Passion of Christ and Beauty of the Cross

The following is an excerpt from the Marian Press book 52 Weeks with St. Faustina by Donna-Marie Cooper O’Boyle:

“When I see Jesus tormented, my heart is torn to pieces, and I think: what will become of sinners if they do not take advantage of the Passion of Jesus: In His Passion, I see a whole sea of mercy.”
Diary, 948

It might be difficult to meditate upon the bloody wounds and the other sorrows and sufferings of Christ. After all, the human heart tends to recoil from suffering. In addition, pondering what Jesus suffered for love of us can make us very sad. Sister Faustina deeply loved her Lord Jesus and often meditated upon His Passion. In fact, Jesus asked her to do so. How might this practice be a benefit to our souls? Let’s delve into this incredible topic and learn the secrets of Jesus’ Passion in this week’s spiritual exercise!

WEEK 41

The young mystic recorded in her Diary, “Jesus told me that I please Him best by meditating on His sorrowful Passion, and by such meditation much light falls upon my soul” (Diary, 267). Jesus told His little bride, “There are few souls who contemplate My Passion with true feeling; I give great graces to souls who meditate devoutly on My Passion” (Diary, 737).

Jesus told Sr. Faustina, “There is more merit to one hour of meditation on My sorrowful Passion than there is to a whole year of flagellation that draws blood; the contemplation of My painful wounds is of great profit to you, and it brings Me great joy” (Diary, 369). Jesus wants us to also meditate on His Passion. He said, “Remember My Passion, and if you do not believe My words, at least believe My wounds” (Diary, 379). In her Diary, Sr. Faustina recalled seeing Jesus during His Passion and how it caused her to hate sin and to experience fear for sinners who might not take advantage of God’s great mercy. She wrote,

Today, during the Passion Service, I saw Jesus being tortured and crowned with thorns and holding a reed in His hand. Jesus was silent as the soldiers were bustling about, vying with each other in torturing Him. Jesus said nothing, but just looked at me, and in that gaze I felt His pain, so terrible that we have not the faintest idea of how much He suffered for us before He was crucified. My soul was filled with pain and longing; in my soul, I felt great hatred for sin, and even the smallest infidelity on my part seemed to me like a huge mountain for which I must expiate by mortification and penance. When I see Jesus tormented, my heart is torn to pieces, and I think: what will become of sinners if they do not take advantage of the Passion of Jesus: In His Passion, I see a whole sea of mercy (Diary, 948).

Sister Faustina Experienced Jesus’ Agony and Brought Him Great Solace

Earlier, we discussed that during a Holy Hour, Sr. Faustina shared her experience of seeing Jesus suffering at the scourging and how upsetting it was to her to see such agony and parts of Jesus’ flesh coming off! She also warned “poor sinners” that, on the day of judgment, they would face “the Jesus” that they have tortured “so cruelly” (Diary, 188). Another time at adoration, Jesus told Sr. Faustina that He suffered for sins of impurity when He was scourged at the pillar. She recalled her experience with Him. “I saw the Lord Jesus tied to a pillar, stripped of His clothes, and the scourging began immediately. I saw four men who took turns at striking the Lord with scourges.” She could barely stand watching it happen before her eyes. “My heart almost stopped at the sight of these tortures. The Lord said to me, ‘I suffer even greater pain than that which you see.’ And Jesus gave me to know for what sins He subjected Himself to the scourging: these are sins of impurity. Oh, how dreadful was Jesus’ moral suffering during the scourging!”

Jesus then told Sr. Faustina to “[l]ook and see the human race in its present condition.” Sister Faustina watched in horror, for she saw that the executioners left Jesus, and other people began to scourge Jesus mercilessly. She recalled in her Diary, “These were lay people of all ages and walks of life. All vented their malice on the innocent Jesus.” Sister Faustina expressed that seeing it play before her eyes caused her heart to fall “as if into a mortal agony.” Jesus was silent when the executioners scourged Him. However, she said, “Jesus closed His eyes, and a soft but most painful moan escaped from His heart” when the other people that she mentioned scourged Him. She added, “And Jesus gave me to know in detail the gravity of the malice of these ungrateful souls.” Jesus told her, “You see, this is a torture greater than My death.” Sister Faustina fell silent. She began to experience Jesus’ agony and death. She wrote, “I felt that no one would comfort me or snatch me from that state but the One who had put me into it.” Just then, Jesus said to her, “I see the sincere pain of your heart which brought great solace to My Heart. See and take comfort” (Diary, 445). Jesus then explained to Sr. Faustina, “Those who are like Me in the pain and contempt they suffer will be like Me also in glory.” And those who resemble Jesus less “in pain and contempt will also bear less resemblance to Me in glory” (Diary, 446).

One time, the Lord came to Sr. Faustina hanging on the Cross. The young mystic observed His sacred blood flowing from all His wounds. Jesus said to her, “All this is for the salvation of souls. Consider well, My daughter, what you are doing for their salvation.” Sister Faustina lamented that she felt she was doing “next to nothing.” Jesus reassured her, “Know, my daughter, that your silent, day-to-day martyrdom in complete submission to My will ushers many souls into heaven. And when it seems to you that your suffering exceeds your strength contemplate My wounds, and you will rise above human scorn and judgment. Meditation on My Passion will help you rise above all things” (Diary, 1184). Sister Faustina then understood many things she hadn’t understood before.

In Our Own Lives
When sufferings unfold in our own lives, we might want to run from the Cross. Yet our Lord calls us to deny ourselves, pick up our crosses, and follow Him. He will help us through our afflictions: As our Divine Physician, He knows exactly what we need and when we need it. We can also recall that St. Paul wrote, “For this slight momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all measure, because we look not at what can be seen but at what cannot be seen; for what can be seen is temporary, but what cannot be seen is eternal” (2 Cor 4:17-18). Many times, our affliction feels anything but “slight” or “momentary,” but we must trust God and recognize that there is a great purpose to our suffering. Indeed, it can become redemptive when it is united to Jesus’ Passion and Crucifixion.

In 1 Peter 4:12-13, we are told, “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that is taking place among you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you are sharing Christ’s sufferings, so that you may also be glad and shout with joy when his glory is revealed.” It is a privilege to share in Jesus’ sufferings. As Christians, we shouldn’t be surprised to suffer. Rather, we should have joy in our hearts and pray for the graces we need in order to be transformed and grow closer to Jesus.

“Infinite Value” in Redemptive Suffering

Suffering will always be a heavy burden, but when lovingly accepted and offered to God, it can become lighter as it works miracles in our souls and the souls of others. Jesus asked Sr. Faustina to help Him to save souls. He said, “Help Me, My daughter, to save souls. Join your sufferings to My Passion and offer them to the heavenly Father for sinners” (Diary, 1032). Another time, He said, “My daughter, meditate frequently on the sufferings which I have undergone for your sake, and then nothing of what you suffer for Me will seem great to you. You please me most when you meditate on My Sorrowful Passion. Join your little sufferings to My Sorrowful Passion, so that they may have infinite value before My Majesty” (Diary, 1512). That’s what Jesus desires from us, as well. By doing what He requests, we will not waste our sufferings, but rather, by God’s grace, we will provide “infinite value” before God!

In my spiritual memoir, I speak about the value of redemptive suffering and Jesus’ “kiss.” The reason I titled my book The Kiss of Jesus was that my dear friend Mother Teresa told me that I had come so close to Jesus on the Cross in my suffering that He could kiss me. Imagine that! I am still unpacking the full meaning of her words as my life unfolds. I’d like to share an excerpt from two of the letters Mother Teresa wrote to me, which I also shared in my memoir. The humble, petite hero of the poorest of the poor wrote, “Jesus loves you and though He is the Lord of all — He cannot interfere with the gift of free will He has given man. Jesus shares His love with you and shares His suffering and pain. He is a God of love and does not want His children to suffer, but when you accept your pain, suffering, death, and resurrection your pain becomes redemptive for yourself and for others ...

Be assured of my prayers. Christ calls us to be one with Him in love through unconditional surrender to His plan for us. Let us allow Jesus to use us without consulting us by taking what He gives and giving what He takes ... .” Another time, Mother Teresa wrote to me, “If we pray, it will be easy for us to accept suffering. In all our lives suffering has to come. Suffering is the sharing in the Passion of Christ. Suffering is the kiss of Jesus, a sign that you have come so close to Jesus on the Cross that He can kiss you. Do offer some of your sufferings for us and our people ... .”

Saint Faustina’s Redemptive Illnesses and Silent Sufferings
It wasn’t long after the young sister entered religious life that she was afflicted with many physical ailments. She suffered from exhaustion, consumption, and asthma (which might have been the beginning of her tuberculosis). Consumption is an older term for tuberculosis, a condition that “consumes” the body, a potentially fatal wasting disease. Typical symptoms include night sweats, chills, a paroxysmal cough, and a wasting away of the body as the disease spreads to various organs. We can observe in later photos of Sr. Faustina that she is pale and her eyes and cheekbones are sunken, showing the progression of her grave illness.

As the years went on, Sr. Faustina began to experience more and more suffering by way of sickness. She was in and out of hospitals and transferred here and there due to deteriorating health. The last five months of her life were spent in the same hospital until she came home to the convent in Krakow where she would finally close her eyes on this world. We will discuss that more later on.

But, for now, let us consider that even throughout painful sicknesses, Sr. Faustina never lost her burning zeal for her mission of spreading the Divine Mercy message and devotion. Even as her health deteriorated, she continued to focus on starting a new order, which she believed Jesus was calling her to do. As bad as she felt, the ailing nun smiled and remained cheerful.

One time Jesus told His bride, “You often call Me your Master. This is pleasing to My Heart; but do not forget, My disciple, that you are a disciple of a crucified Master. Let that one word be enough for you. You know what is contained in the cross” (Diary, 1513). Sister Faustina endeavored to do just that.

Throughout her illnesses, Sr. Faustina suffered much from the physical ravages of the disease upon her body, but also from the seeming lack of concern from her fellow sisters. She wrote about some of these experiences in her Diary. One time, she said, “At such times, God Himself comes to our rescue, for otherwise the soul would not be able to bear these crosses of which I haven’t even begun to write” (Diary, 1511). She certainly did not dwell on these times of difficulty, but did give us a few good clues as to the type of suffering she endured.

Sister Faustina mentions her long illnesses and the fact that, after some time, other people tended to become accustomed to them, and less willing to help. She wrote about how a soul can be like Job when losing friends who don’t seem to care and who bring suffering rather than comfort, which as she wrote, “is an occasion of a good deal of suffering.” She continued, “And so the soul, like Job, is alone; but fortunately, it is not alone, because Jesus-Host is with it.” 

Sister Faustina said that after a whole night of bitter suffering, she could barely control herself when Fr. Theodor, the chaplain, brought her Holy Communion. She recalled, “I had to control myself by sheer effort of will to keep from crying out at the top of my voice, ‘Welcome, my true and only Friend!” She punctuated her recollection with some poignant words: “Holy Communion gives me strength to suffer and fight” (Diary, 1509).

In another instance, when explaining “silent sufferings,” Sr. Faustina wrote, “When God gives neither death nor health, and [when] this lasts for many years, people become accustomed to this and consider the person as not being ill. Then there begins a whole series of silent sufferings. Only God knows how many sacrifices the soul makes” (Diary, 1509). This was her personal experience. It would have been hard enough to experience debilitating illnesses, but on top of that, Sr. Faustina was often not believed and not lovingly cared for by some of those around her.

Mother Mary Tells us to Fix our Gaze on her Son’s Passion

Let’s take a quick look at some blessed advice from the Queen of Heaven. The Blessed Mother has always been fully united to her Son’s mission in the redemption of souls. It would be difficult to fully understand the pain she had endured while at the foot of the Cross, knowing that her Son had been abandoned by those that He served and that He had been mercilessly tortured, and then watching Him suffer an extremely cruel death. Yet we should know that Mother Mary was also keenly aware of the unspeakable power and victory in Jesus’ Passion and Death on the Cross — that His suffering was not in vain, because His holy Death brought great hope to our world. As the Catechism states, “Jesus atoned for our faults and made satisfaction for our sins to the Father” (CCC, 615).

On August 5, 1935, the Feast of Our Lady of Mercy, Sr. Faustina was going through an interior struggle and turned to the Blessed Virgin Mary in prayer. Suddenly, during Mass, Mary appeared to Sr. Faustina, “unspeakably beautiful.” The Blessed Mother left the altar to come to the young mystic’s kneeler. Sister Faustina recalled that Mary “held me close to herself.” The Blessed Mother let Sr. Faustina know that she was pleasing to her because she “faithfully carries out the will of God” and “had found favor in His eyes.” Mary then gave instruction to her daughter. “Be courageous. Do not fear apparent obstacles, but fi your gaze upon the Passion of My Son, and in this way, you will be victorious” (Diary, 449).

Something to Ponder

Take Jesus’ words to heart: “There is more merit to one hour of meditation on My sorrowful Passion than there is to a whole year of flagellation that draws blood; the contemplation of My painful wounds is of great profit to you, and it brings Me great joy” (Diary, 369). Once we’ve welcomed these words into our hearts, we can work at carving out more time daily to think about the Passion of Jesus. Even little aspirations lifted from your heart will please Him and can help atone for sin. Jesus wants us to meditate on His Passion, as He reminded His bride, Sr. Faustina: “Remember My Passion, and if you do not believe My words, at least believe My wounds” (Diary, 379). Mother Mary encouraged Sr. Faustina to fix her gaze upon Her Son’s Passion. Take time this week to ponder Jesus’ sacred wounds. Consider meditating on each wound in turn (each hand, each foot, and His side) during each of the five decades of the Divine Mercy Chaplet. Remember that Jesus told St. Faustina to let that one word (“crucified”) be enough. He said, “You know what is contained in the cross.” Endeavor to learn what Jesus means.

A Merciful Action 
With regard to His Passion, Jesus told Sr. Faustina, “All this is for the salvation of souls. Consider well, My daughter, what you are doing for their salvation.” What are we doing? Are we going out of our way to reach out to others who need His mercy? Pray and carry out meaningful works of mercy this week. Pray to unite yourself with Jesus’ Passion, and pray that those you serve will be granted graces according to God’s holy will.

A PRAYER OF MERCY FOR THIS WEEK
(To be prayed each day this week.)
Dear Merciful Jesus, I am embarrassed and very sorry for all of my sins, and I ask forgiveness for having hurt You by sinning.
In return for my ingratitude,
You have suffered and died for me.
Please help me to turn away from even
the slightest sin and grow closer to You. Please help me to fix my gaze upon Your Passion. Mother Mary and St. Faustina, please pray for me. Jesus, I trust in You!
Amen.
 

You can order 52 Weeks with St. Faustina by Donna-Marie Cooper O’Boyle here:

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Photo by Mateus Campos Felipe on Unsplash

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