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THE TENTH CHAPTER.
Jesus goeth to meet His Enemies.
Our Lord Jesus, knowing that Judas, His betrayer, had come, surrounded by a devilish crowd of wicked men who were thirsting for His Blood, and who had come with exceeding cruelty to take Him, as if He had been a thief, with lanterns, and swords, and cords, and with a great noise of arms, like an innocent Lamb, with great affection and burning love went forth to meet them, saying: “Whom seek ye?”
Consider now, O my soul, with thy inward eyes, the immense love of thy Saviour; see how above measure He thirsteth to redeem thee. Look how His Heart is boiling over within Him for exceeding burning love. O sweet Jesus, the only comfort of my heart, where is now the fear, which a little before had come upon Thee? Where now are Thy deep groans? Where now are Thy trembling limbs? Where now is Thy great horror of death? While as yet Thine enemies were far from Thee, Thou wert sorrowful even unto death, and in Thy cruel straits Thou didst sweat blood, and Thou didst pray that the Passion that was hanging over Thee might be 85taken from Thee by Thy Father; but now that Thine enemies are before Thine eyes, roaring like lions, and raging like mad dogs to shed Thine innocent Blood, Thou fearest nothing, Thou tremblest at nothing, and all fear hath gone far from Thee. Thy betrayer hath come with a crowd of blood-thirsty men, cruel wolves; and of Thine own free will Thou goest forth to meet them. What doth this mean, O gracious Jesus, except that perfect love hath cast out fear?
Oh! how perfectly hast Thou gone out of Thyself, O loving Jesus! How well hast Thou prepared a place for Thy heavenly Father, in order that He may accomplish within Thee His own most gracious work according to His will. Oh! how Thou hast spared Thyself in nothing! With what burning thirst hast Thou sought after Thy Father’s honour! How mightily hast Thou conquered Thyself through love, being made obedient even unto death! O Jesus, sweet Lover of men, what love is this that hath so swallowed up Thy Heart, that Thou hastenest to death as to a marriage feast, that Thou goest forth to meet Thine enemies, as if they were Thy friends! Thou couldst not even wait till they addressed Thee, but even as a man saluteth his friends, whom he meeteth on the way, so didst Thou address them first, and say: “Whom seek ye?” Oh! of a truth, most 86gracious Jesus, the fire of love had so worked its way within Thee, and melted, and burnt away the marrow of Thy Soul, that all Thy inner man blessed God the Father Almighty, and all Thy members were stretched like a bow to accomplish Thy Father’s gracious will. For Thy uncreated love as God so moved and kindled Thy created love, that Thou wert wholly ready to satisfy that love in all that it required. Hence it was that in Thy thirst Thou didst seize the chalice, from which but a little before Thou didst so greatly shrink; and quickened by love, as a fearless giant, Thou rejoicest to run the way of our salvation.
O most gracious Lord, who is there that would not be inflamed by love like this? Who am I, and Who art Thou, that Thou, the Lord of lords, Thou, the Ruler of heaven and earth, shouldst offer Thyself to such a shameful death, and into the very hands of Thy cruel enemies, for me who am but a poor vile worm of earth; and that Thou shouldst receive him who betrayed Thee as if he were Thy brother? No, not even from Judas, that ungrateful dog, didst Thou turn away, O well-spring of unexhaustible mercy, even when he blushed not to seek a kiss from Thy sacred mouth; but Thou didst gently place that sweet and loving mouth of Thine, in which there was no guile, against 87that foul mouth of his, overflowing, though it was, with malice. Oh! the incomprehensible gentleness, the wonderful lovingkindness, the unutterable lowliness, the measureless goodness of the Master towards His cruel servant! Of a truth, Lord, it were better for that man if he had never been born! O sweet Jesus, so continual was Thy goodness, that Thou didst show him all the kindness that Thou couldst, in order, if possible, to soften his heart of stone. With kindly, friendly words Thou spakest to him, and saidst: “Friend, why camest thou hither?” As if Thou wouldst say: “Have I deserved this of thee, O Judas? Did I sin against thee, in washing thy feet, in bending My knees to thee, in refreshing thee with My Body and Blood? Friend, wherefore hast thou come? Dost thou hold Me of less value than thirty pieces of silver? Why hast thou turned away from Me, Who honoured thee by the title of apostle, Who brought thee up in delights, and taught thee with all loving care, as My own son? Why hast thou forsaken Me, the well of living water, and joined thyself to the servants of the devil? Why hath thy heart gone after avarice, and why hast thou left Me, the highest and Eternal Good, and sold Me for a poor wretched price, although I have within Me the hidden treasures of wisdom and knowledge, and I enrich and 88fill both heaven and earth? Friend, wherefore hast thou come? Turn and look into thine own self, I pray thee, go down a little into thyself, come back to thine own heart, and see the depth to which thou hast fallen; observe what thou hast done. Even now My grace is open to thee; only come back with sorrow unto Me, and I will receive thee.”
Who can restrain his tears, when he considereth Christ’s unutterable kindness to His betrayer? Who, after this, shall dare to lose hope of God’s mercy? O sweetest Jesus, if Thou hast been so faithful, and loving, and kind to the traitor, and the enemy, Thy wicked and unfaithful servant, and hast so laboured to call him back to Thee, and save him, what, therefore, wilt Thou do to Thy dear friends, who seek, and love, and thirst after Thee with their whole life? Of a truth, Thou art no respecter of persons, nor dost Thou desire the death and destruction of the wicked, but rather that they should be turned from their wickedness, and live. For Thou hast embraced all men in Thy Heart, nor dost Thou cast away any man from Thee, save those alone, who by their own free but evil will, and hardness in sin, depart from Thee. Oh! how grieved was our gentle Saviour, that His own disciple should treacherously betray Him with a kiss! Bitterly enough He complaineth of 89this by the prophet, when He saith: “If Mine enemy had spoken evil against Me, I would indeed have borne it, but that thou, the man of My peace, My friend and disciple, in whom I hoped, and who sattest at meat with Me, shouldst magnify treachery against Me, and sell Me for a vile sum of money, and deliver Me to death! O Judas, wherefore hast thou come? Dost thou betray the Son of Man with a kiss?”
But now return awhile to thyself, O my soul, and see, I beseech thee, how impatient, how cruel and greedy of vengeance thou art. By a single word thou art moved to anger, to reproachful words, and to avenge thyself. Truly Christ did not disdain to speak to His betrayer, and to call him friend, and to sweetly kiss him. Oh! how many times I pass by my neighbour, thinking it beneath me to speak to him, and by such disdain or contempt provoke him to hatred, and thus I lose his soul when I might have softened him by a friendly look or kind word, and moved him to love.
But Christ addressed also His other enemies with friendly words, and said: “Whom seek ye?” They answered Him: “Jesus of Nazareth.” Jesus said to them: “I am He.” And when He had said this, they went backwards, and fell upon the ground. Here Augustine crieth out: “‘I am He,’ by this one word, expressive of 90His hidden Godhead, without a weapon of any kind, He struck down, drove back, laid low so great a multitude that had come out against Him, fierce in wrath, and terrible in arms, for God lay hidden in the flesh. What will He do when He cometh to judge the world, who doeth this when He is about to be judged Himself? What will He do when He shall reign, who could do this when He was about to die?” So far Augustine. After this sign He gave them again power to rise, and raised them, as it were, from death; and a second time He said: “Whom seek ye?” They said unto Him: “Jesus of Nazareth.” Jesus answered: “I have told you that I am He.” Hearken, O my soul, to this sweet word of thy Saviour. He Who a little before had laid them low upon the ground by one word of His power, by the same word now graciously delivereth Himself over to death, saying: “I have told you that I am He;” as if He would say: “I am ready to fulfil My Father’s will, and to offer Myself a living victim to My Father’s honour and glory, for the salvation of men. I am ready now, not only to bear all the sins of the world, but also to undergo the penalties which are due to them, and to blot out that old hand-writing of their cruel enemy in My own Blood, and to redeem man from eternal death. Your High Priest spoke truly when he prophesied, 91that one man must needs die for the people, that the whole nation perish not. I am that Man; I am that innocent Lamb, ready to be offered for the sins of My people. Therefore it is, that now I give Myself into your hands. Often, indeed, have ye desired both to take and to kill Me, but My hour had not yet come. Now that hour is come, and the power of darkness. Glut now your thirst, and your rage against Me. I am He Whom ye seek; I am ready to bear whatever ye can think of to do against Me. Take Me, seize Me, bind Me, lead Me to death itself; but suffer these to go their way. No power hath been given you over My disciples; only against Me have ye power to rage.
O unutterable love! Oh! of a truth Thou art the good Shepherd. See, how He loved His little flock even to the end, placing Himself between them and the teeth of these ravenous wolves. How willingly He suffered Himself to be mangled, and torn, and killed, that the sheep of His little fold might go unhurt. Then with great fierceness did they take Him, and like mad dogs, fastened their cruel fangs upon this innocent Lamb.92
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