January 18, 2019

The Sixth Saturday: The First Sorrowful Mystery - The Agony in the Garden (Jesus sweats blood as He takes on our sin)

Gospel Readings

MEDITATION

1. Consider, my soul, how our divine Saviour, after washing his disciples’ feet, after instituting in their presence the Sacrament of his Body and Blood, and after speaking most tender and sublime words to them, went with them into the garden of Gethsemane on the Mount of Olives, to be more easily found by his enemies.

And He said to them: “Sit here, while I go yonder and pray… Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation” (Mt 26:36 and 41).

Spontaneously He offered himself to the fulfilment of the Eternal Father’s command, for He himself desired it; and He fulfilled it in such a way that his Passion might both satisfy divine justice and inspire us to love him. Here then is the reason for his sorrow: love.

Jesus “began to be sorrowful and troubled” (Mt 26:37).

This loving Son wanted not only to sacrifice his whole body, but his entire soul too, with its powers; indeed, he wanted to begin the sacrifice of Redemption with this nobler part of his Humanity. Consequently, before his enemies appeared, He deprived his holy Humanity of the support it was receiving from the Divinity. And so, at the very moment that He disclosed all that it had to undergo, He reduced it to suffer the agony of a mortal man.

All the torments He was about to undergo in his body were then presented to his soul: the scourging, the thorns, the nails, the cross, the bile and vinegar; the soul’s torments, Judas’ betrayal, the disciples’ shameful flight, Peter’s apostasy, the slander of the priests, the injustice of the judges, the soldiers’ cruelty, the ignominies of his person, contempt for his teachings and miracles, the triumph of his enemies, the blasphemies of the rogues, the abandonment of God on the Cross and the anguishing sight of his sorrowful Mother! Immediately, therefore, fear and fatigue, disgust and bitterness, dejection and sorrow took possession of his soul, to such a degree as to threaten his life. He then said to them: “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death” (Mt 26:38).

O troubled Heart of my beloved Redeemer, how is it that You have come to such desolation? Who has prematurely forced upon you death’s horrors and fears? This torment, the first of your Passion, was without doubt the most violent, for it wrung from you a prayer beseeching your Father to remove such a cup from you. “He fell on his face and prayed, ‘My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me’”. However, You immediately added: “Nevertheless, not as I will, but as thou wilt” (Mt 26:39).

Observe, my soul: your Jesus turns to his disciples for comfort and finds them dejected because of his distress.

“And he came to the disciples and found them sleeping; and he said to Peter, ‘So, could you not watch with me one hour? Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation; the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.’ Again, for the second time, he went away and prayed, ‘My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, thy will be done.’” (Mt 26:40-42).

And He did so for a third time. And his sorrow increased greatly, till seeming more the agony of a dying man than the ordinary pain of a man suffering. “And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly” (Lk 22:44).

The contrast that then appeared between the lower part of his soul full of repugnance, and the upper part full of submission, caused him to sweat blood so abundantly that He not only wet his clothing but also the ground where He was praying.

In this way He who defends everyone gave way to despair: in this way He who comforts everyone was distressed. And in this way the royal Prophet’s words were fulfilled: “I looked for pity, but there was none; and for comforters, but I found none” (Psalm 68:20).

O my most suffering Saviour, shall you thus gain my love? By taking on the same weakness and misery of man? In order to become the true comforter and faithful companion of the afflicted?

Oh how many splendid teachings You offer me in this Mystery!

2. My soul, four were the causes of your Jesus’ mortal sorrow, as He himself revealed to Blessed Battista Varani.

1st. The damnation of so many souls, notwithstanding his most bitter death. “Consider, my daughter,” Jesus said to Blessed Battista, “what sorrow and martyrdom were mine in seeing that so many members were being cut off from me, and so many souls that were to be damned! And each time a soul sins mortally, it is cut off from me.”

The innumerable and almost infinite multitude of the world’s sins were therefore distinctly present to his spirit, as well as a clear vision of divine Majesty being offended by so many crimes, rendered even graver by contempt of his love. Very few people would have profited by that remedy prepared from his love for all.

His only consolation was perfect compliance with his Father’s immutable decrees, who wanted him to suffer even for those who would not profit in the least from such suffering.

2nd. The sins and the sorrows of all the elect. “All the members of the elect who would have mortally sinned” said most benign Jesus “afflicted and crucified me by their separation from me.”

“Yet again, I felt and experienced all their bitterness, torments, repentance, temptations, the shame of their lives and even the sufferings of their Purgatory, as the very members of my body.”

3rd. The Most Holy Virgin, his Mother, whom He loved with an infinite love; his dear and beloved disciples and apostles, whom He loved more than a father loves his children; and the disciple Magdalene who, though she knew less about Jesus than John, nevertheless suffered his Passion and Death more than all the rest.

4th. The ingratitude both of the Jewish people, so blessed and favoured by God with a thousand miracles, as well as that of his dear disciple, Judas the betrayer. Jesus had knelt before this betrayer and washed his feet, and had embraced and kissed them as well with the greatest tenderness, speaking the warmest words of ineffable love. Finally, the ingratitude of all his creatures who, worse than Judas, would have betrayed him with their vile pleasures and even viler interests.

O Lord, how great a share I have had in causing your sorrow! How deeply my sins and transgressions, my infidelity and cowardice, were to pierce your purest and innocent heart! Unhappy creature that I am! Shall I never be the cause of joy and consolation to you? How different are the causes of my suffering in the world than those causing you this mortal sorrow!

O grieving Heart of my God, with this sorrow and sweat of blood you longed to expiate the foolish confidence of the wicked, and the senseless tranquility with which so many sinners slumber in sin, fearing not the least the surprise of sudden and eternal death. You longed to expiate the merriment, relish, pleasures and desires of life, those hopes to which I abandon myself even when they are contrary to your law.

You longed to repair the false contradictions of my heart and those confessions lacking inner sorrow.

You longed to sanctify in me and in everyone these same passions of sadness, fear, boredom, disgust and melancholy, which I experience along my spiritual path. You longed to comfort me whenever I suffer, and offer me the grace to bear my sorrow with patience, submission and joy.

You longed to fortify me, as You have fortified so many Martyrs in their struggle with death, and inspire me to repent, just as you have inspired so many other faithful souls to exercise themselves in harsh penance. How sweet, good and compassionate is your love! O sweetest Heart of Jesus, how I thank you for having so greatly suffered!...

3. My soul, your Saviour wanted to undergo this extreme suffering that you may come to learn the value of repentance regarding the senses, and the humiliations and contradictions of self-love; moreover, to teach you that no one shall ever be judged by the weakness of the flesh formed from mud, but according to the obedience of the will, a thing so pleasing to God.

In truth, He suffered mortal sorrow; however, it was in proportion to his strength in order to convince you that God, who distributes the sorrows of this life as He pleases, will never allow that your afflictions be beyond your strength.

In his very self He wanted to show you two opposing wills: one, human weakness, which flees suffering and seeks pleasure; the other, compliance with God’s will. This He wanted so that the Christian may not believe himself to be God’s enemy, though the flesh rebels against the spirit and yearns after its delights; and may be persuaded that nature is not at all harmful to the inner man, as long as he remains faithful to God’s law with all his will.

The Angel came down from heaven to comfort Jesus Christ, not because He lacked the strength necessary to combat the weakness of human nature, but to teach all those who suffer that their only comfort and strength come from heaven, and that God does not forsake us in our afflictions; indeed, where there are tribulations, there God is.

Finally, the Son prayed to his Father, though He knew that He was not to be exempted from suffering, in order to teach us, my soul, this most essential truth: that divine help does not consist in freeing you from the tribulations He visits upon you, but in helping you to bear them with humble submission and full conformity to his designs, forever united with him through love.

***

VIRTUE – Submission.

REFLECTION – From the break of day prepare to join your will to that of God in all things, both favourable as well as contrary. Throughout the day often repeat the short prayer of the Imitation of Christ: “O Lord, deal with me as thou wilt, for thy servant is ready to obey thee”. The practice of this prayer is a most efficacious way to reach the most sublime levels of perfection.

EJACULATION – O Mary, mirror of patience, You alone are my help in my temptations.

* * * * * * * * * *

A READING
A FAVOUR OF THE VIRGIN OF THE ROSARY OF POMPEII

IN CAPRIA favour obtained through the devotion of the Fifteen Saturdays.

The following report of a favour, confirmed by the doctor’s certificate, was published in IL ROSARIO E LA NUOVA POMPEI, in the issue of September, 1887, on page 556.

In July of 1886 Mrs. Cherubina Licorio of Capri, after various ailments, found out that she had a tumour in her abdomen. The doctors Masotina, Rispoli and Fischetti, declared that a very daring and extremely difficult operation was necessary in order to avoid certain death. Upon hearing this sentence the poor woman fell into a most pitiful state of mind; together with her dear sister whom she tenderly loved, she did nothing but cry and pray from morning till evening.

Meanwhile Mrs. Annunziata Fischetti, when she came to know about the case of her friend Mrs. Licorio, hastened to carry the book of the Fifteen Saturdays of the Rosary to her, printed in the Valley of Pompeii and mailed out by the same Shrine.

Mrs. Licorio, heartened and comforted in her faith by reading the book, immediately began this pious practice, which was to end in the month of November. She prayed with faith, and waited. However, considering herself unworthy of a miracle, she did not wish to renounce all the human means and the efficacy that God, the author of science, had given to human science.

Consequently, as soon as she heard that a specialist in such ailments was living in Florence, she set out for this city to be operated by this same specialist. But she wished to be operated only on a Saturday so that the Virgin of Pompeii would support her in this very difficult operation, and grant her a successful outcome.

The compassionate Queen of Pompeii, who does not allow herself to be outdone in generosity by her children, and most abundantly rewards those who honour her with the practice of the Fifteen Saturdays of her Rosary, wanted to distinguish that day with a stupendous miracle.

It was the morning of November 22nd, 1886, and Mrs. Cherubina Licorio was doing the last of the Fifteen Saturdays in Florence; on the same morning she presented herself to the doctor to be operated.

Oh miraculous grace! The tumour had completely disappeared!...

Mrs. Licorio desired that this favour be published for the greater glory and honour of the Most Blessed Virgin of Pompeii.

Dr. Fischetti was most willing to add his certificate and testimonial, which reported the nature of the illness and the recovery which took place without the foreseen operation.

* * * * *

IN PERUGIA: Mrs. Ester Boccioli

Mrs. Ester Boccioli of Perugia, owing to a fall, suffered a dislocated arm which was not immediately put back in place by the doctors; consequently the bone remained outside its socket and the malaise of the poor woman was deemed incurable.

After six months of pain and the impossibility to do work of any kind, she thought of turning to the Virgin of Pompeii through the devotion of the Fifteen Saturdays.

She began this pious practice on August 24th of 1889. Four days later, knowing not how, she found that her arm had returned to place, and was completely free in its movements!

Mrs. Aldina Brugnali, Mrs. Teresa Boccioli and Mrs. Anna Bagnolini and Luigia Bagnolini were witnesses of the extraordinary event.

(From IL ROSARIO E LA NUOVA POMPEI, Year V, 1889).