All Day (Monday)
Meditations for Lent By: Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet Courtesy of Sophia Institute Press Week 1: Monday I Was Hungry and You Fed Me Lord Jesus, my life and my hope, I place myself in your holy presence,
Meditations for Lent
By: Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet
Courtesy of Sophia Institute Press
Week 1: Monday
I Was Hungry and You Fed Me
Lord Jesus, my life and my hope, I place myself in your holy presence, to see and to consider in your light, in faith and in perpetual recognition of your goodness, how you yourself bore our misery and infirmity to the point of being able to say, “I was hungry, I was thirsty, I was naked, a prisoner, sick,” in the person of all those who have had to suffer such woes.
What brought you to bear our burdens, O Jesus, was the love that led you to take on our nature, and not to take it on immortal and healthy, as you had originally made it, but to take it on as sin and your justice had made it — mortal, infirm, and poor — because you wished to carry our sin. You wished to bear our sin on the Cross as an innocent victim, and you wished to bear it throughout your life, the “Lamb who takes away the sin of the world” (cf. John 1:29). You took away our sin by carrying it yourself. But you are the Holy of holies, “anointed with the oil of gladness above your fellows” (cf. Ps. 45:7) and bearing the name of Christ. This oil by which you are anointed and sanctified is the divinity that is united to your holy soul and unstained body. Being the true Holy One of God and thus unable join us in our iniquity or the stain of our sin, you carried only its just punishment, that is, our mortality and all that follows from it. In this way you became sensible to our woes, a compassionate high priest who had experienced them himself. For, as your apostle said, “He had to be made like his brethren in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make expiation for the sins of the people” (Heb. 2:17).
May you be forever praised, O great High Priest, for you have taken pity on our suffering, and not as the happy have pity on those who suffer, but as the unhappy have pity on one another, through the understanding of their common misery. For it was your pleasure to be reckoned among those the world calls wretched and to be seen as one with “no form or comeliness,” to be “despised and rejected by men,” in a word, “a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief” (Isa. 53:2-3). Having experienced all of the suffering that attends our sinful nature, you are “able to sympathize with our weaknesses” (cf. Heb. 4:15). Although you did not suffer any of the particular illnesses by which we are so frequently put on trial, you bore hunger, thirst, weakness, and all the other common maladies of our nature. You also bore anxiety, fear, danger, and distress: the most terrible of our woes. And you bore wounds that cut your holy body into pieces.
You have yourself felt the greatest, the most terrifying, and the most sorrowful infirmities to which our poor human nature is heir. This is why you have compassion upon all our woes, even including our illnesses, and you never cured the sick or raised the dead or healed the infirm without first being moved by pity. Thus you cried before you raised Lazarus. Thus you multiplied the loaves for the people who were “harassed and helpless” (Matt. 9:36). And on a similar occasion you said, “I have compassion on the crowd, because they have been with me now three days, and have nothing to eat; and I am unwilling to send them away hungry, lest they faint on the way” (Matt. 15:32). The blind men, who knew how sensible you were of their suffering, cried aloud to you, “Have mercy on us, Son of David!” You heard their voices and, touched by compassion, placed your merciful hand upon their lightless eyes, and they received their sight (Matt. 20:30-34). And you wept over the coming woes of Jerusalem (Luke 19:41). It was this tender and compassionate heart, this heart moved by pity, that solicited your all-powerful arm in favor of those whose sufferings you saw. In this way, your compassion was the source of your miracles, which is what led your evangelist to write that you “took our infirmities and bore our diseases” (Matt. 8:17). You truly bore them in your compassion, and you comforted your own heart by healing them.
O my Savior, you bore these sentiments of compassion to Heaven, and although you were not able to carry the tears, the groaning, and the interior sufferings that you felt in the face of all of the evils with which our nature is burdened, you have borne the memory of them there, a memory which makes you tender, merciful, and compassionate toward all of your members, toward all those who suffer on earth. For you are that charitable Samaritan (Luke 10:33) who takes pity on all who are injured, from whatever nation they come. Thus do I feel, my Lord, the truth of these words: “I was hungry, I was thirsty, I was injured” in all those who have been afflicted by these woes.
Take away from me, O my Savior, this heart of stone. Let me be as compassionate as you. Let me say with your apostle: “Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is made to fall, and I am not indignant?” (2 Cor. 11:29). Let me rejoice, according to his precept, with “those who rejoice,” which is easy and agreeable to nature, but let me weep sincerely “with those who weep” (Rom. 12:15). Let me be able to say with you, “I am hungry, I thirst, I am a foreigner without lodging, I am a prisoner, I am sick” with all those who are thus afflicted. Let my compassion not be in vain; let it lead me to help them. May I ease their burdens as effectively as if I were seeking to help myself. Let me see still further: let me continually remember that you carried their infirmities in yourself, that you suffer in all of them, finally, that you will repeat at the Last Judgment “as you did it to the least of these my brethren” — for you will not disdain any sort of lowliness — “you did it to me” (cf. Matt. 25:40).
To you be the glory and praise and thanksgiving of all those who suffer, that is to say, of all men whatever, for your goodness in taking up their sufferings and making them your own and recommending them to all your children by a precept which is the only one that you will speak from your throne, before Heaven and earth, in the presence of men and angels. Amen. Amen.