By Rev. Henry Brinkmeyer
TENTH CONFERENCE. "HE LOVED THEM UNTO THE END."
It does not only what is sufficient; it passes on to the excessive.
Our Lord then suffered, first of all, in His body. The body of Christ was perfect beyond all the bodies of men; for had there been any imperfection in it, it would have been due, as St. Thomas says, either to the maker or to the material. But the maker, the miraculous maker was God Himself. He formed it, He fashioned it, all alone. And the material was the pure, immaculate heart's blood of the Blessed Virgin. It was then perfect and beautiful beyond conception. But the more perfect a body, the finer its organization, and the more delicate its fibre, muscle and nerve, the more sensitive is that body to pain. Our Lord's body was therefore tremblingly alive to suffering. See now, how He permitted His body to be treated. "From the crown of His head to the sole of His foot, there is no soundness in Him, there are wounds and bruises, and swelling sores." Ecce Homo, —"Behold the Man." Behold Him at the pillar, bound like a criminal, to the whipping-post, and the cords cutting into His wrists and ankles. Hark to the cutting lashes of the whips! They raise the purple welts, they tear gashes into His virginal flesh, they make streams of blood run down His sacred body. He sinks exhausted, His knees give way beneath Him, and He hangs by the cords apparently lifeless to a felon's pillar of shame. They cut the bands and seat Him upon a mock throne, they scoff at Him and put a robe of purple about His bleeding shoulders. Then, plaiting rude thorns into a crown, they place them on His forehead and force them in with the blows of a reed. And the sharp thorns pierce that fair and majestic brow, and the crimson drops ooze out beneath them, and the silent tears mingle with the blood that flows down His cheeks and blinds His loving eyes. Surely, malice has now spent itself.—But no—they hurry Him through the streets to Mt. Calvary, they nail His hands and feet to the cross, they hoist it into the air, they pull and push it into the hole prepared for it,—it is fixed, and on it hangs the mangled, dying Saviour of the world. "I am a worm and no man, the reproach of men and the outcast of the people. . . . They have dug My hands and feet; they have numbered all My bones." Truly, He had a baptism, wherewith He was baptized: He was baptized in His own blood. He also suffered in His soul, and far more intensely than in His body. Interior sufferings arise chiefly from dishonor, ingratitude, and abandonment: our Lord suffered from all these sources. First, from dishonor. To a high, noble-minded soul dishonor is more than death: and Jesus permitted Himself to become the reproach of men and the outcast of the people. During the three years of His public life, He had gained the hearts of the Jewish multitude. His miracles had won for Him respect and veneration as a prophet and messenger of God. Throngs were ever following, in love and awe, His footsteps. His power had never yet been known to fail; His bitterest enemies could justly impute no fault to Him, His sanctity was acknowledged everywhere, His wisdom respected and men were disposed to look upon Him as the Messiah and one of the sons of God. All at once a revulsion took place. He was captured and bound, He appeared wholly unable to defend Himself. He was ignominiously treated, buffeted, even spit upon. He seemed powerless before the storm. He was accused of being a blasphemer, a glutton, an impostor, a seducer of the people, and He said not a word in His defense. Even when they treated Him as a fool and mocked Him publicly in the streets He opened not His mouth. He was led as a lamb to the slaughter. He bore his own cross, no angel was permitted to share His weary burden. He suffered an agony as ordinary mortals do. Angry voices asked: "If He is so wise, so great, so holy, why does not Heaven help Him? Behold how He bleeds, how He suffers, how He dies!" And men turned away from Him, mocking and deriding Him, and laughing at their former fears. Truly could He say: "I am a worm and no man !"
He suffered from ingratitude. Ingratitude cuts like a two-edged sword into the heart, and if there ever was a human heart lacerated by an ungrateful world, it was the Heart of "the Man of Sorrows." Think of the countless deeds of love He had wrought for that people,—how He had instructed them day after day, and night after night; how He had healed their afflicted and raised their dead, how He had multiplied His miracles and revealed to them the brightness of His divine sanctity, yet, like fiends, they cry: "Crucify Him, crucify Him I We do not wish Him for our king. His blood be upon us; nail Him to the cross." Think of the traitor Judas! How Jesus Christ had loved him; and still this villainous apostate barters away his God and Master for thirty pieces of silver. Again, Simon Peter, whom our Lord had chosen as the Head of His Church, whom He had instructed more carefully than the rest, whom He had warned and for whom He had prayed, whom He had just ordained a priest, whom He had united to Himself at the mystical supper of the Eucharist,—Simon Peter denies His Master at the word of a weak servant-girl. And oh! what sources of grief overwhelmed Him at thought of those innumerable souls who will damn themselves knowingly and freely, thoughtless of all that their Redeemer has suffered. Hanging on the cross between heaven and earth, with all the agony of death upon Him, Jesus looks out into the future and sees their guilty souls. How His Heart must have sunk with anguish at the sight of the generations of men, who, heedless of all that He had done, and of all that He had suffered, would yet trample upon His blood and fix their destiny in hell. What marvel, that in the Garden of Gethsemane, blood oozed in agony from His every pore!
Finally, He suffered from abandonment. Listen to His cry. He had given up all He had.
His reputation was gone. His disciples had left Him. His Mother was there, but He had consigned her to St. John, to be the Mother of men. One consolation seemed to be left for Him in the extreme agony which He was enduring, viz.: the thought that He was pleasing to His Father, and that His Father was with Him. But no, even of that joy, even of that one consolation He deprived Himself. See Him on the cross; He lifts up His head, the drooping eyes are cast to heaven, an expression of intense agony passes over His dying face, and the quivering, agonized lips cry out: "My God I My God! why hast Thou forsaken Me ?" Poor Jesus! He holds back every consolation from His soul; He deluges His broken Heart with every grief the human heart is capable of knowing, and then, when He has exhausted the chalice of suffering, He bows His head and dies with all the justice of the Father upon Him, as the innocent victim of a guilty world. What could He have done that he did not do to prove to us the love of His Heart ? Can we think of so much love and not love in return? "If any man love not our Lord Jesus Christ, let him be anathema ! The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you !" Amen.