BY Father Mateo Crawley-Boevey, SS.CC.
JESUS IN THE GOSPEL
Jesus Christos echthes.
(Hebr. xiii, 8.)
“Jesus Christ yesterday.”
DO YOU really know Jesus Christ as He appears and reveals Himself in the Gospel? A great many Christians are only partially acquainted with Our Divine Lord and the great sin of our days is that Christ is not known, or known but superficially. We are not referring particularly to unbelievers who deny His divinity and account for His life by calling Him a “superman.” Let us pray for these unhappy souls!
The majority of faithful Christians certainly accept His divinity, but they have not sufficient knowledge of the Word Incarnate, the God — Man, Jesus, Son of God and Son of Man, our Brother in all things save sin. Most believers look on Him as far away and unconcerned with our life, so far above us and all that is ours that they seem to ignore the Incarnation which gave Him and continues to give Him to us. For, remember, the Incarnation is not merely an historical fact narrated in the Gospel as having taken place two thousand years ago, it is and ever will be a permanent and living reality: Jesus Christ, Son of Mary, the same “yesterday and today and for ever.”
“And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us,” (John i, 14.) and has remained with us, non reliquam vos orphanos (John xiv, 18.). “And behold I am with you all days, even to the consummation of the world.” (Matt. xxviii, 20.) This promise is chiefly fulfilled by the Holy Eucharist and in a thousand other mysterious and marvelous ways by which He shares our life on earth. Yes, He was made flesh, “in all things like as we are, without sin.” (Hebr. iv, 15.) “But when the goodness and kindness of God Our Savior appeared” (cf. Tit. iii, 4.) He made Himself as one of us in order to draw all men to His Heart. We have, therefore, the right to approach Him, to embrace Him as the shepherds did and to call Him Brother I “O felix culpa,” sings the Church on Holy Saturday (Blessing of Candle, Preface), O happy fault which merited for us so great an honor and the consolation of being admitted to the very family of the Word. Of myself I should never have dreamed of ascending to His throne, of seating myself at His side and then in adoration on my knees calling Him lovingly and truly my Brother! But He brought this about by coming down to me, by descending to the very lowest rung of the social ladder, so as to bestow the same right of brotherhood on all, from the king to the slave. Here we have Him poor, tiny, weak, helpless, in His crib of straw, clothed in the garment of our fallen nature. If we except sin itself, we might almost dare to call Him our twin Brother, so like is He to us in all things, absolutely in everything! Let us contemplate Him thus.
in weakness and helplessness.
But for the Incarnation it would have been blasphemy to address Jesus in terms like the following: “Lord, how alike we are; I have great weaknesses, so hast Thou; I bear in my human nature an abyss of helplessness and, since the Annunciation, so dost Thou.” Think of His weakness and helplessness in Mary’s womb, where physically, in His condition as creature, He depended on His Mother, He, Mary’s Creator! And how beautiful it is to contemplate Him on that first Christmas, born on the straw among the animals, a speechless Babe, His little limbs as frail and clumsy as our own. It is marvelously touching that He should of His own will have condemned Himself to those swaddling clothes in which His Mother wrapped Him. Oh! how sweet is that God as He lies in the arms of His Immaculate Mother, who provides for all His needs.
He is the giant of the Heavens (v. Ps. xviii, 6.) by Whom all things live. See Him trying to make His first faltering steps, tottering from Mary’s hands to those of St. Joseph. Listen to this our adorable little Brother when He utters His first words: “Mother … Mary,” which the VirginMother will lovingly remember “in saecula saeculorum.” When Herod schemed against the Child, desiring to slay Him, that Child, the God of battles, had to flee in His Mother’s arms, protected by Joseph the carpenter. Was not this the depth of helplessness? On His return to Nazareth He had to learn a trade. I say “had to” because, unless He displayed miraculous powers and knowledge, He would be obliged to ask questions and accept corrections regarding His task of cutting, sawing, joining pieces of wood. He earned His daily wage by the sweat of His brow and, I imagine — since He wished to be like all of us, — that more than once some customer was not quite satisfied and haggled over a few pence with the “Carpenter” Jesus!
“And what hardship or penury can we mention, O Jesus, which Thou Thyself hast not experienced in Thy divine poverty. Thou didst hunger and thirst and suffer many privations. Being a humble artisan, Thou hadst to put up with the slights of those who passed and repassed Thy workshop, who regarded Thee, the King of Kings, as one of no account. To Thy fellow countrymen Thou wast neither cultured nor lettered, nor hadst Thou any greater rights than those of Thy neighbors in the village. How beautiful, how sublime it is to contemplate Thee working quickly to gain the daily bread for Joseph and for Mary, the Queen of Thy Heart! Thou hast been working since early morning, Thou art weary, yet Thou must finish the work before eventide. The angels could lend Thee a loving hand, but no, that would be unlike our normal life and Thou hast condemned Thyself to live exactly as we do.”
Therefore, being Man, Jesus retained, as belonging to our nature, that relative frailty which is characteristic of the clay of which we are made. See Him overcome by fatigue sleeping in Peter’s boat, so soundly that they had to shake Him to arouse Him. See Him, worn out by the heat of His journey, sitting on the curbstone of Jacob’s well, begging water of the woman of Samaria. He was thirsty for water — and for that soul. Consider the dust covering His clothes and sandals as He went in search of those lambs which He could have called to Him and cured by a miracle. But no, He preferred to tread those long miles on foot by steep and rugged paths — sleeping like the foxes in caves and lairs of beasts.
But what are all these natural weaknesses and sufferings compared with what he suffered in His Passion. The infamous traitor kissed Him — He was seized and bound fast as though He were a thief; they dragged Him manacled before His judges and then followed that dreadful but sublime night in the cell when He was mocked and spat upon, barbarously treated and crowned with thorns! He, the Judge of the living and the dead, held His peace and blood dripped from Him. He was buffeted by a soldier, insulted by Herod whilst the rabble, drunk with anger and with wine, clamored for His Blood and rejoiced to see fresh wounds inflicted on Him.
In climbing the hill of Golgotha He fell, He could not bear so great a weight. They had to call the Cyrenean to help Him, nevertheless He fell again. At last He was nailed to His Cross and raised on high. He was parched with thirst, weak from loss of blood, He felt in His veins a fever more devouring than fire. He asked for water — for love. They gave Him gall and vinegar and mockery. And He died, suspended there, inert, a corpse, He Who is Immortality and Heaven. With fervent love and prostrate in the dust I adore Thee, my God, my Brother.
God-Brother in feelings.
How beautiful it is to think His Heart beats in unison with ours. He loved as we love, all things good and lawful.
The first object of His love was, of course, Mary His Mother, and how dear she was to Him who had created her purer and more beautiful than Heaven itself for His glory and happiness. He loved her, too, out of gratitude, seeing that He owed to her fiat the human capacity to weep, to suffer, to shed His blood, and die, things which were beyond the reach of God, but which Mary made possible by the Incarnation. How He loved that Carpenter whom He called “Father,” whose horny hands labored for His daily bread and in whose arms as a little Child He tenderly reposed a thousand times. Think how Jesus our Brother must have wept when Joseph kissed Him for the last time, what grief that adorable, sensitive Heart must have felt when Mary was left a widow and He, a God, was orphaned!
To have preferences in our affections is very characteristic of our hearts; the Heart of Jesus also had its preferences and delightful ones. Apart from the little house in Nazareth, the scene of His greatest and most intimate love, He showed a marked preference for little children whom He sought out and caressed. What must the angels have thought when they saw their King among those flowers of His garden, breathing in their perfume, shedding down upon them the light of His Eyes and beautifying them for Heaven! “Behold Our Friend!” they would cry when they caught sight of Him and they would run to meet Him crying “Behold our Jesus!”
Think, too, of the poor, the ragged, the outcasts, who could not invite Him to their houses, for they had none. But He sought them out on the highroads, going to meet this horde which the world despised. Happy sufferers! Jesus bad a special preference for them as well as for the sick, the crippled and those who were ill-treated. How many confidences must the most sweet Master have received upon the road, what balm did He not pour into a thousand wounded souls, without anyone suspecting it. At every step He was besieged by people, in the street, in the Temple porch, wherever He went they were unconsciously drawn thither by the attraction of His heart. They had not as yet any wish to be converted, but they felt they were loved and, what is more, preferred above others! Later, when their sins had been forgiven them, when, after the Resurrection and especially after Pentecost every veil had been torn away, what envy must they have excited when they told how they had been the objects of His preference and how the Fisherman’s cunning had caught them, in spite of themselves, in the nets of His mercy.
And then the twelve apostles who were always in His gracious company, sharing the same bread, engaged in close, familiar, intimate conversation with the God-Man. They were rough men and the Lord had more than once to make excuses for them and defend them. Next to Mary they were the most intimate witnesses of the private life of the Redeemer. And what about the elect of the band, Peter, James and John — especially the latter — who rightly bore the title of “the disciple whom Jesus loved”? (John xiii, 23; xxi, 20.) So great was his intimacy with Our Lord, so evident the preference given to him, that “it went abroad among the brethren, that that disciple should not die.” (John xxi, 23.) His place has never been lost; we occupy it today, we the humble apostles of the Divine Heart and no one can ever dispute it with us, not indeed because of any merit of ours, but by the mercy of the King of Love.
We come now to Bethany, to the house which witnessed the most intimate friendship of the Heart of Jesus. “Jesus loved Martha and her sister Mary and Lazarus,” (John xi, 5.) with an affection passing that which He gave to any others outside Nazareth. Bethany was His second home. Here He must many and many a time have uttered the words: “Vos amici mei,” You are indeed my friends. Here He unburdened His Heart, here He received confidences which no others ever heard except His three friends. Here He gave tenderness, here as nowhere else He sought rest and consolation, for Bethany was His refuge in the storms which were brewing in Jerusalem; here, in this country place He passed days and nights in prayer, secure from enemies, and — in His hours of fatigue and exhaustion, — from the meddling intrusion of good but importunate and thoughtless people. In Bethany, too, He was looked after and cared for in a way which would have been materially impossible in Nazareth, for neither Mary nor Joseph had the necessary means. What days and hours of Paradise those three privileged souls spent there. For them only one trouble was unbearable, the absence of their Friend. Remember here all that I have said about the Bethany home, and the fidelity of the Heart of Jesus to a family which knows how to share life’s sorrows and joys with Him.
O Master, multiply Thy Bethanies .
No one has ever been more human than Jesus. Think of His compassion. “They that are well have no need of a physician, but they that are sick.” (Mark ii, 17.) Jesus had an evident tenderness for anyone in suffering, for the sad, the poor, and feeble. This predilection, which for twenty centuries has stirred the heart of man, we call His Mercy. He seemed unable to resist a sorrow; a hungry crowd, a desolate mother vanquished Him at once. Let us take the case of the woman of Canaan. (Matt. xv, 22-27.) Jesus proved her, feigned severity and then His Heart was captivated and overcome and the miracle was wrought. On the road to Naim, (Luke vii, 11-16.) when He saw the poor widow weeping, His thoughts surely must have turned to Mary in a vision of the Via Dolorosa, and, once more overcome, He drew near, took the young man by the hand and gave him back to his mother restored to life and health.
Everything that is noble and honest touched Him. The multitude which had followed Him into the desert was hungry and had nothing to eat: “Misereor,” He said, ” I have compassion on the multitude” (Mark viii, 2.) and He multiplied the loaves. His Heart was wounded by the ingratitude of the nine lepers at Samaria. So, too, all physical and moral misery found Him ever tender and compassionate. And when sufferers could not drag themselves to Him He went to meet them. Remember the paralytic at the pond of Probatica: Non habeo hominem, “Sir, I have no man,” (John v, 2-9.) no friendly heart, no compassionate hand to put me into the pond, and therefore I have been here for eight and thirty years. The Heart of Jesus must have leapt in His adorable breast on hearing this, He held out His Divine Hands to help him — the miracle was performed. The whole Gospel is indeed a stupendous monument to the immense, the infinite Compassion of the God-Man, who worked miracles, not to free Himself from His executioners, but to ease the wounds of the soul, to wipe away bitter tears and to lighten the crosses which all must bear.
God-Brother in speech and in tears.
When the Word of God became Incarnate He was called Jesus. And this Jesus Who feels, loves and suffers as we do, Who talks and weeps like us, is our Brother in earthly speech and earthly tears. With what ecstasy of joy and, love Mary must have held on her lap the little Child, her Creator, when she was teaching Him to speak. Later He conversed in Aramaic, the idiom of the people. He had the Galilean lilt and in all His habits He was truly Man, truly our Brother. Thus, although He knew all things, He asked questions just as we do: “Whom do men say that the Son of Man is?” (Matt. xvi, 13.) “How many loaves have ye?” (Mark viii, 5.) “Whom seekest thou?” (John xx, 15.) “Who hath touched my garments?” (Mark v, 30.) It is very beautiful to see Jesus adapt Himself to our ways, expressing His thoughts and needs in our words and conventional idioms. And He does this not only that He may speak to men, but because He is our Brother, because He is Man, and, as such, wills to employ our human language.
Nothing appeals to us more in this marvelous brotherhood than the tears of Jesus. (John xi. 35.) Et lacrimatus est Jesus. Yes, Jesus wept, just as we human beings do in the cradle and on our bed of agony. Can we doubt that the cold and hunger in the cave in Bethlehem drew forth the first divine tears, which Mary kissed away. Again, though the Gospel does not tell us so, it is beyond doubt that on the death of His foster father, when He was consoling Mary, He relieved His own Heart with filial tears. And, when He came across grievous suffering on His road, the tears of the afflicted moved Him to compassion and He wept. The Gospel indeed tells us of His emotion when He looked down upon Jerusalem which was to slay Him, her God, and, foreseeing the woes she was to suffer because of her perfidy, He could not contain the sadness which overwhelmed Him and so found relief in tears: “Flevit super illam,” He wept over it! (Luke xix, 41.)
Recall that intensely touching scene when Jesus wept over the tomb of Lazarus. He arrived late, His friend was already buried and Martha reproached Him with the words: “Lord, if Thou hadst been here, my brother had not died” (John xi, 32.) as if to say, “Thou knewest, Thou art our friend and yet Thou earnest not, so it is Thy fault that he died!” Our Lord was deeply moved, asked to be taken to the sepulcher and, when He saw it, “infremuit spiritu,” (John xi, 33, 35.) He groaned in spirit, and could not contain His tears; lacrimatus est, He wept! Yes, He wept, He Who was about to raise him from the dead! He wept, and with those tears began the miracle of the resurrection of His friend. The onlookers, who saw in Him the most marvelous of Prophets, who perhaps for this reason had held Him to be above the ordinary feelings and weaknesses of common men, were profoundly astonished to see Him thus moved to tears and exclaimed: “Behold how He loved him.” (John xi, 36.) Those tears were a token of the burning love and tenderness of the Heart of the God-Man.
The sober Gospel narrative omits a thousand precious incidents in the Master’s life. Nevertheless we may make certain well-founded conjectures. For example, a very natural one would be to think that on the Thursday afternoon in Holy Week, when He left His Mother in Bethany and took leave of the Queen of His affections, and of His three faithful friends, He said to them as He gave them His benediction, “Farewell till tomorrow, Friday, on the Via Dolorosa,” and, as He did so, His voice was choked with sobs, and tears ran down His cheeks. Nor could it be otherwise, seeing that He is our Brother. If He gave free rein to His emotions at the tomb of Lazarus, would He not weep when giving His Mother His last kiss. Undoubtedly the Gospel does not tell us this, as being superfluous and indeed self evident. O divine tears, how you reveal to me the Heart of my King and Master, how you make me love Him and how firmly you bind me to Him with the bonds of the brotherhood of suffering! On seeing Thee weep, Jesus, King of Glory, I fall on my knees and, weeping with Thee, I adore Thee, my God-Brother. The fountain whence flowed those tears was opened to us by the soldier, Longinus, who pierced His side. From that Heart have streamed those precious tears of water and blood, of tenderness and love, which will be praised in Heaven by those of us who, like Jesus our Brother, have known on earth how to weep and adore lovingly.
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