Sunday, December 20, 2015
Sermon by St. Alphonsus Liguouri for the 4th Sunday of Advent

The Savior of the World, Whom, according to the Prediction-of the Prophet Isaiah, Men were One Day to see on this Earth ("and All Flesh shall see the Salvation of God"), has already come. We have not only seen Him conversing-among Men, but we have also seen Him Suffering and Dying for the Love of us. Let us, then, this morning, consider the Love which we Owe to Jesus Christ, at least through Gratitude, for the Love which He bears to us. In the First Point we shall consider the Greatness-of the Love which Jesus Christ has shown us; and in the Second we shall see the Greatness of our Obligations-to Love Him.

You may listen to the audio version here

First Point
On the Great Love which Jesus Christ has shown to us

"Christ", says Saint Augustine, "came on Earth that Men might Know how much God Loves them". He has come, and, to show the Immense Love which this God bears us, He has given Himself entirely to us, by Abandoning Himself to all the Pains of this Life, and afterwards to the Scourges, to the Thorns, and to all the Sorrows and Insults which He Suffered in His Passion, and by offering Himself to Die, Abandoned by all, on the Infamous Tree of the Cross. "Who Loved me, and Delivered Himself for me" - Galations 2:20.

Jesus Christ could Save us without Dying on the Cross, and without Suffering. One (1) Drop of His Blood would be Sufficient-for our Redemption. Even a Prayer, offered-to His Eternal Father, would be Sufficient; because, on-account-of His Divinity, His Prayer would be of Infinite (∞) Value, and would therefore be Sufficient-for the Salvation of the World, and of a Thousand (1000) Worlds. "But", says Saint Chrysostom, or another Ancient Author, "what was Sufficient for Redemption, was not Sufficient for Love". To show how much He Loved us, He Wished to shed not only a Part-of His Blood, but the Entire of it, by Dint-of Torrents. This may be Inferred-from the Words which He used on the Night before His Death: "This is My Blood of the New Testament, which shall be Shed for many" - Matthew 26:28.

The Words shall be Shed show that in His Passion, the Blood of Jesus Christ was Poured-forth, even to the Last Drop. Hence, when after Death, His Side was opened-with a Spear, Blood and Water came-forth, as if what then flowed, was All that remained-of His Blood. Jesus Christ, then, though He could Save us without Suffering, Wished-to embrace a Life of Continual Pain, and to Suffer the Cruel and Ignominious Death of the Cross. "He humbled Himself, becoming Obedient unto Death, even to the Death of the Cross" - Philippians 2:8.

"Greater Love than this no Man hath, that a Man lay down his Life for his Friends" - John 15:13. To show His Love for us, what more could the Son of God do, than Die for us? What more can One (1) Man do for Another, than give his Life for him? "Greater Love than this, no Man hath". Tell me, my Brother, if One of your Servants - if the Vilest Man on this Earth, had done for you what Jesus Christ has done, in Dying through Pain on a Cross, could you remember his Love for you, and not Love him?

Saint Francis of Assisi appeared to be unable to think of anything but the Passion of Jesus Christ; and thinking of it, he continually Shed Tears, so that by his Constant Weeping, he became nearly Blind. Being found one day, Weeping and Groaning at the Foot of the Crucifix, he was asked the Cause-of his Tears and Lamentations. He replied: "I Weep over the Sorrows and Ignominies of my Lord. And what makes me Weep still more, is that the Men for whom He has Suffered so much, Live in Forgetfulness of Him".

O Christian, should a Doubt ever enter your Mind, that Jesus Christ Loves you, Raise your Eyes and look-at Him, hanging-on the Cross. Ah! says Saint Thomas of Villanova, the Cross to-which He is Nailed, the 'Internal' and 'External' Sorrows which He endures, and the Cruel Death which He Suffers for you, are Convincing Proofs of the Love which He bears you. "Testis crux, testes dolores, testis amara mors quam pro te sustinuit". Do you not, says Saint Bernard, hear the Voice-of that Cross, and of those Wounds, crying-out to make you feel that He Truly Loves you? "Clamat crux, clamat vulnus, quod vere dilexit".

Saint Paul says that the Love which Jesus Christ has shown, in Condescending-to Suffer so much for our Salvation, should Excite us to His Love, more Powerfully than the Scourging, the Crowning with Thorns, the Painful Journey-to Calvary, the Agony of Three (3) Hours on the Cross, the Buffets, the Spitting in His Face, and all the other Injuries which the Savior endured. According to the Apostle, the Love which Jesus has shown us, not only Obliges, but in a certain manner 'Forces' and 'Constrains' us, to Love a God Who has Loved so much. "For the Charity of Christ presseth us" - 2Corinthians 5:14. On this 'Text', Saint Francis de Sales says: "We Know that Jesus, the True God, has Loved us so as to Suffer Death, and even Death on the Cross, for our Salvation. Does not such Love, put our Hearts, as it were, under a Press, to Force from them Love, by a Violence which is Stronger in proportion as it is more Amiable?".

So Great was the Love that Inflamed the Enamored Heart of Jesus, that He not only Wished to Die for our Redemption, but during His Whole Life, He Sighed Ardently for the Day on which He should Suffer Death, for the Love of us. Hence, during His Life, Jesus used to say: "I have a Baptism wherewith I am to be Baptized: and how am I Straitened (stressed), until it be accomplished?" - Luke 12:50. In My Passion, I am to be Baptized with the Baptism of My Own Blood, to Wash-away the Sins of Men. "And how am I Straitened?". How, says Saint Ambrose, explaining this 'Passage', am I Straitened (stressed) by the Desire of the Speedy Arrival of the Day of My Death. Hence, on the Night before His Passion He said: "With Desire I have Desired to eat this Pasch with you, before I Suffer" - Luke 22:15.

"We have", says Saint Lawrence Justinian, "seen Wisdom become Foolish, through the Excess of Love". We have, he says, seen the Son of God become, as it were, a Fool, through the Excessive Love which He bore-to Men. Such, too, was the Language of the Gentiles, when they heard the Apostles Preaching that Jesus Christ, Suffered Death for the Love of Men. "But we", says Saint Paul, " Preach Christ Crucified, unto the Jews indeed a Stumbling Block, and unto the Gentiles, Foolishness" - 1Corinthians 1:23. Who, they exclaimed, can Believe that a God, most-Happy in Himself, and Who stands in Need-of no one, should take Human Flesh and Die for the Love of Men, who are His Creatures? This would be to Believe that a God became Foolish, for the Love of Men. "It appears Folly", says Saint Gregory, "that the Author of Life should Die for Men". But, whatever Infidels may 'Say' or 'Think', it is of Faith that the Son of God has Shed all His Blood, for the Love of us, to Wash-away the Sins of our Souls. "Who hath Loved us, and Washed us from our Sins, in His Own Blood" - Revelation 1:5. Hence, the Saints were Struck Dumb with Astonishment, at the consideration-of the Love of Jesus Christ. At the Sight-of the Crucifix, Saint Francis of Paul could do nothing but exclaim, O Love! O Love! O Love!

"Having Loved His Own, who were in the World, He Loved them unto the End" - John 13:1. This Loving God was not content-with showing us His Love by Dying on the Cross for our Salvation; but, at the End of His Life, He Wished-to leave us His Own Flesh, for the Food of our Souls, that thus, He might Unite (1) Himself entirely to us. "Take ye, and eat. This is My Body" - Matthew 26:26. But of this Gift, and this Excess-of Love, we shall speak at another Time, in Treating-of the most Holy Sacrament of the Altar. Let us pass-to the Second Point.

Second Point
On the Greatness of our Obligation to Love Jesus Christ

He who Loves, Wishes to-be Loved. "When", says Saint Bernard, "God Loves, He Desires nothing else than to be Loved". The Redeemer said: "I am come to Cast Fire on the Earth; and what Will I, but that it be Kindled?" - Luke 12:49. I, says Jesus Christ, came on Earth, to Light-up the Fire-of Divine Love in the Hearts of Men, "What Will I, but that it be Kindled?". God Wishes nothing else from us, than to be Loved. Hence the Holy Church Prays in the Following Words: "We Beseech Thee, O Lord, that the Spirit may Inflame us with the Fire which Jesus Christ cast upon the Earth, and which He vehemently Wished to be Kindled". Ah! what have not the Saints, Inflamed-with this Fire, accomplished! They have Abandoned all things - Delights, Honors, the Purple and the Sceptre - that they might Burn with this Holy Fire. But you will ask what are you to do, that you too may be Inflamed-with the Love of Jesus Christ. Imitate David: "In my Meditation, a Fire shall Flame out" - Psalm 38:4. Meditation is the Blessed Furnace, in which the Holy Fire of Divine Love is Kindled. Make Mental Prayer every Day, Meditate on the Passion of Jesus Christ, and Doubt-not, but you too shall Burn-with this Blessed Flame.

Saint Paul says, that Jesus Christ Died for us to make Himself the Master of the Hearts of All. "To this End, Christ Died and Rose again; that He might be Lord both of the Dead and of the Living" - Romans 14:9. He Wished, says the Apostle, to give His Life for All Men, without a Single Exception, that not even One (1) should live any longer for himself, but that all might live only to that God, Who condescended-to Die for them. "And Christ Died for All; that they also who Live, may not now Live to themselves, but unto Him Who Died for them" - 2Corinthians 5:15.

Ah! to correspond-to the Love of this God, it would be necessary that another God should Die for him, as Jesus Christ Died for us. O Ingratitude of Men! A God has condescended-to give His Life for their Salvation, and they will not even think on what He has done for them! Ah! if each of you thought frequently of the Redeemer, and on the Love which He has shown us in His Passion, how could you but Love Him with your Whole Hearts? To him who sees with a Lively Faith, the Son of God suspended by Three (3) Nails on the Infamous Gibbet, every Wound of Jesus 'Speaks' and 'Says': "Thou shalt Love the Lord thy God". Love, O Man, thy Lord and thy God, Who has Loved thee so Intensely. Who can resist such Tender Expressions! "The Wounds of Jesus Christ", says Saint Bonaventure, "Wound the Hardest Hearts, and Inflame Frozen Souls".

"Oh! if you knew the Mystery of the Cross!", said Saint Andrew the Apostle to the Tyrant by whom he was Tempted to Deny Jesus Christ. O Tyrant, if you knew the Love which your Savior has shown you, by Dying on the Cross, for your Salvation; instead of Tempting me, you would Abandon all the Goods of this Earth, to give yourself to the Love of Jesus Christ.

I conclude, my most Beloved Brethren, by Recommending you henceforth to Meditate Every Day on the Passion of Jesus Christ. I shall be Content, if you Daily devote to this Meditation, a Quarter of an Hour. Let each, at least procure a Crucifix: let him keep it in his Room, and from time-to-time give a Glance at it saying: Ah! my Jesus, Thou hast Died for me, and I do not Love Thee! Had a Person Suffered-for a Friend, Injuries, Buffets, and Prisons, he would be Greatly Pleased to find that they were 'Remembered' and 'Spoken-of', with Gratitude. But, he should be Greatly Displeased, if the Friend, for whom they had been Borne, were Unwilling to 'Think' or 'Hear-of' his Sufferings. Thus Frequent Meditation on His Passion is very Pleasing-to our Redeemer; but the Neglect of it, greatly-provokes His Displeasure. Oh! how Great will be the Consolation which we shall receive in our Last Moments, from the Sorrows and Death of Jesus Christ, if during Life, we shall have Frequently Meditated on them, with Love! Let us not wait till others, at the Hour of Death, place in our hands, the Crucifix; let us not wait till they Remind us of all that Jesus Christ Suffered for us.

Let us during Life, embrace Jesus Christ Crucified; let us keep ourselves always United with Him. He who practices Devotion to the Passion of Our Lord, cannot but be Devoted to the Dolors of Mary, the Remembrance of which, will be to us a Source-of Great Consolation, at the Hour of Death. Oh! how 'Profitable' and 'Sweet', the Meditation of Jesus on the Cross. Oh! how Happy the Death of him, who Dies in the Embrace-of Jesus Crucified, accepting Death with Cheerfulness, for the Love of that God, Who has Died for the Love of us.

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