"I judge not myself to know anything among you but Jesus Christ, and Him crucified" (I Cor. 2. 2).
What does all our knowledge, all our science amount to, if we do not know Jesus Christ? We may be well versed in poetry and literature, in mathematics, in philosophy, in the fine arts, in politics and the science of government, but if we lack the knowledge of Jesus Christ crucified, we are like travelers without light, without means of conveyance, like pupils without a competent teacher. No study is more necessary to us than that of Jesus crucified. If we know Him, we know all it behooves us to know. The great apostle possessed a thorough knowledge of this all-important science, and labored with all his might to impart it to all mankind. By His ministry Jesus Christ is our Saviour, and by His conduct He is our Model. Therefore we should, first lovingly hope in Him, and secondly, imitate Him.
I. JESUS CHRIST is OUR SAVIOUR, OUR REDEEMER.
He alone deserves this title, for, says St. Peter, "there is no salvation in any other" (Acts 4. 12). He became our Redeemer, first, by making superabundant satisfaction for our sins and thereby freeing us from the slavery of Satan. Adam and his posterity had, through his sin, lost the divine grace and friendship and all right to heaven. Not even all creatures combined could have sufficiently atoned for that sin, or for any other sin. The only-begotten Son of God, infinitely holy and perfect, infinitely beloved by the Father, undertook to atone for the sins of the human race. Loving men, as it were, to excess, He took their punishment upon Himself. He assumed a body and soul like ours, was born, wept, labored and preached, underwent persecution; was betrayed into the power of His enemies, arrested, was struck and bruised, underwent unjust trials, was fearfully scourged, loaded with insults and mockery, abandoned by all, and even by His heavenly Father; and after shedding all His blood, He died the cruel and ignominious death of the cross, thereby appeasing the heavenly Father's wrath against mankind, expiating all their sins, subduing the powers of hell and opening heaven to men. Had Jesus Christ been only God, He could not have suffered all this; had He been merely man, all His sufferings and His death would have proved an insufficient atonement for the sins of men. What a terrible evil must sin be, since it required so great an atonement! The boundless humiliations and horrible sufferings of the Son of God made man tell us the infinite love God bears us, since "He did not spare even His own Son, but delivered Him for us" (Rom. 8. 32), as well as the infinite love of the Son of God for us in taking our sins upon Himself and expiating them at such a cost to Himself !
Secondly, Jesus Christ became our Redeemer by deserving for us the precious graces of salvation. "The law was given by Moses; grace and truth came by Jesus Christ" (John i. 17). We are all inclined to evil, and there is no crime so great, so abominable which we would not commit, were we not restrained by divine grace. Jesus Christ, by His passion and death, obtained for us all the graces we need to overcome temptation, the assaults of the world, of Satan and of our own passions, to bear every cross and trial, every suffering, to overcome every obstacle to our salvation, to practise even the most difficult acts of virtue and to sanctify ourselves by leading a holy life, so much so, that St. Paul declares: "Where sin abounded, grace abounded still more" (Rom. 5. 20); so much so that the greatest sinners can, by the graces Jesus has gained, be come great saints. "I can do all things in Him who strengtheneth me." (Phil. 4. 13). The power of the sacraments, of prayer and of the other means of salvation, is derived entirely from the merits of Jesus Christ's passion and death.
Thirdly, Jesus Christ became our Redeemer, our Saviour by deserving heaven for us. Every one in heaven will enjoy perfect happiness according to his capacity, for Jesus Christ says : "In My Father s house there are many mansions. ... I go to prepare a place for you. ... I will come again to take you to Myself, that, where I am, you also may be" (John 14. 2, 3). Jesus Christ, although He is now in heaven, still performs the office of our High Priest, of our Advocate and Mediator, of our loving Father. By His Passion and death He acquired for us a right to heaven and its unspeakable happiness. This is another testimony of His love for us, since He wishes us to be where He is and to share His happiness and glory. How ardently, then, we should love Him and confide in Him! "Happy is the people whose God is the Lord" (Ps. 143. 15). Happy are we, if we lovingly trust in Him, but more happy still if we take;
II. JESUS CHRIST AS OUR MODEL.
All Christians are bound under pain of eternal damnation to imitate Jesus Christ as their Model. St. Paul expressly declares, that only those are saved who are "conformable to the image of the Son of God"; (Rom. 8. 29).
It behooves us, then, to imitate His charity, full of patience, meekness, compassion and zeal for our neighbor, His modesty, purity, love of prayer, His patience, His obedience and resignation to the divine will, and to practice self-denial and carry our cross after Him. The sources of sin in the world are, says the beloved disciple, "the concupiscence of the flesh, the concupiscence of the eyes and the pride of life"; (i John 2. 16). The conduct of Jesus Christ will teach us how to combat these sources of sin.
I. In the first place, the poverty practised by Jesus Christ teaches us contempt for mere worldly riches. We are destined to possess God Himself. By sin we lost God, but not our desire for perfect happiness. Men mostly seek this happiness in the acquisition, the accumulation and in the enjoyment of worldly goods. Our divine Saviour, how ever, on becoming man, chose a mother poor in this world's goods, a poverty-stricken place for his birth, a life of labor in poverty, and died bereft of every earthly possession. "The example of Jesus Christ,"; says St. Augustine, "is for us the most efficacious medicine for the cure of our attachment to earthly goods ; the avarice, or undue seeking of wealth which cannot be healed by the example and consideration of Christ s poverty, is simply incurable. "His example teaches the poor to be contented with their poverty for His sake, for "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven" (Matt. 5. 3).
2. Jesus Christ, by His humility teaches us the flight of worldly honors. He was humble in His Incarnation, in choosing a poor Virgin as His Mother, and a stable in an obscure town as His birth-place, in working as a poor carpenter, in allowing the devil to tempt Him, in His sufferings and ignominious death. Hence He says to us: "Learn of Me" not to create the world, to perform wonders or raise the dead to life, but "because I am meek and humble of heart" (Matt. n. 29). Hence St. Augustine says: "What can heal our pride, if the humility of Christ fails to do it?"
3. Jesus Christ by His sufferings condemns our sensuality and love of pleasure. (Enumerate here His hardships, labors and sufferings from His birth to His death.) "What can heal our sensuality and yearning after good cheer and pleasure, if the sufferings and austere life of Jesus Christ fail to do it?" "Christ," says the Prince of the apostles," died for us, leaving you an example, that you may follow His footsteps" (i Pet. 2. 21). On judgment day we shall all appear in presence of the poor, humble and suffering Jesus! Woe to us, if our life "is not found conformable to His! We shall be asked to show our charity and zeal towards our neighbor, our purity, our humility, obedience, detachment from worldly goods, honors and pleasures, our self-denial, meekness and patience, our for giveness of injuries. The blood He shed, His death, His infinite merits will not avail us, if we do not imitate Him, as was prescribed to us: "Look and make according to the pattern shown you in the mount" (Exod. 25. 40). To us He said: "I am the way, the truth and the life" (John 14. 6).
Let us be true Christians, true disciples and followers of Jesus Christ. Let us love Him alone, and not the world nor its riches, honors and pleasures, for what has the world done for us, and what can it give us, when this life is over? Let us love and imitate Jesus Christ, our God, our Redeemer, our Benefactor who has suffered and died for us, and who alone can make us happy here and hereafter. Let us be ready to sacrifice all for His sake and thus become worthy of forever sharing His happiness and glory in heaven. Amen.
Source: Sermon Matters, Imprimatur 1897