Friday, April 2, 2010

The Death of Jesus

An essay by Alphonsus Liguori

The Death of Jesus

The amiable Redeemer approaches the end of life. My soul, behold those eyes grow dim; that beautiful countenance becomes pale; that heart palpitates feebly;
that sacred body is abandoned to death. Jesus, therefore, when he had taken the vinegar, said, “It is consummated” (John 19:30). When on the point of expiring, Jesus placed before his eyes all the sufferings of his life—the poverty, fatigues, pains, and injuries which he had suffered—and, again offering them all to his Eternal Father, he said, All is now accomplished—all is consummated. All that the prophets foretold of me is consummated; in a word, the sacrifice which God expected in order to be appeased with the world is perfectly consummated, and full satisfaction is made to the divine justice. It is consummated, said Jesus, turning to his Eternal Father: It is consummated, he said, at the same time turning to us. As if he had said, O men, I have done all that I can do, in order to save your souls and to gain your love. I have done my part; do you now yours. Love me, and be not unwilling to love a God who has gone so far as to die for you.

And Jesus, crying with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit” (Luke 23:46). These were the last words which Jesus spoke on the cross. Seeing that his blessed soul was about to be separated from his mangled body, he said, with perfect resignation to the divine will, and with filial confidence, Father, to you I recommend my spirit. As if he had said, My Father, I have no will; I do not wish either to live or die. If it is pleasing to you that I continue to suffer on this cross, behold, I am ready; into your hands I consign my spirit; do with it what you will. Oh that we also would say the same when we meet any cross, leaving ourselves to be guided by the Lord in all things, according to his good pleasure! … . 

Yes, my Jesus, in your hands I place my life and my death; in you I abandon myself entirely, and I recommend my soul to you now for the last moments of my life. Receive it into your wounds, as your Father received your spirit, when you expired on the cross.

But behold, Jesus dies. O angels of heaven, come, come to be present at the death of your God. And you, O sorrowful mother of God, approach nearer to the cross, raise your eyes to behold your Son; look at him more steadfastly, for he is about to expire. Behold, the Redeemer already calls on death, and gives it permission to come and take away his life. O death, he says, perform your office; take away my life and save my sheep. Behold, the earth trembles, the graves are opened, the veil of the Temple is rent in two; behold how the violence of his pains deprives the dying Lord of strength, of the natural heat, of respiration; his body is abandoned to death; he bows down his head on his breast, he opens his mouth, and expires: And bowing down His head, He gave up his spirit (John 19:30). Go forth, O beautiful soul of my Savior, go forth; go to open paradise, which has been hitherto shut against us; go to present yourself to the divine Majesty, and to obtain for us pardon and salvation. 

The crowd, turning to Jesus, on account of the loud voice in which he spoke these words, look at him with attention and in silence; they see him expire, and, observing that he is motionless, they exclaim, He is dead—he is dead. Mary hears this from all the bystanders, and she also says, Ah, my Son, You are dead.

He is dead. O God, who is dead? The author of life, the only-begotten of God, the Lord of the world. O death which was the astonishment of heaven and of nature! A God to die for his creatures! O infinite charity! A God to sacrifice himself entirely! To sacrifice his delights, his honor, his blood, his life; and for whom? For ungrateful creatures. And to die in a sea of sorrows and insults, and in order to atone for our sins. My soul, raise your eyes, and behold that crucified Man-God. Behold that divine Lamb sacrificed on that altar of pain; consider that he is the beloved Son of the Eternal Father, and consider that he has died through the love he has borne you. See how his arms are stretched out to embrace you; his head bowed down to give you the kiss of peace; his side opened to receive you. What do you say? Does a God so good and so loving deserve to be loved? Listen to what the Lord says to you from the cross: My Son, see if there is any one in this world who has loved you more than I, your God, has loved you?

Ah, my God and my Redeemer, you, then, have died, and died a death the most infamous and painful. And why? To gain my love. But what love of a creature can ever compensate the love of his Creator, who has died for him? O my adored Jesus, O love of my soul! How shall I be ever able to forget you? How shall I be able to love anything but you, after having seen you dying through pain on this cross in order to atone for my sins and to save my soul? How can I behold you dead, hanging on this tree, and not love you with all my strength? Can I think that my sins have reduced you to this condition, and not weep always with intense sorrow for the offenses that I have committed against you?

O Jesus … remember that you did promise that when you would be elevated on the cross, you would draw all hearts to you. Behold, my heart, softened into tenderness by your death, will no longer resist your calls. Draw all its affections to your love. You have died for me, and I wish to live only for you… .I thank you for the light which you give me, in making me see in these wounds and lacerated members, as through so many lattices, your great and tender affection for me… My Jesus gives himself to me, and I give myself entirely to him… .Come, O Holy Spirit, and inflame our hearts with the love of you. 

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