Life Of Christ:
Christ Announces To St. Peter His Supreme Pastoral Charge
Private Life Of Jesus During His Ministry
Sorrow Caused To Jesus And Mary By The Persecution Of The Jews
Jesus Triumphantly Enters Jerusalem
Jews Lay Plans To Put Jesus To Death
The Last Supper
Farewell Discourse And Prayer Of Jesus
Jesus In The Garden Of Gethsemani
Treason Of Judas, And The Apprehension Of Jesus
Read More Articles About: Life Of Christ
Private Life Of Jesus During His Ministry
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
THE whole life of Jesus was one of humility, retirement, and silence; but when the time was come for Him to appear in public, He desired to be to the world an example of austerity and penance. He was the rich son of the richest father, yet He lived in the most abject poverty. Consider how deplorable it would be if a mighty king were to send his son into a strange country without any means whatsoever, permitting him to suffer want and privations of all kinds, and compelling him to sleep, like the poorest beggar, under the canopy of heaven, and to beg his bread from house to house. All this happened to your dear Jesus, for He often suffered from hunger, as appears from the fact that once His disciples plucked the ripe ears of corn in the field to satisfy their craving for food. If you had seen the meek Lamb of God going about poorly clad, suffering want, you would in-deed have wept with compassion. His garments were of coarse wool, of the kind worn by the poor people of Galilee. He always went with bare head, in heat and in cold, in wind and in rain, and He wore neither shoes nor sandals. To provide for the necessaries of life, He had to rely on alms. Such a life, hard as it is to anybody, must have been especially so to our dear Lord. Hear Him saying plaintively: " The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air nests : but the Son of man hath not where to lay His head" (Matt. viii. 20), as if He would say: "My heavenly Father is less severe with irrational creatures than with Me, for He provides nourishment, covering, and abode for them; but to Me, His only-begotten Son, He has denied even a cubit of room, and permits Me to wander about the world a mendicant, suffering for want of all things."
True, Our Lord suffered this poverty most willingly; nevertheless, it provided the Pharisees with a pretence of making it a reproach to Him; for they would not believe that His poverty was voluntary, but regarded it as caused by His faults. Hence they despised Him before men and spoke disreputably of Him, saying : " He is a beggar, unable to buy Himself a pair of shoes; He is too lazy to work, and suffers in consequence of His sloth." Therefore many people withdrew from Him, thinking it a reproach to associate with so despised a man. These and similar reproaches Jesus had to suffer continually, yet He did not discard His poverty, but persevered in it until death.
If you ask why His Father dealt thus severely with Him, He will answer you : " Know that My Father sent Me into the world not only to atone for sin, but also to teach the children of the world by My example how perversely they act when they devote themselves exclusively to temporal concerns and neglect the affairs of eternity. By the poverty of My apparel I was to show them how grievously they sin by extravagance in dress; by My scanty fare I was to intimate to them the perversity of luxurious living; by My humble demeanor I was to teach them the sinfulness of seeking self-exaltation and the admiration of others. Therefore be mindful of My judgment when you are tempted to disregard My example, and to live so differently from My mode of life."
Besides practising poverty, our divine Saviour continually chastised His body by fasting, watching, preaching, travelling, bearing heat and cold, and devoting Himself to penitential exercises. Consider how He continually mortified Himself in eating and drinking, curtailing His rest and sleep: and then examine your own conduct in this respect. You know, perhaps, by experience the pangs of hunger; consider, then, how our dear Lord suffered by His voluntary fast, especially when attending feasts to which He was invited, and where He never indulged His appetite. Behold your Lord thus rebuking your sensuality, and teaching you by His example not to take more nourishment than is necessary for your health. Oh, how often we offend in this respect, not only refusing to follow the example of Our Lord, but sinning by over-fastidiousness and by gluttony.
And how can we adequately describe what Our Lord suffered from thirst? We are well aware that thirst is a much greater torment than hunger, that it causes almost insupportable pain. Although the pangs of hunger which Our Saviour suffered were great, greater still were the torments He suffered from thirst. Travelling continually from place to place in the hot climate of Palestine, He was often in want of water, as appears from the incident at Jacob's well, near Sichem, where He asked a woman for a drink. O poor Saviour, Thou art the Creator of all the springs and streams, and yet Thou dost suffer for want of water! Thou, who regalest the angels with heavenly nectar, dost suffer from thirst! Learn from Christ's example to mortify yourself in eating and drinking. Especially avoid the great sin of drunkenness, and everything that leads thereto. Remembering the sacred thirst of Our Lord Jesus, follow His example and control your appetite, denying yourself its indulgence. Imagine Him standing before you, saying: "My child, slake My thirst!" and refresh Him by an act of mortification.
If you ask why Jesus led so austere a life, He will answer you: "My child, I did this in order to show thee how to mortify thy sensuality by denying yourself in eating and drinking. One day I addressed St. Margaret of Cortona as follows : ` True Christians and servants of God cannot attain perfection in this life, except by resolutely overcoming the sin of gluttony.' If you will not mortify yourselves, but will always eat and drink according to your appetite, I fear you shall experience the woe which l have threatened, saying : ' Woe to you that are filled, for you shall hunger."' (Matt. vi. 25.)
Again, Jesus mortified His frail body by fatiguing journeys and the labor of teaching and preaching of His ministry. The Jewish country abounds in mountains and wildernesses, and the traveller is often compelled to journey leagues through deserted places before he reaches an inhabited spot. Hence our dear Saviour had to cross many a trackless mountain and valley, pass through many a wilderness and desert, in wind and in rain, in heat and in cold, in labor and fatigue, seeking, as the Good Shepherd, the lost sheep. He was so anxious to rescue them from the fangs of the wolf that He spared neither pains nor labor to save them.
Consider here that Our Lord, exhausted, wet with rain, scorched by the heat, shivering with cold, hungry and thirsty, often came into the cities and villages to find, perhaps, but scanty accommodations, or none at all, not even a roof to cover Him.
Consider also that Our Lord chastised His body by continual watching. The evangelists tell us that He prayed, not only a few hours, but whole nights together. This must have been a most trying task for Him, exhausted as He was; and yet He did it, not once, but very often, for St. Luke says it was His custom: "And going out He went, according to His custom, to the Mount of Olives." (Luke xxii. 39.) When He spent the night in Bethania, He seldom remained at Martha's house, but went, tired as He was, to Mount Olivet to pray.
Despite this humble and laborious life in the service of His fellow-men, Our Saviour was fiercely persecuted. The Saducees, a Jewish sect denying the immortality of the soul and judgment after death, whose members de-voted themselves unreservedly to sensual indulgences, of course did not relish the strict doctrine and austere life of Christ. The high priests, too, and the Pharisees were His enemies. Their hatred was caused principally by jealousy: the people loved and praised Jesus, and left them. At this they were offended.
The hatred of the Pharisees, especially, became more intense every day, until they finally were thoroughly en-raged. They sought by all means to withdraw the people from Christ, and to regain their confidence. They suspiciously watched every word and act of Jesus, to find cause to accuse Him. They began to censure the people, saying: " How can you follow so mean a man, the son of poor people, Himself only a poor carpenter, whose companions are as base, ignorant, and despicable as Him-self, and who are led by His cunning words to abandon their families, to travel over the country with Him in idleness? Beware, the end will prove that our warning was opportune."
By such phrases the Pharisees tried to dissuade the people from following Christ, but with little success; for the longer He continued in His ministry the more did the people flock to Him. Finally, when His followers proclaimed Jesus as the Messias, His enemies had re-course to the high priests and ancients in Jerusalem, saying : " This matter will result in no good: there will be a revolt; the people will no longer obey you, but will rise and make this man king. They will rouse the anger of the Romans, who will destroy you." The chiefs and high priests, themselves enemies of Jesus, lent a willing ear to these accusations, and made no pretence to conceal their hatred of Him. This hatred caused Our Saviour to feel so aggrieved that He referred to it shortly before His d lath, saying: " If they have persecuted Me, they will also persecute you." (John xv. 20.)
No doubt the secret calumnies of His enemies were a great trial to the loving heart of Our Lord, but a still greater one was their open and undisguised resistance. Observing that their accusations did not keep the people from following Him, they openly persecuted Him by at-tacking His character. St. Matthew informs us that they called Him a blasphemer, a glutton, a wine-drinker, a friend of publicans and sinners; that they asked: "Is not this the carpenter's son, is not His mother called Mary : how came this man by His wisdom and miracles?" They also said : " He casteth out devils by Beelzebub, the prince of devils." (Luke xi. 15.) They were not content with words, but proceeded to deeds, and were guilty of every conceivable indignity against Him. They interrupted His sermons in the Temple, they reproached Him publicly, and contended that He spoke falsehoods. They sought to convict Him of contradictory statements; they sent some of their number to ask Him questions, hoping to entrap Him. By such methods they succeeded in creating opposition to Him, and in drawing many, especially among the higher classes, away from Him, so that finally also the common people openly contradicted, blasphemed, and derided Him. St. John writes : " And there was much murmuring among the multitude concerning Him. For some said: He is a good man. And others said: No, but He seduceth the people." (John vii. 12.) Matters having progressed so far that the people regarded Christ as a seducer, they no longer respected or reverenced Him. They contradicted Him when He spoke in the Temple or in the streets; they accused Him of ignorance, saying: "How doth this man know letters, having never learned?" (John vii. is.) They called Him a madman; they accused Him of lying: " He gives testimony of Himself ; His testimony is not true;" they even said He, intended to commit suicide : " The Jews therefore said: Will He kill Himself, because He said: Whither I go, you cannot come?" (John viii. 22.) They said He was possessed by the devil : " Now we know that Thou hast a devil." (John viii. 52.)
Finally, the people became so enraged against Jesus that they sought to put Him to death. Our Lord Himself reproached them : " But now you seek to kill Me, a man having spoken the truth to you, which I have heard of God." (John viii. 40.) And the evangelist informs us: "After these things Jesus walked in Galilee, for He would not walk in Judea, because the Jews sought to kill Him." (John vii. 1.)
How intense must have been the hatred of the Jews, when they sought to take His life, who was their greatest benefactor and friend! Thus passion blinds man to his true interests, and leads him to commit the greatest crimes of injustice.