Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Wednesday of Holy Week
"THE MAN OF SORROWS" from "Divine Intimacy" by Fr. Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalen OCD

PRESENCE OF GOD - O suffering Jesus, grant that I may read in Your Passion Your love for me.

1. Today's Mass contains two lessons from Isaias (62,11; 63, 1-7; 53, 1-12) which describe in a very impressive way the figure of Jesus, the Man of Sorrows. It is the suffering Christ who presents Himself to us, covered with the shining purple of His Blood, wounded from head to foot."Why then is Thy apparel red, and Thy garments like theirs that tread in the winepress? I have trodden the winepress alone, and of the Gentiles there is not a man with Me." All alone Jesus trod the winepress of His Passion. Let us think of His agony in the Garden of Olives, where the vehemence of His grief covered all His members with a bloody sweat. Let us think of the moment when Pilate, after having Him scourged, brought Him before the mob, saying: "Behold the Man!" Jesus stood there, His head crowned with thorns, His flesh lacerated by the whips; the brilliant red of His Blood mingled with the purple of His cloak of derision with which the soldiers had clothed their mock king. Christ was offering Himself as a sacrifice for men, shedding His Blood for their salvation, and men were abandoning Him. "I looked about and there was none to help; I sought, and there was none to give aid" (Roman Missal). Where were the sick whom He had cured, the blind, who at the touch of His hand had recovered their sight, the dead who were raised to life, the thousands whom he had miraculously fed with bread in the wilderness, the wretched without number who in countless ways had experienced His goodness? Before Jesus there was only an infuriated mob clamoring: Crucify Him! Crucify Him Even the Apostles, His most intimate friends, had fled; indeed one of them had betrayed Him: "If he that hated Me had spoken great things against Me, I would perhaps have hidden Myself from him! But thou, a man of one mind, My guide, and My familiar, who didst take sweetmeats together with Me" (Ps 54, 13.14). We read these words today, as on all the Wednesdays of the year, in the psalms of Terce. To this text which is so deeply expressive of the bitterness Jesus felt when betrayed and abandoned by His own, there is a corresponding response at Matins: "Instead of loving Me, they decried Me, and returned evil for good, and hate in exchange for My love" (Roman Breviary). As we contemplate Jesus in His Passion, each one of us can say to himself, dilexit me, et tradidit semetipsum pro me, He loved me, and delivered Himself for me (Gal 2,20); and it would be well to add,"How have I repaid His love?"

2. Jesus is singularly worthy of the gratitude and fidelity of men. No one has ever done more for them than He; yet no one has suffered more than He the bitterness of ingratitude and treachery. Let us review for a moment the prologue of St. John's Gospel, which presents Jesus to us in all His divine Majesty, in the eternal splendour of the Word, the "true light which enlightened every man that cometh into this world." Compare it then with the lesson from Isaias (2nd lesson of the Mass), which describes the opprobrium and ignominy to which His Passion has reduced Him. The result should be a deeper understanding of the two great truths that emerge: the exceeding charity with which Jesus has loved us, and the enormous gravity of sin. Of Him, the Son of God, it is written: "There is no beauty in Him, nor comeliness: and we have seen Him, and there was no sightliness that we should be desirous of Him: despised and the most abject of men, a man of sorrows.....His look was, as it were, hidden." He has no beauty, He who is the splendour of the Father. He seeks to hide His face, He, the sight of whose face is the beatitude of the angels and saints. He is so disfigured that He seems like a leper, so abject that no account is made of Him. To this pitiable condition our sins have reduced Him. "Surely He hath borne our infirmities and carried our sorrows" - infirmities and sorrows are the consequences of sin....The Lord took all our iniquities upon Himself."
The consideration of the horror of sin should throw into relief the other great truth of the Passion; namely, the inexpressible love of Christ. This love made Him willingly accept His Passion; and having accepted it because "He willed it," he did not evade His enemies, but freely gave Himself into their hands. Let us recall the moment when Jesus, by His divine power, cast to the ground the soldiers who had come to arrest Him, and having said that, if he wished, He could have legions of angels to defend Him, allowed them to take and bind Him without any resistance. Let us remember that, when He was taken prisoner and condemned, He did not hesitate to say to the Roman governor, "Thou shouldst not have any power against Me, unless it were given thee from above" (Jn 19,11). Jesus is the victim. He goes willingly to be sacrificed; he immolates Himself lovingly, with sovereign liberty. We touch here the summit of love, the summit of liberty, for we speak of the love and the liberty of God.......