Feast of Good Friday by Fr. Francis Xavier Weninger, 1876
"Now there stood by the cross, Mary His mother."--John xix, 25.
Yesterday, beloved in Christ, the example of Judas the traitor was held up to us as a terrible warning upon which every sinner might meditate, and, perhaps, realize the consequences of such total atrocity and utter hardness of heart. That warning might be, for many, the very last grace vouchsafed by God! Oh, may it not be in vain! What reason has not the sinner to strike his breast, and cry out: "O God, be merciful to me, for my sins have been as great, perhaps, as those of Judas, and more frequent!" Yes, sinners, it is even so; for Judas, wretch though he was, did not try to pervert his fellow-laborers, the Apostles; while you, how many innocent souls have you not led astray, both by word and example? How many souls, most dear and precious to the Heart of Jesus, have you not turned away from Him?" Woe to him by whom scandals come. It were better for that man that a millstone be hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depths of the sea." And yet, my brethren, if, among my hearers there are any who have been guilty of grievous sin, I would say to them, do not despair. Even though each passing year has witnessed the commission of crimes, each one more terrible than the last; nay, even if you have lived as an incarnate devil, do not despair. Look upon Mary beneath the cross. Call upon her; she will take you under her maternal protection; lead you to her divine Son, who can refuse her nothing; and obtain for you the grace of a true conversion; for is she not the one chosen by God, and destined to be the Mother of mercy, the refuge of sinners?
As the subject of our present meditation, my dear brethren, let us consider the wonderful power contained in the words uttered by Jesus on the cross, those seven last words which inspired the sweet heart of the Virgin Mother with an ardent wish to save and rescue sinners. O Mary, Mother of mercy, show thyself a merciful mother, especially towards those erring children, who have come here tonight, their hearts heavy with the burden of sin! I speak in the holy name of Jesus, for the greater honor and glory of God!
As it seemed good to the Lord to place a helpmate by the side of the earthly Adam, so we behold at the side of Jesus, the heavenly Adam, Mary, the Eve of the New Law; that, as by the fall of the first Adam and Eve the whole human race was plunged into an abyss of woe, so through the second--Jesus and Mary--rescued man was led to hope for heaven. It is true that, in the abstract, it was the merits of Christ alone which effected our redemption, yet, that its fruits might be imparted to man individually, Jesus was pleased to place by his side a mother--Mary--for the consolation and assistance of the human race.
Jesus merited; Mary distributes those merits. Therefore, God filled her heart with the most fervent affection for us, who have been born in sin, ensnared by numberless temptations, walking in the path to heaven, it may be, but in constant danger of going astray, and persecuted by the enemies of our salvation who rejoice when we make but one false step, hoping thereby that we will become their prey forever. Mary's heart is filled with the most unspeakable compassion for us ; and no mother, of her own natural inclination, so fondly loves a child, so tenderly cares for its welfare, so untiringly watches over it in every danger, as does Mary in regard to the children of men; especially if they have had the happiness of receiving baptism as members of the Holy Catholic Church. "Come ye all to me, and be filled with my fruits." Thus does Holy Church cry out to those who zealously walk under her protection and patronage in the way of perfection, the path which leads to the joys of heaven.
But with far more earnestness and devotion does this exclamation come forth from the mother of love and mercy to every soul that has fallen into sin. "Come back," this tender mother cries: "forsake your sinful lives, and live for God." The reason why the Saviour placed His mother beneath the cross is given by St. Bonaventure, in the following touching words: "Divine mercy was pleased to place beneath the world's redeeming wood, a creature who would be wholly merciful, and her name is Mary." Jesus did so that no sinner need ever despair, that no soul need be lost. St. Bernard says: "You dare not go to Christ because you have crucified Him, and, besides, He will one day be your Judge; but look at Mary, hasten to her; she is all mercy. In her, so tender, kind, and loving, there is nothing at which you could take alarm. She is a mother who will lead you to her Son; who will reconcile you through that precious blood He shed upon the cross, to His eternal Father." Mary herself gave the same assurance to St. Bridget in a vision: "There is no sinner so great," she said, "who, when he calls upon me and comes to me, will be cast off, and refused forgiveness." During the earthly life of the Blessed Virgin, her heart burned with the desire to lead souls to Christ.
Oh, with what joy did she behold them return to the path of virtue after they had strayed therefrom, and to a life of sanctity after they had abandoned their evil ways! But, beloved in Christ, how immeasurably was this desire increased when she stood so near her dying Son, and heard the words uttered by His parched and livid lips:
"Father, forgive them; they know not what they do," were the first precious words which welled up from the agonizing heart. The mother listened, and resolved to make it her dearest care to lead the sinner back to God, that the blood of Jesus might not be shed in vain. "O my Jesus!" was the prayer she put forth to her crucified Son, "I know well that for love of souls Thou didst choose this painfnl death, to deliver them from the curse of sin; therefore, I unite my petition to Thine, and cry with Thee: Heavenly Father, forgive! Receive my only-begotten Son; I offer Him to Thee with all His merits, together with my own, which I have gained by Thy divine grace, or may merit until the end of my life. Have mercy, I beseech Thee, upon the sinful children of men!"
"Amen I say unto thee; this day shalt thou be with Me in Paradise."
Mary listened, and still her desire for the salvation of souls increased; for her compassionate heart shuddered at the terrible torments into which those who were lost would be plunged. And in proportion to the number saved by the life, death, and passion of Christ, will the glory and beatitude of the Sacred Heart be increased in heaven.
"Woman, behold thy son; son, behold thy mother."
How precious are the words which fall from the dying lips of a beloved friend!
How much dearer are they when it is an only son. Mary listened, and the wish of her heart grew still more intense, as the Saviour spoke, to save every soul. By these words He solemnly declared before heaven and earth that to Mary He bequeathed the children of Adam, that she might, through her intercession, aid in their salvation with the love, tenderness, and magnanimity which has marked her love for Him. And can we doubt that the sorrowful mother promised to do so? And the blood, which gushed from the five sacred wounds, fell upon her there, thus sealing the solemn promise she made to Christ.
"My God! my God! why hast thou forsaken Me?"
Mary understood the meaning of this complaint. Christ suffered, as it were, the punishment of separation from God, incurred on account of sin; but what more than all afflicted His heart, was the knowledge, that in spite of that blood He so freely shed for man amid temptations, trials, afflictions, and intense pain, for so many it would be shed in vain.
"I thirst!" It was not sufficient for the Saviour to deliver us from the curse of sin, but He would fain induce us to imitate His example, though life itself might be the penalty. Mary heard and understood the plaintive cry, and her wish grew stronger still to win souls for heaven, and console the Sacred Heart.
"It is consummated!" The work of redemption is finished, and Jesus leaves this world with the words: "Father, into Thy hands I commend my spirit." "Behold the completion of the work for which Thou didst send me here."
This perseverance unto the end is the perfect fulfillment of the divine will; but it is a grace which, in reality, not one of the saints in heaven who reached that happy home thereby merited of himself; but as Holy Scripture tells us, and the holy fathers unanimously assert, a solid and tender devotion to Mary is a certain sign of election. "Whosoever finds Me finds life, and draws salvation from the Lord," says the Holy Ghost, through the Church, in reference to the ever blessed Virgin Mary.
"Father, into Thy hands I commend My Spirit." With the most implicit confidence may her devoted clients, as this world recedes from their dying eyes, breathe forth the prayer which the Saviour uttered on the cross.
When St. John of God was dying, suddenly there appeared to him the pure and loving Mother of Jesus at the very moment that he had ceased to hope for that favor. But Mary, who had promised to be there, sweetly said to this faithful servant: "My dear son I never forsake my children in this solemn hour." O sinners, do not lose courage, hasten to Mary, call upon her, seek her assistance, and she will help you to make a good confession! Draw from her bleeding heart those seven swords of grief which your sins have thrust therein,--the sword of delay in conversion, of impenitence, of scandal, of indifference in matters of religion, of disdain towards the Church and her ministers. Judas forgot to call upon her. O sinners, for Christ's dear sake forget not so sure a refuge, who is ready to help, who longs to save your souls!
O Mary, with St. John we sink down at thy feet, even as if, with Him, thy adopted Son, we were now on Calvary, and cry out from the very depths of our contrite hearts: "O Mother of mercy, be merciful unto us, by the memory of those sorrows which thou didst endure upon the sacred mount. Obtain for us the grace of true contrition of heart, a life free from sin, and a happy death through Jesus Christ, our crucified Lord and Redeemer.--Amen!
"And when Jesus saw His Mother and the disciple whom He loved, He said: Behold thy Mother,"--St. John xix, 26.
Yesterday we considered St. John, the disciple of love; and his beautiful example pointed out to us, in the clearest manner, the conditions necessary for approaching the Table of the Lord, so as to partake of the heavenly food in a worthy manner; and, after its reception, to unite ourselves so intimately with Christ that our reception of the Holy Communion may be indeed like that of St. John, and produce in our souls the same effects of sanctifying love. Today the scene is changed.
Let us glance at him as he stands beneath the cross, beside Mary, the Mother of fair love, and learn no less expressly the conditions upon which we, ransomed sons of men, through the passion and death of Christ, may reap the fruits of the Redemption in their fullness for time and eternity. Today also his characteristic feature, as disciple of love, exemplifies these conditions. And why? Because the more sincere our love for Jesus, the more perfectly will our hearts be prepared to appropriate these fruits; and, from the wounds of our crucified Saviour to receive, without intermission, new distributions of grace.
O Mary, who, under the cross, didst adopt St. John as thy son, adopt us today in like manner as thy children, and obtain for us that love for Jesus which filled his fervent heart! I speak in the most holy name of Jesus, for the greater honor and glory of God!
If yesterday we beheld in spirit St. John at the Holy Table resting upon the Sacred Heart of Jesus, we learned also how fully he merited, above all the other Apostles, the title, "disciple of love." And, on this day, so sad, so full of mournful memories, and yet replete with consolation too, we perceive that again he is favored, above all the other Apostles, in being allowed to stand by the Mother of Jesus beneath the cross. Oh, that we all would avail ourselves of the privilege, of being near Jesus--present in the Blessed Sacrament--by visiting and receiving the Son of God!
The fervent love which inflamed the heart of St. John shows us at once what will render our intercourse with Jesus like unto his. And now the love, which burned so brightly amid the spiritual joys of that holy eventide, retains its ardor toward the crucified One in all the desolation of this bitter hour. It glowed in the faithful heart of St. John on Calvary, and exercised a sublime influence upon the holiness of his after life.
To understand better what kind of affections they were which rendered St. John so dear and precious to his suffering Saviour, let us glance first at Mary-- the, Mother of Sorrows, the Queen of Martyrs, and the type of all that is holy and beautiful in love--and think of the sentiments which filled her maternal heart as she endured each separate pain inflicted on her beloved Son, for it found its echo there. And these affections were mirrored in the dear disciple's faithful heart, causing Jesus to give, before He left this world, His loving Mother an affectionate son. And what were the feelings of this blessed Mother in that solemn hour, when she beheld the consummation of what had begun some three and thirty years before? Compassion, adoration, thanksgiving, and perfect resignation to the most holy will of God.
Ah, yes! compassion. The sight of a poor body covered with wounds, bruised, and bleeding, always awakens it, especially if the sufferer be the innocent victim of malice; and this feeling is intensified if he be connected with us by the ties of love or blood. Imagine, then, the feelings of a loving mother when her darling child lies wounded or dying in her arms!
During one of my missions the following painful illustration of this came under my personal observation: Two children--two innocent little children-- were at play in the yard near by their dwelling, where an elder brother was splitting wood. Unfortunately, the stroke of the axe fell on the hand of the little golden-haired boy of five--the youngest of the three. The hand was almost completely severed from the wrist, and was kept thereon only by a slender piece of skin. Horrified, the brothers carried the little one to his mother, who gave one look and fell fainting on the floor. Judge, then, of the grief of the Blessed Virgin, who possessed the feelings of a loving mother in the highest degree.
And yet, with the sharp sword of sorrow piercing her heart, she stood calmly by, and thought of the priceless value of those sufferings which Jesus underwent. She, who bore so large a part in the redemption of man--Queen of Apostles, and seat of divine wisdom--adored the decree of God, which was completed through the passion and death of Christ, that through the sufferings of a God mankind should be redeemed.
Mary's heart was full of adoration combined with gratitude for her own election as Mother of the Redeemer. Gratitude that she was permitted to stand by the cross and nearest to Him. She thanked God that she was permitted to unite her sufferings with those of her divine Son; and that unto her was given to be mediatrix between Him and the human race. She bowed in meek submission, saying, as first she did in Nazareth: "Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it done unto me according to Thy word." Thus prayed the Mother of God, even while the shadow of the cross was darkening her future life, and the sword of grief, which Simeon promised, pierced through her very heart.
And in all this St. John, the beloved disciple, was her counterpart. He felt the most tender pity when looking up at the dying Saviour, now truly the Man of Sorrows. What a change in Him since the evening of the Last Supper, that Holy Repast, the intense joy of which could never be forgotten, and which proved the sweetest solace in the anguish of the present hour! There the Son of God appeared the most beautiful among the children of men; now, the glory was dimmed, and there was no comeliness in Him. St. John was also deeply grateful for having been chosen by Christ to walk by His side through life, to stand by Him in death. He, too, made the sacrifice of his own will, as the Blessed Mother did. Compassion, adoration, gratitude, and submission!
We, too, can participate in these affections; and we must do so, if we would share to the full extent in the merits of Jesus's death. But will it suffice to stop at mere feeling? So far from it, that to think so would be one of the greatest illusions, and must be severely guarded against; for St. John tells us that we must love, not in words alone, but in deeds. That our love for the crucified One may prove itself as true, sacrificing, and faithful as that of St. John, let us keep ever in view the words spoken by Him upon the cross, which, falling upon the ear of affection strained to catch even the faintest whisper of his beloved Lord, illumined the soul of St. John for the rest of his life, and guided him in the way of salvation with their beautiful light.
Let us apply them to ourselves, and imagine that Jesus addresses us thus:
"Souls redeemed by Me at the cost of such bitter anguish, if you love Me, sin no more; but profit by these my sufferings, and aim for the joys of heaven."
Ah, yes! my dearest brethren! when pleasure's seducing cup is held to your lips, and you can not quaff therefrom without committing sin, pause then, and think of the weary years of pain which Jesus spent on earth! Think of that life of toil and trial crowned in the latter years by suffering and anguish such as the mind could never conceive, and an ignominious death, and all for you! Think of this, friends, and dash the poisoned cup away!
Yes, it was sin which crucified your Saviour; and St. John grieved over the slightest shadow of evil which might have fallen on his soul; but we may well believe that, after he listened to the words: "Father, forgive," his beautiful soul was never stained with the smallest fault.
"Amen, I say to thee; this day thou shalt be with Me in paradise." To St. John was granted the wonderful privilege of beholding the glories of heaven while yet on earth. Detach your hearts from the empty treasures of this world; for, if you would arise with Christ, seek first the things which are of Christ.
"Woman, behold thy son." "Son, behold thy Mother." St. John heard the words; he glanced at Mary, drew nearer, and threw himself at her feet beneath the cross. Then he embraced his adopted Mother with all the fervor of filial love. My dear brethren, show your love to Jesus by a tender devotion and love to Mary. Love her with a truly filial love; for Christ, according to St. Bridget and other spiritual writers, has given, in the person of St. John, the entire human race to Mary as her children.
"My God! my God! why hast thou forsaken Me?" Man's life is a warfare; and, at times, it seems indeed as if we were entirely forsaken. Let us, then, like St. John, be ready to suffer every thing, and to give up our very lives rather than commit one single venial sin. Look, with the beloved disciple, at Jesus, the crucified One, and you will conquer and overcome.
"I thirst." St. John listened. Jesus thirsts after souls, and this favored Apostle understood the mournful cry. And do you not think that he promised the Lord, as a true disciple, to spread His kingdom, and to labor for the salvation of souls, the value of which he saw more clearly in that solemn hour when he witnessed the incalculable cost of their redemption? Try, beloved in Christ Jesus, to imitate him in his zeal for the rescue of human souls.
"It is consummated." Fidelity to the very end is the most convincing proof of true love, which "many waters can not quench," as Holy Scripture affirms. Be faithful, then, O Christians, whose salvation has been purchased at such a price; and, for love of Him whose sufferings we commemorate tonight, falter not, but persevere until the last. And then when that awful day will dawn, which hath for you no night, or that evening twilight fall, of which you will never see the morn, with perfect hope you can sigh: "Come, my Jesus, come," and yield up your spirit in the affections of your faithful love to Him with the longing desire of St. John, and the holy confidence of St. Francis Xavier. Ah, yes! then you may well cry out: "I have loved and trusted in Thee, O my God, and will therefore never be confounded. I die in Thy blessed arms, O Jesus, my Crucified Love."--Amen!
"O death, where is thy sting?"--1 Cor. xv, 55.
If I, dearly beloved in Christ Jesus, have meditated with you upon the manifold miseries which drape our lives with the sable hue of gloom, I have also reminded you how Christ, the luminous Sun of justice, shines even amid this mournful night and brightens it with the most consoling rays of hope. There is, however, a still greater likeness between a dark and starless night and the condition of the departing soul. Oh, how terrible is the darkness which overshadows it at the approach of that moment which is to witness the separation of the soul from that body to which it has been so long and so intimately united--when it must depart alone, and, uncheered by the companionship of even one earthly friend, enter on a path all new and strange, "the house of its eternity!" The sight leaves the dim and fading eyes, and night comes for that dying man, although the sun's bright glow may fill the room. But, alas! the shadows fall deeper still when despair sets in, and envelop the departing soul in a night of desolation and woe.
Yes, even to God's saints has it been given to walk through the dark valley of bitter agony before they could enter the joys of heaven. The great St. Hilary trembled when his death hour approached, thinking of the words of St. Paul: "It is terrible to fall into the hands of the living God;" but, taking courage, he exclaimed: "What! You have served God for seventy years, and now are afraid to appear before Him. Fear not, my soul, but go forth to meet your God; " and so he departed, full of holy hope.
Would you also, my brethren, be blessed with the sweet confidence of St. Hilary at the hour of death? It is in your power--for what animates the dying Christian who has faithfully served his Lord, is a glance at the crucifix which is placed in his hands; for Christ is the Sun which brightens the dark hour of death.
O Mary, Mother of a happy passage, as the twilight of life gathers over our souls, assist us by thy prayers, that our eyes may unclose upon the eternal day!
I speak in the most holy name of Jesus, for the greater honor and glory of God!
As we read in the lives of the holy fathers in the desert, who lived in their little cells in Egypt, it came to pass that an Abbot of great renown lay on his dying bed. His spiritual children, who loved and revered him for his wonderful sanctity, gathered from far and near to witness that edifying death and pray for the departing soul. The face of the dying man was illumined with divine love as he uttered distinctly the words: "Behold, the choir of patriarchs approaches to meet me." The hermits, in awe, remained silent, and ventured not to speak; when, after a short pause, there fell upon the listening group an exultant cry: "Behold, the
venerable prophets are coming to meet me."--After a brief silence his countenance became still more brilliant as, lifting up his voice, he exclaimed: "The apostles of Christ are here, and wish to bear me away to heaven."--Another interval of silence; the lips of the venerable servant of God moved again; and on being asked with whom he was conversing, he replied: "The angels are here, and wish me to go with them, that they may introduce me to the joys of heaven; but I ask them to leave me here still longer, that I may perform more penance for my sins." One of the fathers then said: "Venerable Abbot, you do not need to do longer penance."--And behold, his face shone as if he were in an ecstasy of delight, and he cried: "Jesus my Saviour cometh!" and with these words the lovely dawn of a happy eternity broke upon his soul, as it went forth to dwell forever with God.
My dearest Christians, a similar halo of consolation may one day irradiate your dying bed, if you be but faithful, when Christ the Lord, not only in vision, but with body and soul, divinity and humanity, comes to your hearts. The priest will administer to you the Sacred Host as viaticum before you go to receive the reward of a well-spent life.
This blessed assurance which I give you, however, from this holy place, can not be offered to every dying person, but only to such as have believed and hoped and loved during life, and who have observed all the commandments of God and of His Church. Even they, as I said before, may in their last agony, by the permission of God, feel a great interior desolation for their greater purification, that they may enter at once into everlasting bliss.
We have considered the trials which, from the cradle to the grave, are the lot of man, in my discourse of yesterday, and beheld the five rays which come from the sorrowful heart of the agonizing Jesus, to encourage us amid these trials and troubles, and also in the many and violent temptations which will encompass the soul.
In the terrors of death's dark night, my dear brethren, there will be seven consoling rays in the seven words which Jesus spoke upon the cross, and of those I will speak tonight.
"Father, forgive." This is the first ray which illumines the night of death for the faithful child of the Church. It is a most sweet solace for those who have never offended God by mortal sin--who have ever cherished unspotted the white robe of their baptismal innocence. Alas! they are but few. We know that the angelic youth St. Aloysius received the tidings of his approaching death with the greatest joy, for he immediately entoned the Te Deum.
But few who pass the morning of life, not to speak of those who have borne the burdens of years, leave this world with their baptismal innocence unstained. I look around this sacred edifice and see before me a goodly multitude who have come hither to commemorate the Saviour's death, and perhaps--alas! I fear is more than a perhaps--many of them have so deeply offended the crucified Saviour that conscience torments them and gives them no rest; and they say: "What will become of us if, in our dying moments, Satan holds up the long list of our offenses in all their enormity?" Do not despair: confess those sins with fervent sorrow; the blood of Jesus will wash the guilt away; else, why did He cry to the eternal God: "Father, forgive"?
It may be that, although you have sinned, you have already repented and sought reconciliation with God by a good confession. If so, how sweet those words for you: "Father, forgive"! And Who uttered them? The same Christ Who said to His Apostles and their successors in the holy ministry to the end of time: "Whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven them; and whose sins you shall retain, they are retained;"--the same Jesus Who, to strengthen you at the hour of death, instituted the sacrament of Extreme Unction, which washes away the least trace and stain of sin from the soul, and even the relics of sin. It is the same Saviour Who will forgive your sins at any time while the breath still lingers in your body, even at the very final moment, through the infinite merits of His passion and death. Yes, my brethren, He will do this if you but turn your dying eyes upon Him with a confiding and repentant heart; for a single drop of His precious blood, of which the value is infinite, would be sufficient to redeem a thousand worlds.
Why, then, O Christians--why should you despond? Christ is praying for you to the Father. He, the Lamb of God, Who taketh away the sins of the world, has He forgotten you? Detach your hearts from earthly goods and pleasures, for, believe me, what darkens the dying moments of so many Christians is an undue attachment to them. If a person, during the course of a long life, has set his heart upon the riches of this world and labored to amass its treasures, how grieved will he not be, at the hour of death, to feel that they are slowly but surely slipping from his grasp!
Oh, then, "die daily" to the world! Seek first the Kingdom of heaven, and you may indeed cry out: "O death, where is thy sting?"
"This day thou shalt be with me in Paradise." These consoling words were spoken by Christ upon the cross. Oh, what a flood of light they pour upon the obscure night of the departing soul! The thought--"I leave the delights and treasures of the world; but what are they in comparison to those which await me in heaven?"-- inspires the heart with the wish to possess the goods of the Lord in the country of the living, and to enjoy that bliss of which St. Paul affirms: "Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither hath it entered the heart of man what God has prepared for those who love Him."
What throws a shadow of gloom over the dying hour is the grief the sufferer feels at leaving behind the friends he sees weeping around his bed. This is a feeling from which even pious souls are not exempt. But, Christians, be consoled; Jesus from the cross cried out: "Woman, behold thy son! Son, behold thy Mother!" If you have honored Mary, like a good child, and followed her holy example, then will she assist you in your last moments, even though father, mother, sisters, and brothers should forsake you.
Oh, what a luminous ray of celestial light is contained in the thought: "The Holy Virgin will be with me; St. Joseph, the Archangel St. Michael, and all the saints whom I have begged to obtain for me a happy death, will surround me; my guardian angel will defend me from the spirits of evil, and strengthen me to resist their attacks."
It is true that I must leave those who are dear to me, but I will be welcomed by those of my friends who await me in heaven. Oh, what joy to be forever united with them in a home where neither death nor sorrow can enter!
"My God! my God! why hast thou forsaken me?" Thus did Christ pray in accordance with the psalm which predicted His sufferings. The pious child of the Church need never complain that God has forsaken him. Christ comes to him in the viaticum, to strengthen his soul in the supreme moment of his last agony.
My friends, it is hard to die. Death is a punishment of original sin. But how encouraging the thought: "It is the act, the most precious act, by which I give back my life to Him Who bestowed it, if I so overcome myself that I resign myself willingly to His divine decree and unite my will so entirely to His as to desire this very death, in this very place, and in this very manner, and all because my loving Saviour wished it so." If, beloved in Christ, you can meet death with such entire resignation, the flames of Purgatory will be extinguished for you, and your Lord and Judge will bid you enter at once into the joys of His heavenly home.
"I thirst!" This plaintive cry deeply affected the Blessed Virgin and St. John. Happy the Christian who has lived only for Jesus. At the hour of death his heart will be filled with the desire of the Apostle "who longed to be dissolved and to be with Christ;" and this the more because death takes from us the possibility of ever again committing sin.
"It is consummated." What a sweet assurance of rest and peace is contained herein! The burning love from the heart of the dying Saviour illumines the words with the brightest rays of consolation and hope. "It is consummated." The life of toil and sacrifice of three and thirty years is over; the cruel scourging, the sharp pain of the stinging thorns, the anguish of the crucifixion, are over: "Father, into Thy hands I commend my spirit." O blessed eye which heralds the dawn of eternal glory! What a consoling ray of divine hope, not only for the Saviour, but for the Christian about to leave this world, if he too has been faithful unto death! How trifling will then be all the labors, toils, and mortifications he endured for the love of God, and how sweet the thought of the consequent bliss which awaits his soul!
Let us so regulate our lives that we may taste this sweetness not only at the close of life, but at the close of the day when we sink into sleep, "the image of death." "It is consummated." "Father, into Thy hands I commend my spirit." One glance at the crucified Jesus is sufficient to inspire the heart with the certain hope that sustained St. Francis Xavier in his last moments, as he pressed His image to his lips: "O my crucified Love, I have trusted in Thee and will never be confounded."
Dearest Jesus, so dispose our hearts in life that at the last dread hour You may appear to us as the glorious Sun of justice, to brighten with these sevenfold rays the gathering gloom which fain would darken our passage into eternity.--Amen!