’s love in our hearts. But above all there is room for generosity in the matter of unselfish charity. How strongly and eloquently the Crucifix preaches charity in all its branches–love of Him and love of those He died to save. This is My commandment, that you love one another, as I have loved you… Abide in My love…You are My friends, if you do the things that I command you.
We cannot surely expect Our Lord to admit us to the intimacy of a sensible and conscious love, so long as we hurt Him by unkindness, or lack of kindness to those who are dear to Him. And, on the other hand, there is no better or surer means, whereby we may fit ourselves to receive His choicest gifts and blessings, than that of self-sacrificing charity—He that loves not, says Saint John, knows not God, for God is charity. If God hath so loved us, we ought also to love one another. If we love one another, God abides in us and His love is perfected in us. As the root of all our modern evils is selfishness, which is eating like a cancer at the root of modern civilization, so if we desire, out of love of Our Lord, to help to remedy the evils that flow from selfishness, we must school our own character to a consistent and a persevering practice of unselfishness, after the pattern of Our Divine Master and Model.