“The measure of love is to love without measure.” -St. Augustine
In her enthralling book, In My Own Words, Mother Teresa recounts an incident. A woman suffering from AIDS confided in her: “Mother, when I can hardly stand my headaches, I share it with the pain Jesus must have suffered because of the crown of thorns. When the pain moves to the back, I share it with the pain Jesus must have felt when the soldiers gave Him lashes. When my hands hurt I share that pain that Jesus felt when He was crucified.” That was the measure of love one woman had for her crucified Savior. She knew that He loved her not because she was trying to be good, but because He loved without measure. Archbishop Desmond Tutu puts it succintly: “We are loved not because we are good. We are good because we are loved.”
The Gospel writers often make the statement: He died for us. Those words have lost their meaning because we no more reflect on them. It happened 2000 years ago; now, it is not relevant to our daily lifes. We concern ourselves with other things and lose our sense of gratitude to Him who gave His all, loving us without measure.
If only we stopped to think, we would discover that His dying for us was the greatest act of love in history. Let us consider the implication: Jesus is God, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, Son of the Eternal Father. He need not have become man and suffered for us. But He chose to suffer to redeem us from the wages of sin; an act of unmatched love for an enormous cause. It is the cause and not merely the death that makes the martyr. And, He chose the most ghastly death in becoming a martyr for humankind. For a moment, let us picture a master choosing to give up his life for his slave. Laudable! We would praise the master and hold him up as a model; the slave would find no words to thank his master. A billion times more significant is Jesus’ death. Yet, do we thank Him enough? His love remains unrequited!
In the Gospels we read of the passion and death of Jesus – the condemnation, the scourging, the crowning with thorns, the carrying of His cross and the brutal crucifixion. Much of what He suffered on the night before His death remains unknown to us. Sister Mary Magdalene ardently desired to learn of His secret sufferings. Jesus fulfilled her wish by revealing to her the fifteen secret torments that dehumanized Him. “They considered me as the most wretched man living on earth”, Jesus said in a deeply sad voice. That is why they struck Him with stones (imagine soliers doing that), and burnt Him with blazing embers and torches. They tied Him to a post and made Him stand, barefoot, on an incandescent metal sheet. They poured on His wounds liquid lead and resin and forced Him on to a chair that had nails sticking out. They found twelve other ways to brutalise Him, revelling in torture that their saddism devised. Did He protest or resist? No, He suffered meekly because of what was at stake – the cause. But, He did lament: “I looked for one that would comfort me, and I found none”. (The devotion to the fifteen secret torments of Jesus has been approved and recommended by Pope Clement II, 1730-1740.)
Why would a man choose to suffer such inhuman punishment? What would prompt him to be reduced to a mass of flesh and blood? Only love. We hear and read of sacrifices made by parents for their children, of spouses for each other, of friends for one another. But they all pale in comparison with the excruciating pain and horrific suffering Jesus took upon Himself to redeem us.
So, the next time we read the words – He died for us – let us stop to ponder the sufferings of the Lord and His love without measure; loving even the unlovable. Then the story Mother Teresa told would be purposeful. That woman offered her pain to her suffering Master – to be one with Him in His pain. Following her example, can we resolve to perform two acts of love: 1) Try not to make much of our discomforts and pain. In perspective, they appear to be no more than pinpricks. 2) Offer that pain – of mind and body – to Jesus, recalling His passion and death? When we have done that our pain would be sublimated and sanctified.
During a drought a tree drives its roots deeper into the soil to find water, so too sufferings push us beyond self-reliance to reliance on God. When we rely on God we shall harvest joy from the field of pain. Another lesson will quickly follow: that pain comes not to obstruct, but to instruct us. In such a state our faith will be confirmed, hope fortified, charity inflamed, and grace infused! Enriched, we will discover that before we are used greatly, we have to be wounded deeply – when God turns our wounds into badges of honor.
Ignatius Fernandez is the Author of the blog: http://thechildisfatheroftheman.blogspot.in/