There is nothing more crucifying to nature in our fulfillment of the duties of the spiritual life than perseverance amidst the trials which are incidental to it. Of this long-suffering, our Lord affords us an admirable example in His life at Nazareth.
In His infinite love for us, He would first bear in His own Heart the sufferings through which we should have to pass in striving after the attainment of sanctity. Hence, as Holy Writ warns us, we are not to think of Him as One who cannot have compassion on our infirmities, but rather as One who, above all others, is able to have compassion, "because He Himself also was compassed with infirmity. (Hebrews 5:2) That is to say, although no rebellion could actually enter into His most Holy Soul, because in it was found no concupiscence; nevertheless, through the excess of His love for us, He would experience suffering similar to that we have to endure in the trials and combats to which our souls are exposed.
It was not alone in Gethsemane that our Lord passed through the struggle of an inward agony. The long years of His Hidden Life, could we penetrate the veil, would but disclose much the same experience. We should not, indeed, behold Him prostrate beneath the olive-trees, and bathed in a sweat of blood. We should see Him, on the contrary, occupied in His accustomed toil, His countenance expressive of that tranquillity which ever reigned in His Heart, however great might be the sufferings that were rending it. But in reality the chalice was no less present to Him at Nazareth, and the answer, Fiat voluntas tua, proceeded from a Heart that felt its burden even then. He was bearing within Himself the experience of suffering and struggling humanity, in order that none might hereafter say, He had laid on them a burden of which He had not Himself borne the weight; and in these long weary inward sufferings He was likewise meriting for us the grace to resist temptation faithfully, and to endure patiently to the end.
There are trials peculiar to every state. Those of the Heart of Jesus in His Hidden Life are remarkably useful for souls tried by temptation, inasmuch as it is the duration of suffering, and the absence of change in its form, which constitute for human nature its sharpest crucifixion. Now these two features are the prominent characteristics of our Lord's Life at Nazareth. Year by year followed the round of the same state of abjection, the same monotonous labour, the same privations, the same sorrows ever pressing on His Heart, the same restraint upon that zeal which was consuming Him, together with all the numberless trials to be expected in the Human Nature He had assumed, and in the lowly state which He had chosen. Nevertheless, in the midst of all. His Soul was tranquil and unchanging in its purpose of enduring to the end, of persevering in that life of inward crucifixion, of annihilation, and of trial, until the same will which bade Him continue to support it, should decree for Him another sphere of action.
Let us gather fruit for ourselves from the ineffable consolation of these words: "He hath borne our infirmities and carried our sorrows." In our struggles between good and evil, in our temptations, in our restless impatience beneath protracted trials, - long seasons of aridity, of apparent uselessness, of humiliation - in a word, the continued succession of miseries to which we are liable, let us animate ourselves with the thought that the Heart of Jesus has borne this trial first, has tasted its bitterness, has measured its weight, and has, in suffering it, merited for us the grace to support it faithfully, as long as He wills it should remain with us. Let us turn our eyes towards Jesus of Nazareth, patient, long-suffering, tried indeed in the sensitive part of His Soul, that He might share our miseries, and by His own experience have compassion on our infirmities, but yet ever presenting to us the example of His Sacred Heart, contented to suffer, without the shadow of a desire to shorten, by one moment, the duration of its pain.
Let us not picture to ourselves our Blessed Lord as One insensible to the painful burdens He had to support. Not to speak of numerous instances in His Public Life, the words that fell from His sacred lips in Gethsemane and on Calvary reveal the contrary. True indeed it is, that between His two Natures there could be no struggle, no strife; nevertheless, within the sensitive part of His Soul, He suffered in such a manner as to render Him no stranger to pangs, akin to those which souls endure amidst the struggles of temptation. Were we to suppose it otherwise, we should deprive ourselves of a most fertile source of consolation in the midst of the sharpest and bitterest sufferings of our interior life, and should lose our greatest support in enduring them.
There is another consideration full of utility, as well as consolation, for apostolic souls, with reference to the continued duration of the inward sufferings of our Lord, in His Hidden Life. It is that by these sufferings He merited grace for the tempted. Hence, we may not only draw comfort for ourselves, in contem- plating the interior agonies which our Lord condescended to endure for our sakes, but we may also learn from the manner in which He endured them, to be faithful when under temptation, for the sake of others also. We may and ought to endure in an apostolic spirit, temptation, as well as every other form of suffering. Let us then ask our Lord to accept, as a prayer for those who are under strong temptation, the anguish we must suffer in the endurance of our own temptations, and in that resistance and struggle which fidelity necessitates. Were we animated with this spirit, we should have courage to crush the human spirit rising within us, and tempting us to sins of pride, of anger, and of impatience, and to every other movement that rebels against the Spirit of God.
They who suffer thus will merit to see one day the fruit of their fidelity, the reward of that generosity wherewith "their soul hath laboured," as Sacred Writ expresses it, and this fruit will be the "long lived seed" of souls whom they have helped to save by their patient and persevering endurance under their own trials. (Isaias 53:10,11) Let us ask the Heart of Jesus of Nazareth to give us the grace of fidelity and longanimity in the midst of our interior trials and temptations.
- text taken from the 1906 edition of ; it has the Imprimatur if Bishop John Baptist Butt, Diocese of Southwark, England, 5 February 1890