Sermon given by Father Pancras Raja on March 29th, 2020
“They took up stones to cast at him. But Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple.” (Jn. 8: 58)
The entire life of Jesus Christ was a proof of his divinity. He gave sight to the blind, gave hearing to the deaf, gave speech to the dumb; he cured the lame, healed the diseased, drove out the devils and raised the dead to life! And He repeatedly told the Jews that he was the Son of God. “Amen, amen, I say to you, before Abraham was made, I am.” The Jews, aroused to violence over the rebuking words of Jesus, took this as a chance – and sought to kill him by stoning Him!. Thus, the gospel of today shows us – how great and how “long continued” the hatred of the Jews for Our Lord was. The very hatred of mankind was used by God for the sufferings of The Son of God as remission for the sins of mankind!
During this Passion Week, therefore, let us meditate on the “Suffering Servant” of God.
Who was it that suffered for us? What he suffered? And Why he suffered?
1 Who was it that suffered for us?
The creator suffered for the creatures! Holiness suffered for unholiness! When we suffer it is on account of our sins, for which we deserve to suffer. It is furthermore a great privilege to be able to atone for our misdeeds by means of sufferings. But Jesus Christ was sinless, whose challenging claim of sinlessness: “which of you shall convince me of sin” could not be answered by his enemies; He suffered only for us (Lk. 23: 41) – though he did not deserve suffering.
2 What He suffered?
What He suffered was so great that the mere thought of it in anticipation caused a sweat of blood! Our Lord suffered torture in every part of his body. All ranks and conditions of men contributed to His sufferings! His agony was increased by the nature of His sufferings and by the delicacy of His body. And his mental sufferings were extreme!
3 Why He suffered?
The reasons for Our Lord’s passion were:
(1) To deliver us from sin, from the tyranny of Satan and from the debt of punishment.
(2) To reconcile us to God, and to reopen for us the gates of heaven.
(3) To make for us a satisfaction full and complete and most acceptable to God.
(4) To leave us by His passion an illustrious example of practicing every virtue through the sufferings in the world.
To redeem mankind from the state of sin it was not absolutely necessary that Almighty God should have sent His only begotten Son into this miserable word to suffer and to die. He could have saved us by a mere act of His all-powerful will. But in order to show us how much He loved us, at what great price He held us, and in order to give us a divine example which we could imitate He sent us His Only Son!
From the bitter passion and death of the Godman we should learn the enormity of sin. As Christ freely suffered for us, so should we patiently bear our crosses for Him: “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross. And follow me.” Mt. 16: 24)
The Jewish blindness and hatred
To help us meditate better the passion of Christ, today’s gospel puts before us a sad picture of the Jewish blindness of heart and a picture of hatred! When our lord asked: “which of you will convict me of sin?” not one of them could dare take up the challenge. And yet they would not accept his message that he was the Son of God and the suffering Messiah who came to save the world.
The Jewish blindness and hated which made Our Lord to hide himself – is today signified by the veiling of the crucifix and the statues to remain until Good Friday. But the more the blindness and hatred made Our Lord hid himself under the veil, the more we should concentrate on his passion and its meaning!
Veiled, though the cross is, in these days, it reveals more than it does, unveiled! When we look at it with the eye of the soul, it reveals more of the mystery of SIN; it preaches, perhaps more clearly, of forgiveness and hope!
And therefore, this veiling of the cross must make us unveil the curtains of our soul and see our sins as they truly are!
Now is the time, “the Passion Tide” to think of the malice and ingratitude of mortal sin. Now is the time to resolve to get rid of all our sinful habits! Now is the time to go to make a general confession than we have ever made before. But Some of us say: “We commit this sin and that sin not to lose God, but to enjoy this pleasure, to possess that property of another, or to take revenge of an enemy. They do not understand:
The malice of mortal sin.
Mortal sin is a great contempt shown to God; and is a great offence offered to God.
1 Mortal sin is a great contempt shown to God. St. Thomas Aquinas asserted, that the malice of mortal sin is, as it were, infinite: (Par. 3, q. 2, a. 2, ad. 2.) And St. Augustine calls mortal sin an infinite evil. Hence Hell and a thousand Hells are not enough chastisement for a single mortal sin. A man, when he sins, says to God: Lord, I know that thou dost command me, but I will not obey; thou dost command me to pardon such an injury, but I will resent it; thou dost command me to give up the property of others, but I will retain it; thou dost wish that I should abstain from such a forbidden pleasure, but I will indulge in it.
A tyrant placed before St. Clement a heap of gold, of silver, and of gems; and promised to give them to the holy martyr if he would renounce the faith of Christ. The saint heaved a sigh of sorrow at the sight of the blindness of that tyrant, who put earthly riches in comparison with God. But many sinners exchange the divine grace for things of far less value; they seek after certain miserable goods, and abandon God who is an infinite good, and who alone can make them happy.
When King Jeroboam rebelled against God, he endeavoured to make the people imitate him in the adoration of idols. He one day placed the idols before them, and said: “Behold thy gods, O Israel!” (3 Kings xii. 28.) The Devil acts in a similar manner towards sinners: he places before them such a gratification and says: Make this your God. Behold! this pleasure, this money, this revenge is your God: adhere to these, and forsake the Lord. When the sinner consents to sin, he abandons his Creator, and in his heart adores as his god the pleasure which he indulges.
2 Mortal sin is a great offence offered to God. When the soul consents to mortal sin she ungratefully says to God: Depart from me. “The wicked have said to God: Depart from us.” (Job xxi. 14.) Sinners, as St. Gregory observes, say the same, not in words, but by their conduct. And through the very door by which God departs from the soul, the Devil enters to take possession of her. When the priest baptizes an infant, he commands the demons to depart from the soul: “Go out from him, unclean spirits, and make room for the Holy Ghost.” But when a Christian consent to mortal sin, he says to God: Depart from me; make room for the Devil, whom I wish to serve.
According to St. Bernard, they who willfully violate the divine law, seek to deprive God of life in proportion to the malice of their will (Ser. iii. de Res.) Sinners know that the moment they consent to mortal sin, God condemns them to Hell. As often, then, as you committed mortal sin, you would, if it were possible, have caused God to die of sorrow; because you knew that by sin you insulted him and turned your back upon him, after He had given all his blood and his life for your salvation.
Let our prayers and meditation on the passion of our Lord, make us obtain hatred of mortal sin all our life. Jesus Christ has sanctified this season of passion and blessed it for our true conversion and for making reparation. Let us take our share now when Jesus veils hid divinity under his sufferings, so that we may share in the Easter joy when the glory of Jesus will be unveiled!