Life Of Christ:
Jesus Before Annas
Jesus Before Caiphas
Jesus Before Pilate
Jesus Before Herod
Jesus Is Condemned To Death
Way Of The Cross
Crucifixion Of Jesus
Seven Last Words Of Jesus
Miraculous Events At Our Lord's Death
Side Of Jesus Pierced With A Lance
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Side Of Jesus Pierced With A Lance
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
THE Jews feared much lest Pilate should leave the bodies of the three crucified men on their crosses all the next day, which was the Sabbath, and the most solemn day of the great paschal festival. To prevent so great a profanation, they sent a deputation to the governor, beseeching him to remove them as speedily as possible. An order to this effect was immediately granted, and the soldiers proceeded at once to execute upon the crucified the extreme penalty of the law. "The soldiers therefore came, and they broke the legs of the first and of the other that was crucified with Him. But after they were come to Jesus, when they saw that He was already dead, they did not break His legs. But one of the soldiers with a spear opened His side, and immediately there came out blood and water." (John xix. 32-34.) Jesus, now beyond the reach of pain, made no movement as this last outrage was inflicted upon Him; the body hung there still and lifeless. But there stood beside the blood-stained cross one whose heart felt the pang which was intended for Him. The virginal heart of His most holy Mother was then in very deed trans-fixed with that sword of sorrow of which Simeon had prophesied many years before. The bright steel which pierced His flesh entered into her soul. Like her divine Son, Mary could say with truth : " It is consummated. I have stood here and seen all the prophecies which related to my Son accomplished to the full, and now they have in wanton cruelty opened wide His sacred heart; but in so doing they have fulfilled another prophecy, which said : 'And they shall look upon Me, whom they have pierced.'" (Zach. xii. 10.)
Let us now examine into some of the reasons why God allowed this last outrage to be perpetrated upon His Son. One of these was, doubtless, to anticipate and refute an objection which would be urged against the divinity of Our Lord. Some unbelievers have maintained that Our Lord did not really die upon the cross, but only swooned away through loss of blood, and was afterward restored by careful treatment. They tried in this clumsy way to account for the resurrection, which Christ always appealed to as the proof of His divine nature and mission. Their blasphemous assertion is, however, rendered not only untenable, but absolutely absurd, by the Roman soldier whose lance pierced the side of Christ, penetrated into His heart, and drew forth that blood and water which make the fact of death indubitable. But although this reason may serve to strengthen our faith, we will pass it over, to dwell more particularly on another, which will appeal more directly to our hearts, and be more productive of spiritual advantage to our souls.
Jesus wished to be stricken and punished, not only externally, but even in the very source of life, in order that He might atone by the rending of His heart for all the evil which proceeds from the heart of man. It is the heart, the camal nature of man, which is the source of the greater part of our sins and errors. By it Holy Scripture understands all those sensible faculties of the soul which men gratify by the criminal indulgence of their flesh. From it, as from a well-spring, there issues forth that stream of iniquity, whose fatal waters Christ spoke of when He said to His apostles: " From the heart come forth evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false testimonies, blasphemies" (Matt. xv. 19) In a word, those things which defile a soul. By suffering His heart to be opened He caused to flow thence a healthful stream, of which we may drink in or-der to purify that source of evil which we carry about within our own breasts. Go frequently to that fountain of life in the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar. Drink deeply of its saving waters, and they will fertilize your barren heart, and make it bring forth virtues which God will crown with glory in heaven.
Another reason why Jesus allowed this wound to be inflicted upon His side, and upon His sacred heart, was to give us a last proof of the boundless generosity of His love. When the soldier's spear had pierced His lifeless body, the eternal Father could call upon us to look at that cross whereon Jesus was hanging, and tell Him if there was anything more He could do to prove to us how much He loved us. There was His only-begotten Son, consubstantial with Himself, eternal, almighty. He had given His blood, and lest we should say that He had made a reserve of it, He was pleased that its very source should be drained. All that He asks in return is, that we should love Him with our poor, weak, human hearts, and give Him, as a proof of that love, our obedience to His divine Son. He does not ask much, and He gives us strength to do even the little He does ask. He nerves us to encounter self-denial, by the sight of His crucified body; and when we are hard pressed by our enemies, we shall ever find a sure refuge and place of rest in the wound of His sacred side. When sorrow wrings our hearts, we can look upon Him, and we shall see that our sorrow is not equal to His. When the world turns against us, and men despise us, or treat us harshly and unjustly, we may look up with confidence to Him on the cross. We can see the gaping wound in His side there is our sanctuary; there our harbor of rest; for over it is written that loving invitation to all the down-trodden, weary wayfarers on earth : " Come unto Me, all you that labor and are heavily burdened, and I will refresh you." (Matt. xi. 8.)
In bringing before us the Sacred Heart of Jesus as an object of devotion, the Church really calls our attention to His immense love, of which this Heart is the seat, and wishes us to think upon what it did for us, in order to re-kindle in our hearts that love for Jesus which, in so many, has become cold. Can we pretend to value the passion of our most loving Redeemer, and not love His Sacred Heart, that Heart which is so inflamed with love for men?
And what are the lessons we are to learn from it? Love is the first lesson. It is the direct and immediate return that is demanded of us. The Sacred Heart tells us of the love of Jesus, and on this account it appeals for the offering of the love of our own hearts. Love always demands a return, and if it gain not that return, it is unsatisfied, and a source of pain to us rather than joy and comfort. The heart is wounded, and it feels the pain of the wound. So the Sacred Heart of Our Lord is always represented as wounded, not only because the spear pierced it, but because the coldness of man pierced it yet more. St. John, who learned the love of our dear Saviour at its very source, argues with us, and says: "Let us, therefore, love God, because God first loved us." (John iv. 19.) The Sacred Heart may certainly use this argument, and surely we cannot allow the appeal to go unanswered.
Generosity and a spirit of sacrifice are to be added to our love: for so the Sacred Heart teaches us. The love of that Heart was certainly not an inactive one; it was not a limited and sentimental love. This Sacred Heart always was, and always continues to be, a holocaust, a whole burnt-offering to the eternal Father, which He accepts from His well-beloved Son. Well may our generous Lord ask us what more He could do for us than He has done through the immensity of His love. Can we dare to ask the same question of Him? We have done so little; we are so ungenerous and timid in His service. We shrink from every sacrifice, and fear to make an effort which costs us the least pain or self-denial. Devotion to the Sacred Heart is a great cure for tepidity. This is a chief cause why the Church wishes to propagate it, be-cause she had already learned from happy experience that they who practise it are roused from indolence and excited to fervor.
Humility and meekness are also taught by this devotion. These were the special lessons our blessed Lord taught us through His Sacred Heart when He said: "Learn of Me, because I am meek and humble of heart." (Matt. xi. 29.) Do our hearts bear any resemblance whatever to His who forgave His enemies, who suffered and died for them, and who gave us an example that we should do for others what His Heart moved Him to do for us? Pride and a want of forbearance with others are the source of that want of brotherly love which prevails so much in the world, and which even in those who pretend to be devout, practical Christians is not unfrequently found to exist.
Zeal for souls is another Iesson of the Sacred Heart. Why did that Heart suffer so much? Not for itself, but for the souls of men. And if we have no sympathy whatever for the spiritual good of others, no desire for the conversion of sinners; if we are unwilling to do any-thing to bring others to share in the spiritual blessings of which, through the immense mercy of God, we are partakers where are our faith and our love? If we hate sin, because of the injury it offers to God, how can we quietly witness its influence over souls, and do nothing to diminish that influence, and to shield the glory of God?
One more lesson we learn from this fertile source of instruction fervor in prayer. How fervent and persevering was the Sacred Heart's prayer in the garden and on the cross and how cold, how short, and how easily interrupted are our prayers! And why so? Because our hearts are so little in our work, and our treasure is else-where. The ejaculation especially addressed to the Sacred Heart, tells us what is the immediate blessing we should ask from it:
O Sacred Heart of Jesus, I implore That I may ever love Thee more and more !
The Church invites us on the Feast of the Sacred Heart: "All ye who seek a secure refuge from your trials and afflictions, all ye who are harassed with remorse of conscience, and crushed to the earth with apprehensions of well-merited punishment, come to the gentle Heart of Jesus. Listen attentively to His gentle invitation : ' All ye who labor and are heavily burdened, come to Me, and I will refresh you.' "