Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Saint Bonaventure on the Kindness of Christ's Heart

On this Feast of Saint Bonaventure - who was not only one of the greatest theologians of the Middle Ages but also one of the most devoted followers of Saint Francis of Assisi - let's take the opportunity to benefit from his inspired counsel.

Here, from one of his brief treatises "On Holiness of Life," he presents a concrete meditation that deserves the attention of our minds and hearts especially in times of great need.

"If ever anything sad befalls you, or anything grieves you, or...causes you weariness or bitterness of heart," Saint Bonaventure advises, "lift up immediately your eyes to your Lord hanging nailed to the Cross. 

"Look upon Him, His head crowned with thorns! Gaze upon the nails, the iron nails which fasten Him to the Cross, and upon the lance piercing His sacred side. In all trying moments, picture and contemplate the wounds in His hands and feet, picture to yourself the wounds in His most blessed head, the wound in His sacred side, the wounds of His whole body. 

"Call to mind that He was wounded for your sake, that he suffered for you and that His sufferings were so great because He loved you beyond compare."

Bonaventure assures us that turning to the Lord in this way will bring us renewal and strength. Remembering Christ's sufferings and His love for us will "change your sadness into joy. What was heavy to bear will become light. What causes your weariness will become something to love."

The incomparable love of Jesus Christ crucified gives meaning to our sufferings and transforms them. Discovering how greatly we have been loved, how compassionate and complete is God's drawing close to us, will enkindle our love for Him in whatever circumstances we face, whatever burdens we bear. Saint Bonaventure always recalls us to the Cross, where God redeems us, expresses the fathomless depths of His love for us, and raises us up by calling us and empowering us to respond and enter into a relationship with Him.

"Christ accepted these sufferings and death to gain your devoted love. Through thought on these sufferings and out of gratitude, He wishes you to love Him. He desires you to love Him with your whole heart, with your whole mind, and with your whole soul. To save a slave He became a slave. What could prove better His kindness of heart?...  

"In spite of our worthlessness, though we deserve punishment, He laid down His life for us. His kindness reached such depths and such heights that it is impossible to imagine anything more tender, more kind or more lovable. The greatness of His love becomes more evident the more we realize the abject and terrible nature of Christ's sufferings... 

"This is the way God has loved us, and has invited us to love Him and to imitate Him in His love for us."