Continued from LAST WEEK
Having made the affections, you should proceed to resolutions. Promise Our Lord that you will never more displease Him by mortal or even deliberate venial sin. Determine to avoid such or such a fault (name it), and to make use of such or such means (specify which). For example, to fly from such or such a house, to avoid such and such a companion, instantly to dismiss this or that thought, immediately to curb those bursts of passion, to place a guard over your eyes, to keep silence on such and such occasions, etc. It should be remembered that the principal fruit of one’s prayer consists in these resolutions, and far more in keeping them faithfully. Place them in the sacred Wounds of Jesus, and in the hands of Mary, and implore grace to put them in practice. Keep them in view during the whole course of the day, and an occasional examination as to the manner in which you are practicing them will be a most efficacious means of ensuring your fidelity.
Whoever follows the instructions here given, the writer assures us, will discover by experience how easy a practice is meditation on the Passion of Jesus Christ. Meditation is in fact nothing more than the exercise of the memory, understanding and will, upon some mystery or truth of our holy Faith. Now, if we are accustomed to exercise those powers from morning till night on sensible objects which are often sinful, we should be able, with the assistance of God’s grace, to exercise them in the consideration of the bitter Passion of Jesus Christ, our most loving Redeemer. Benefits Derived from Meditating on the Passion of Christ Tauler, one of the great mystics of the Middle Ages, says: “Once when a venerable servant of God asked Our Lord what a man merited who exercised himself devoutly in meditating upon His Passion, Christ answered: ‘By such meditation he merits:
1. To be cleansed from his sins.
2. To have all his negligences supplied by the merits of My sufferings.
3. To be strengthened so that he will not easily be overcome by his enemies.
4. That My grace will be renewed in him as often as he reflects on My sufferings.
5. That I refuse him nothing that is profitable, if he earnestly asks for it.
6. That I lead him to perfection before his death.
7. That I assist him in his last hour, protect him against his enemies, and give him an assurance of salvation’”. It cleanses us from our sins: – It is impossible for a soul who takes Our Lord’s sufferings seriously to heart, to continue offending God wilfully, especially by mortal sin. St. Alphonsus impresses this upon us by affirming: “A soul who believes in the Passion of Jesus Christ, and frequently thinks thereon, will find it impossible to go on offending her Saviour”. It strengthens us against temptation: – Frequent and devout meditation on the sufferings of Our Lord has the wonderful power to enable us to overcome our passions.
St. Augustine writes in his Confessions that whenever he was tempted by the demon of impurity, he resisted Satan successfully by meditating on the Wounds of Jesus. “As often as I am tempted”, he says, “I seek refuge in the Wounds of Jesus. I fly into the Heart of the mercies of my Lord!” It will lead us to perfection before our death: – One of the principal sources of our sanctification is the tender and compassionate remembrance of our Saviour’s sufferings. St. Bonaventure addresses these words to the soul seeking perfection: “If thou, O man, wouldst advance from virtue to virtue, if thou wouldst lead a perfect life, then meditate daily on the Passion of Christ. Nothing else can so powerfully urge the soul to holiness.
The painful Wounds of our Saviour’s body penetrate even the hardest of hearts and inflame the coldest of souls with love”. It gives us the assurance of a happy death:- St. Alphonsus Liguori says, “Souls that are tormented by the devil and tremble for their eternal salvation will feel great consolation in withdrawing their eyes from the outward world and fixing them on the Cross where Jesus hangs, bleeding from every wound”. It insures for us a special glory in Heaven: – This was revealed to St. Gertrude. Once on the feast of St. John the Evangelist she beheld how this beloved Apostle enjoyed a special bliss in Heaven because he had always begun his contemplations with the remembrance of our Saviour’s Passion, of which he had been an eye witness. Moreover, we should love to meditate upon the Passion because therein our Saviour makes His virtues shine forth with great brilliance.
He possesses every virtue in His soul, but the occasions of manifesting them especially arise in His Passion. His immense love for His Father, His charity for mankind, hatred of sin, forgiveness of injuries, patience, meekness, fortitude, obedience to lawful authority, compassion all these virtues shine forth in a heroic manner for our imitation. Jesus in His Passion is our Divine model in suffering. If, therefore, we frequently contemplate His sufferings and strive to imitate His virtues, we shall receive special graces which will transform us little by little into His likeness and prepare us to share in His glory in Heaven. According to the promises of our Lord to Sister Mary Martha Chambon, “Those who pray with humility and who meditate on My Passion, shall one day participate in the glory of My Divine wounds. Their members will receive from them a resplendent beauty and glory”. “The more you shall have contemplated My Painful wounds on this earth, the higher shall be your contemplation of them glorious in Heaven”.
“The soul who during life has honoured and studied the Wounds of Our Lord Jesus Christ and has offered Them to the Eternal Father for the Souls in Purgatory will be accompanied at the moment of death by the Holy Virgin and the Angels; and Our Lord on the Cross, all brilliant in glory will receive her and crown her”. “My Holy Wounds sanctify souls and insure their spiritual advancement… Offer Me your actions united to My Sacred Wounds, and even the smallest will have an incomprehensible value… “Offer them often to Me for sinners because I thirst for souls. At each word of the invocation that you utter, I will let a drop of My Blood fall upon the soul of a sinner”. The Passion of Christ is one of the most profitable sources in attempting to facilitate a more intimate union with Our Lord and it traces a sure path towards holiness.
This is why meditating on the Passion of Jesus has been a favourite theme for many of the saints during the whole course of Church History. Our Lord Himself, in numerous occasions throughout the ages by means of all His saints, His most privileged souls and the Magisterium of the Church has spoken of the transcendent importance of meditating on His Passion, and not simply meditating on it but living out interiorly, intensively and continuously all that Jesus Himself suffered for love of us. St. Augustine assures us that there is no spiritual exercise more fruitful or more useful than the frequent reflection on the sufferings of Our Lord. St. Albert the Great, who had St. Thomas Aquinas as a student, learned in a revelation that by simply thinking of or meditating on the Passion of Jesus Christ, a Christian gains more merits than if he had fasted on bread and water every Friday for a year, or had beaten himself with the discipline (whip) once a week till blood flowed, or had recited the whole Book of Psalms every day. Lord Jesus, crucified for love of us, Your heart was pierced by a lance and flowed with blood and water. In your mercy, draw us to your open heart, cleanse us from our sins and help us to grow daily in your love. Amen.
• Prof. Michael Ogunu is the President and Coordinator of the World Apostolate of Fatima in Africa