Christ's Vision of the Church's Trials
[From my book The Passion: Reflections on the Suffering and Death of Jesus Christ (Ascension, 2004),
© 2004 by Paul Thigpen]
Jesus answered them, "Take heed that no one leads you astray. For many will come in My name, saying, 'I am the Christ,' and they will lead many astray. … Then they will deliver you up to tribulation, and put you to death; and you will be hated by all nations for My name's sake. And then many will fall away, and betray one another, and hate one another. And many false prophets will arise, and lead many astray. And because wickedness is multiplied, most men's love will grow cold."
Matthew 24:4-5, 9-12
Just how much of the future God the Father allowed Jesus to see in His earthly life, we cannot know for sure. In emptying Himself and taking "the form of a servant" (Philippians 2:7), in His human nature He had voluntarily limited His knowledge of certain things. The Gospel tells us, for example, that the day and hour of Our Lord's return in glory was hidden from Him (Matthew 24:36). Nevertheless, we are assured that He knew ahead of time He would one day be "mocked and scourged and crucified" (Matthew 20:19), and He knew as well that the Church He established would follow in the footsteps of His suffering (Matthew 5:10-12; 10:16-28; 16:24; 24:4-11).
In her vision, Anne Catherine elaborated on this foreknowledge of Our Lord, examining the kinds of temptations He might have endured as a result of it. As we have seen, she portrayed Satan taking advantage of Jesus' prophetic insight by focusing on the loathsome details of His impending personal doom. Yet to no avail. Christ weathered the diabolical tempest, with its screaming challenge: "Are you able to suffer these things?"
But now, because of Jesus' awareness of His Church's future trials, He faced more haunting questions: "If I suffer these things, what good will it do? Will this fallen race turn its back on My gift? Is it worth the price?"
"He Himself knew what was in man" (John 2:25). Our Lord had seen the pride and the envy; the hatred and the rage; the lust for wealth, power, pleasure, and fame. He could offer deliverance from all this to those who would come to Him. But how many would come? And how many would stay?
A succession of new and terrifying visions were presented before Jesus' eyes, and that feeling of doubt and anxiety which someone on the point of making some great sacrifice always experiences, arose in the soul of Our Lord, as He asked himself the tremendous question: "And what good will result from this sacrifice?" Now He beheld all the future sufferings, combats, and wounds of His heavenly Spouse, the Church. In a word, He beheld the ingratitude of men.
The soul of Jesus beheld all the future sufferings of His apostles, disciples, and friends. After this He saw the primitive Church, numbering but few souls in her fold at first, and then in proportion as her numbers increased, disturbed by heresies and schisms breaking out among her children, who repeated the sin of Adam by pride and disobedience. He saw the tepidity, malice, and corruption of an infinite number of Christians, the lies and deceptions of proud teachers, all the sacrileges of wicked priests, the fatal consequences of each sin, and "desolating sacrilege" in the kingdom of God (Matthew 24:15), in the sanctuary of those ungrateful human beings whom He was about to redeem with His blood at the cost of unspeakable sufferings.
The Dolorous Passion
Give me grace, Jesus, to be always grateful for all you have done for me.
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