Jesus Suffered To Gain Our Hearts

Consider that Jesus suffered, even from the first moment of His life, and all for the love of us. During the whole of His life He had no other object in view, after the glory of God, than our salvation. He, as the Son of God, had no need to suffer in order to deserve paradise; but whatever He suffered of pain, of poverty, of ignominy, He applied it all towards meriting for us eternal salvation. And even though He could have saved us without suffering, yet He chose to embrace a life of nothing but sufferings, poor, despised, and deprived of every comfort, with a death the most desolate and bitter that was ever endured by any martyr or penitent, only to make us understand the greatness of the love He bore us, and to gain our affections.

He lived thirty-three years, and He lived sighing after the hour in which He was to sacrifice His life, which He desired to offer up to obtain for us divine grace and eternal glory, in order that He might have us with Him forever in paradise. It was this desire which made Him say, I have a baptism wherewith I am to be baptized; and how am I straitened until it be accomplished! He desired to be baptized with His own blood, not to wash out His own sins, since He was innocent and holy, but the sins of men whom He loved so much: He loved us, and washed us in His own blood. Oh, excess of the love of God, which all the men and angels that ever existed will never arrive at understanding or praising as it deserves.

Saint Bonaventure complains on considering the great ingratitude of men for so great love: “It is wonderful that the hearts of men do not break for love of You.” It is a wonder, says the saint, to see a God endure such sufferings, shedding tears in a stable, poor in a workshop, languishing on a cross; in short, afflicted and troubled the whole of His life for the love of men; and then to see these men, who not only do not burn with love towards such a loving God, but even have the boldness to despise His love and His grace. O Lord, how is it possible to know that a God should have given Himself up to so much suffering for men, and yet that there should be men who can offend, and not love this merciful God!

Affections and Prayers

My beloved Redeemer, I am also one of those ungrateful wretches who have repaid Your immense love, Your sorrows, and Your death with offenses and contempt. O my dearest Jesus, how is it possible that, seeing as You did the ingratitude that I should show You for all Your mercies, You could yet love me so much, and resolve to endure so much contempt and suffering for me! But I will not despair. The evil is already done. Give me, therefore, O my Savior, that sorrow which You have merited for me by Your tears; but let it be a sorrow equal to my iniquities. O loving heart of my Savior, once so afflicted and desolate for my sake, and now all burning with love for me, I beseech You, change my heart, give me a heart that will make reparation for the offenses I have committed against You, give me a love that will equal my ingratitude!

But I already feel a great desire of loving You. I give You thanks, my Savior, because I see that Your mercy has already changed my heart. I hate, above every evil, the insults I have offered You; I detest them, I abhor them. I now esteem Your friendship above all the riches and kingdoms of the world. I desire to please You as much as is possible to me; I love You, who are in­finitely amiable; but I see that this my love is too small. Increase the flame, give me more love. Your love for me ought to be responded to by a greater degree of love by me, who have so much offended You, and who, instead of chastisement, have received so many special favors from You. O sovereign Good, permit me not to be any longer ungrateful for all the favors that You have bestowed upon me: “I will die with love of the love of You,” I will say with Saint Francis, “who have deigned to die for love of the love of me.” Mary, my hope, help me; pray to Jesus for me!

This article is taken from a chapter in The Road to Bethlehem by St. Alphonsus Liguori, which is available from TAN Books.

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