Friday, April 6, 2007

The Agony of Jesus (April 5)/The Night of the Passion (April 6)

1. While Jesus was praying in the garden of Gethsemane, His divine mind witnessed not only the torments of His approaching passion and death, but also the hatred of His enemies, both then and in later times, the ingratitude of His Apostles, and the countless sins with which men would repay His infinite goodness throughout the ages. He realised that He would be a sign of contradiction for many. Some would hate Him; others would desecrate His precious blood and His immaculate body. Many, forgetful of the Redemption, would commit sin after sin, while others would receive special graces and would return only coldness and indifference in exchange for such great love. Faced with this gloomy scene, Jesus was utterly dejected and was overcome by a mysterious, rending agony which caused Him to perspire blood. He began to feel dread and to be exceedingly troubled (Mk.14:33). And falling into an agony he prayed the more earnestly. And his sweat became as drops of blood running down upon the ground. (Lk. 22:43-44)

At that moment Jesus could see each one of us and all our wretchedness, coldness and sinfulness. If our hearts are not made of stone, let us weep for our faults and firmly resolve to improve.

2. Jesus suffered willingly and generously for us. First of all He endured this near-fatal anguish of soul which caused blood to ooze from the pores of His body. Then He suffered the cruellest of physical tortures. What must our reaction be? If we lack the heroic generosity of the Saints and are not prepared to look for suffering by scourging ourselves or by wearing hairshirts or chains next to our flesh, let us at least accept our inevitable sorrows and trials with perfect resignation. Jesus was innocence itself, yet He suffered willingly for us. Why should we, who are unworthy sinners, be unwilling to submit to the punishments due to our sins? There are many who kiss the Crucifix and claim to love it but try as hard as possible to reject the cross which God has given them. This is an impossible state of affairs. Let us remember that if we wish to have a sincere love for the Crucifix, we must love our own cross as well, for this is the cross which God has given us.

3. While Jesus was praying and suffering in the garden of Gethsemane and the Apostles were unconcernedly sleeping, a group of hired ruffians approached, led by the traitor, Judas. Jesus went to meet them and quietly allowed Himself to be fettered by these rascals. He could have struck them to the ground in an instant or, as He said Himself, called more than twelve legions of Angels to His defence (Cf. Mt. 26:33). But this was the hour of the power of darkness. This is your hour, and the power of darkness (Lk. 22:53) When the Apostles saw Him being bound and led away like an evil-doer, they deserted Him and ran away. Then all the disciples left him and fled (Mt. 26:56). We also may have been guilty of shameful conduct on many occasions. Whenever God granted us the experience of His consoling presence by means of His grace or favours, we formed the most generous resolutions. But in the presence of difficulties or of bad example from others, we may have shamefully deserted Jesus. Let us reflect whether this is so and reinforce our good resolutions.

The Night of the Passion (April 6)

1. The night of the passion of Jesus Christ began in the garden of Gethsemane. Here the tired Apostles left Him to pray alone and to endure the agonizing prevision of the torments and death which awaited Him, as well as of the ingratitude with which men would repay His infinite love. Soon afterwards, abandoned by everybody, He was led before the Sanhedrin as a criminal and a disturber of the public peace. Not only was the accusation false, but it was, of course, a complete inversion of the truth. Jesus had, in fact, taught the noblest and most elevating of doctrines for all humanity. He had proved the truth of His teaching by His miracles. He restored sight to the blind, health to the lepers, to the lame, and to the paralysed, and life to the dead. He had stated quite clearly: Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's (Mt. 22:21). Nevertheless, in the presence of His wicked judges He showed Himself to be meek and humble. But when He was confronted with an obvious falsehood, He spoke out in defence of the truth of His teaching. For this He was struck by one of the High Priest's attendants, who said: Is that the way thou dost answer the high priest? If I have spoken ill, Jesus replied quietly, bear witness to the evil; but if well, why dost thou strike me? (John 18: 19-23) Let us learn from our divine Redeemer to conquer self-love and to bear insults humbly and peacefully.

2. Caiphas, the High Priest, could not gather any solid and unconflicting evidence which would convict Jesus and further his own evil plans. At last he solemnly commanded Jesus in the name of the living God to say whether He was really the Christ, the Son of God. Thou hast said it, Jesus replied: Nevertheless, I say to you, hereafter you shall see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power and coming upon the clouds of heaven. At this the High Priest tore his garments. He has blasphemed, he cried. He deserves to die (Cf. Mt. 26: 63-66). The unjust sentence was met with general acclaim and Jesus was handed over to the soldiers as if He were a common criminal. For the rest of the night these ruffians humiliated and ill-treated Him in the worst possible fashion. Some spat in His face, others slapped and struck Him, and still others blindfolded Him and jeeringly asked: Prophesy to us, O Christ! Who is it that struck thee? (Cf. Mt. 26: 67-68) Jesus suffered in silence. He suffered because of the blows and insults, but most of all because of the sad spectacle of so much sin and ingratitude. He was offered as a victim of expiation for us all. When we realise the vast number of sins which are committed, what do we do about it? Do we pray that poor sinners may repent and return to console the heart of Jesus? Do we offer our pains and sorrows on their behalf? If we really love God, we should do this much.

3. Picture Jesus during this long and sorrowful night. Abandoned by everybody, betrayed by Judas, denied by Peter, unjustly judged worthy of death by the High Priest, buffeted and mocked by the soldiers, He suffers and prays and offers Himself as a victim of reparation, especially for all those sins which are being committed and will be committed by night all over the world. Let us bow before Him in spirit. Let us tell Him with penitent hearts that we shall never offend Him again and that we love and adore Him. Let us promise to offer the prayers and sufferings of this day in reparation for the sins which men commit under cover of darkness.

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