By VERY REV. ALEXIS M. LEPICIER, O.S.M. Consultor of the Sacred Consistorial Congregation, etc.
CHAPTER XXV. IN WHAT FASHION JESUS CHRIST SHOULD REIGN OVER OUR HEARTS
All who study the marvelous figure of Our Lord Jesus Christ in the light of divine revelations, cannot but be filled with holy enthusiasm by these words of St. Paul: "For He must reign." (1 Cor. XV, 25.) And as faithful armies, at the appearance of kings or captains, welcome these with loud acclamations, so also the Christian who recognizes in Jesus the King of his heart ponders over His qualities, spontaneously prostrates himself in humble adoration, and reverently proclaims His royal dignity. Those very ones who deny and despise the kingdom of Jesus, cannot withdraw themselves from His authority. Beneath His scepter they must bend, however unwillingly, according as David prophesied: "Thou shalt rule them with a rod of iron and shalt break them in pieces like a potter's vessel." (Ps . II, 9.)
We certainly do not wish to be numbered among these scornful and ungrateful subjects. We applaud the kingdom of this loving and divine Sovereign and submit to it with the greatest joy. We ardently desire that every one should receive Him, every family should recognize Him, every nation and society should proclaim Him their King and Lord. "Oportet hunc regnare super nos"
To understand how Jesus should reign over our persons we must call to mind the words of the divine precept: "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God, with thy whole heart, with thy whole soul, with all thy strength and with all thy mind" (Luke X, 27.) These four things Jesus Christ mentions—the mind or intellect, the heart or will, the soul or the passions, and finally, the strength or the powers of the soul.
In the first place our divine Saviour wishes to reign over our minds or intellects, and this by means of faith, which is the noblest homage we can pay to His sovereignty because the intellect is the highest power of man. This faith, if pure and sincere, will beget in us that pure light whence springs the gift which St. Paul calls: "the mind of Christ." (I Cor. 11, 16.) It is only when we possess this wonderful "mind of Christ" in its perfection, that Jesus may be said to reign fully over our intellect. In fact, this mind is what impels us to ordain all our doings toward the end prefixed by God, which is the possession of Himself. With this mind we should also judge the things of this world, fol lowing in all things the glorious teaching of the Gospel.
Oh, if all the faithful only possessed this priceless gift of the mind of Jesus Christ! We should not then hear Christians insult their holy mother the Church as so many do, or murmur against the justice of God, complaining arrogantly of the providence of their heavenly Father. They would rather see and adore in every occurrence of life the most holy will of God which guides men to their rightful end by ways unknown to men. They would bow their heads under the sufferings which this loving Father sends to chastise and purify their hearts still more; they would make the truths of the Gospels and the teaching of Holy Church the criterion of their lives.
Jesus wishes to reign not over our minds only, but over our hearts also, over our wills and all our affections. Marvelous, indeed, is Our Lord's dominion over the will of those who submit and consecrate themselves without reserve to Him. He molds them and governs them according to His most holy wishes, and does with them what no orator with the most eloquent speech, no monarch with arms or treasure, could ever be able to do. Jesus, in a word, gently bends the will submitted to Him, until it loves God and prefers invisible gifts to the transitory goods of this world. He inspires His faithful to shrink from no sacrifice in following up divine grace. He gives them courage to overcome all difficulties and to embrace with generosity those means— however bitter or distasteful to nature—which are most efficacious in bringing about their eternal salvation.
The will that is entirely consecrated to Jesus is habitually raised by Him to great heights of sanctity. But too often it happens that our natural indolence, the fierce temptations of the world and the devil, the misfortunes and tribulations of life, make our will irresolute and slothful in following up the impulses of grace bestowed on us by our beloved King, Jesus Christ. Let us pray His adorable Heart not to look on our aversions, not to consider our unfaithfulnesses but to keep and strengthen His hold over our hearts and over our wills until they are finally united and merged, as it were, in His most holy will. What happiness, what spiritual joy, shall we not find when our wills shall be fixed in the will of Our Lord. The joys of paradise will become our portion even in this miserable world, because to do the will of God is an ineffable source of joy both to man and angel.
But it is not enough that Jesus should reign over our minds and wills. He must also reign over our souls, that is, over our passions. These passions, being in themselves indifferent, can be turned to good or evil; but they must not "kick against the goad" (Acts IX, 5.) with which, as in St. Paul's case, Our Lord is wont to prick the rebellious soul. These passions must submit to His orders in conformity to the yoke He lays upon them. They must be as docile steeds under the hand of a skilled rider; otherwise if we let them throw off His wise guidance they will carry us hither and thither at their pleasure, threatening to hurl us into the infernal abyss.
May Jesus Christ, then, reign over our love that it may not wander foolishly but may re-* turn to God, like a ray of light reflected in a translucent mirror goes back to its origin. May He reign over the passion of hatred that it may only loathe that which is detestable to His most pure eye. May joy and sorrow be the servants of this King; may we never be carried away by a joy which is not His or grieved by a sorrow which does not concern His interests.
When we shall have surrendered to Jesus the complete and absolute government of our passions, He will flood the most intimate fiber of our souls with divine peace and we shall be no longer agitated and made wretched by them. Rather these passions will become a valid means of gaining the kingdom of heaven, which is attained only by violence over oneself and at the price of a struggle generously undergone.
If sometimes these passions rebel and rise furious as a stormy sea, we should invoke the King of our souls; Jesus will come straight way on the crest of the raging waves, the majestic bearer of peace, and will calm with a word the fury of the tempest.
But in order that nothing may escape the blissful dominion of the Heart of Jesus over us, we must fulfill the fourth condition of the divine precept: Thou shall love Me with all thy strength. This is the last rampart of man on which Jesus must fix His standard. This is the last shred of our personality on which He wishes to outpour the influence of His royal power, and which should obey His fatherly and loving care.
What does the Sacred Heart of Jesus ask of us? He asks that we consecrate our body a living sacrifice, holy, pleasing unto God; (Rom. XII, 1.) that the whole of us should be a throne of pure ivory on which He may sit as sovereign, a monstrance in which He may be glorified in the eyes of the world. He wishes that our physical strength should be directed to those holy enterprises which further His glory, that our limbs should be used in the works of His kingdom and never be contaminated in the self-indulgences and lusts of the body which ought to be the temple of the Holy Ghost. (1 Cor. VI, 19.) Oh, what a jealous custodian Jesus is of the purity of this His possession! He cannot suffer the stain of impurity and abandons, in His indignation, him who has gravely offended the sanctity of his Christian profession.
Should Our Lord, in His infinite wisdom, have seen fit to take away our bodily health, let us offer Him this deprivation as a sacrifice of love; let us suffer willingly such griefs and afflictions His providence sees fit to send us for our good.
Jesus also with this solemn invitation: "Thou shalt love Me with all thy strength" means that we should direct all our actions to Him, as the Apostle admonishes us: ft Whether you eat or drink or whatsoever else you do, do all to the glory of God." (I Cor. X, 31.) If we are careful to perform every action for Jesus we shall not run after vain glory and ambition like worldlings who sacrifice to these idols all the strength of their souls and bodies, without any lasting profit even in this life, where fortunes vary like leaves in the wind.
If we really desire to present ourselves be fore the tribunal of this our loving King and Sovereign with days full of good works, we should from this moment consecrate to Him all our senses, thoughts and actions. Our eyes we should consecrate to Him, bewailing with bitter tears our ingratitude and the days lost away from Him. Our ears we should direct to His service, showing ourselves desirous of hearing the divine word and fleeing the deceitful promises of a fallacious age. The tongue, too, powerful weapon of good and evil and the principal instrument of our minds, whence issue either words of edification or poisoned darts of hatred or deceit, must serve Our Lord Jesus Christ. It must govern itself in such a fashion that its sayings proceed from wisdom, worthy of a true Christian. To Jesus, Our King, it must pour forth songs of praise and thanksgiving, so becoming the interpreter of that senseless universe which for us was created. Hands and feet, also, must busy themselves in glorifying, praising and serving this King of love. For His sake our hands must weary themselves in the service of His poor; our feet must walk only in the ways of justice and go but where He calls. Our knees must adore Him as God and Sovereign, bowing down before the Sacrament of His love and the image of His martyrdom.
St. Francis de Sales has a beautiful pas sage on this subject. "Bees" he says, "are never at peace until they have found their king. They never stop flying through the air scattering hither and thither, hardly ever in their hive. But as soon as their king is born they all surround him, and never leave Mm except for their harvest and by his command. So our intellect, will, passions and powers of the soul, like spiritual bees, as long as they have no king, that is, as long as they have not chosen Our Lord for their king, have no rest. Our senses do not cease to stray about curiously, dragging our interior powers after them to waste them on one object or another. . . . But the instant that our soul has elected Our Lord as its only King and Sovereign, these powers speedily calm down and standing round Him never quit their hive except upon some work of charity which this holy King commands them to exercise, towards their neighbour." (Treatise X. On Modesty.)
Oh, how fair and joyful a spectacle, to see our whole being with all its powers, with all its limbs, proclaim each in its own fashion Jesus Christ as its King and Sovereign and serve Him only: indeed, "He must reign." (I Cor. XV, 25.)