We present a selection from a sermon of John Henry Cardinal Newman on our Lord’s agony in Gethsemane. Stick with it to the end. –ed. (Discourses for Mixed Congregations: Mental Sufferings of Our Lord).
Are these the hands of the Immaculate Lamb of God, once innocent, but now red with ten thousand barbarous deeds of blood? Are these His lips, not uttering prayer, and praise, and holy blessings, but as defiled with oaths, and blasphemies, and doctrines of devils? Or His eyes, profaned as they are by all the evil visions and idolatrous fascinations for which men have abandoned their adorable Creator?
And His ears, they ring with sounds of revelry and strife; and His Heart is frozen with avarice, and cruelty, and unbelief; and His very memory is laden with every sin which has been committed since the fall, in all the regions of the earth, with the pride of the old giants, and the lusts of the five cities, and the obduracy of Egypt, and the ambition of Babel, and the ingratitude and scorn of Israel.
Who does not know the misery of a haunting thought which comes again and again, in spite of rejection, to annoy, if it cannot seduce? Or of some odious and sickening imagination in no sense one’s own, but forced upon the mind from without? Or of evil knowledge, gained with or without a man’s fault; but which he would give a great price to be rid of once and forever?
And adversaries such as these gather around our Blessed Lord in millions now; they come in troops more numerous than the locust and palmer-worm, or the plagues of hail, and flies, and frogs which were sent against Pharoah. Of the living and of the dead, and of the as yet unborn, of the lost and of the saved, of His people or of strangers, of sinners and of saints, all sins are there.
[…] It is the long history of a world, and God alone can bear the load of it. Hopes blighted, vows broken, lights quenched, warnings scorned, opportunities lost, the innocent betrayed, the young hardened, the penitent relapsing, the just overcome, the aged failing; the sophistry of misbelief, the willfulness of passion, the obduracy of pride, the tyranny of habit, the canker of remorse, the wasting fever of care, the anguish of shame, the pining of disappointment, the sickness of despair, such cruel, such pitiable spectacles, such heart-rending, revolting, detestable, maddening scenes.
Nay, the haggard faces, the convulsed lips, the flushed cheek, the hard brow of the willing slaves of evil, they are all before Him now; they are upon Him and in Him. They are with Him instead of the ineffable peace which has inhabited His soul since the moment of His conception. They are upon Him, they are all His own; He cries to His Father as if He were the criminal, not the Victim; His agony takes the form of guilt and compunction.
He is doing penance, He is making confession, He is exercising contrition, with a reality and a virtue infinitely greater than that of all the saints and penitents together. For He is the one Victim for us all, the sole Satisfaction, the real Penitent.
All but the real sinner.
March 10, 2021