Meditations for the Novena for Christmas – Dec. 22
The Sorrow that the Ingratitude of Men has caused Jesus.
In propria venit et sui eum non receperunt.
“He came unto His own, and His own received Him not.” – St. John, i. 11.
In these days of the holy Nativity St. Francis of Assisi went about the highways and woods with sighs and tears and inconsolable lamentations. When asked the reason, he answered: How should I not weep when I see that love is not loved! I see a God become, as it were foolish, for the love of man, and man so ungrateful to this God! Now, if this ingratitude of man caused so great a sorrow to the heart of St. Francis, let us consider how much more it must have afflicted the heart of Jesus Christ.
He was hardly conceived in the womb of Mary when lie saw the cruel return he was to receive from man. He had descended from heaven to enkindle the fire of divine love, and this desire alone had brought him down to this earth, to suffer there an abyss of sorrows and ignominies: I am come to cast fire on the earth; and what will I but that it be kindled?1 And then he beheld an abyss of sins which men would commit after having seen so many proofs of his love. It was this, says St. Bernardine of Sienna, which made him feel an infinite sorrow: “And therefore he sorrowed infinitely.”2
Even among us it is an insufferable sorrow for one man to see himself treated with ingratitude by another; for the blessed Simon of Cassia observes that ingratitude often afflicts the soul more than any pain afflicts the body: “Ingratitude often causes more bitter sorrow in the soul than pain causes in the body.”3 What sorrow, then, must our ingratitude have caused to Jesus, who was our God, when he saw that his benefits and his love would be repaid him by offences and injuries! And they repaid Me evil for good, and hatred for My love.4 But even at the present day it seems as if Jesus Christ was going about complaining: I am become a stranger to My brethren.5 For he sees that many neither love nor know him, as if he had not done them any good, nor had suffered anything for love of them. O God, what value do the majority of Christians even now set upon the love of Jesus Christ? Our blessed Redeemer once appeared to the blessed Henry Suso in the form of a pilgrim who went begging from door to door for a lodging, but every one drove him away with insults and injuries. How many, alas! are like those of whom Job speaks: Who said to God, Depart from us. Whereas he had filled their houses with good things.6
We have hitherto united ourselves to these ungrateful wretches; but shall we always be like them? No; for that loving Infant does not deserve it, who came from heaven to suffer and die for us, in order that we might love him.
Affections and Prayers.
Is it, then, true, O my Jesus, that Thou didst descend from heaven to make me love Thee; didst come down to embrace a life of suffering and the death of the cross for my sake, in order that I might welcome Thee into my heart, and yet I have so often driven Thee from me, and said, “Depart from me, Lord;7 go away from me, Lord; for I do not want Thee?” O God, if Thou wert not infinite goodness, and hadst not given Thy life to obtain my pardon. I should not have courage to ask it of Thee; but I feel that Thou Thyself dost offer me peace: Turn ye to me, saith the Lord, and I will turn to you.8 Thou Thyself, whom I have offended, O my Jesus, hast made Thyself my intercessor: He is the propitiation for our sins.9 I will therefore not do Thee this fresh injury of distrusting Thy mercy. I repent with all my soul of having despised Thee, O sovereign Good! receive me into Thy favor for the sake of the blood which Thou hast shed for me: Father, I am not worthy to be called Thy Son.10 No, my Redeemer and my Father, I am no longer worthy to be Thy son, having so often renounced Thy love; but Thou dost make me worthy of Thy merits. I thank Thee, O my Father! I thank Thee and I love Thee. Ah, the thought alone of the patience with which Thou hast borne with me for so many years, and of the favors Thou hast conferred upon me after so many injuries that I have done Thee, ought to make me live constantly on fire with Thy love. Come, then, my Jesus, for I will not drive Thee away any more, come and dwell in my poor heart. I love Thee, and will always love Thee; but do Thou inflame my heart every day more and more by the remembrance of the love Thou hast borne me. O Mary, my Queen and Mother, help me, pray to Jesus for me; make me during the days that are left me in this world live grateful to that God who has loved me so much, even after I have so greatly offended him.