When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will realize that I am (Jn 8, 28)
After raising to life a widow’s son, Jesus was acclaimed a great prophet. He was likewise recognized so in the multiplication of the loaves and fish, according the St. John the Evangelist. This time, he so impressed the people that they wanted to make him king. But he wanted none of it.
Jesus refuses to pass for one of so many sovereigns with absolute power that not infrequently gives rise to absolute corruption. He surely reveals himself as God’s Messiah, and not just another prophet; but he does not want to be mistaken for the messiah of popular expectation. It seems to him better that for now nothing is said to anyone about his messianic character, lest saying something leads to such a mistake.
Yes, Jesus insists, “The Son of Man must suffer greatly …, and be killed and on the third day be raised.” He is not God’s anointed in the style of his ancestor king David, a vanquishing warrior. And since the disciples are to follow the example set by their Teacher, they will have to follow him, denying themselves and taking up their cross daily.
If, then, it is not the suffering and crucified Jesus whom we confess as the Messiah, then we really do not know him. Unless we are resolved to know nothing except Jesus Christ, and him crucified, we cannot be truly either Christians or Vincentians.
Genuine Christians grasp in the crucifixion the full revelation of the one whose name is “I am who am.” They are convinced that Jesus’ death for sinners is the greatest proof of divine love and that there is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friend.
And true Vincentians are those who are imbued with the spirit of grace and petition; they will look on the Pierced One and will mourn for him. They devote themselves to meditation by simply having always the thought of Jesus’ passion and death, which is more pleasing to God than repeated fasting, says St. Vincent de Paul (Coste X, 569). It does not worry Vincentians that they have nothing to say at the foot of the cross, for they know how to wait for Jesus to speak (Coste IX, 50). Keeping quite, for a change, they let Jesus have the word mostly; they are not like those who speak too much when praying.
Like what happens to the poor who identify with the Crucified, Vincentians, at the foot of the cross, sooner or later will get to experience wisdom in the foolishness of the cross, strength in its weakness, eloquence in its silence and hope in its despair. That is how effective will be their affective contemplation of the Crucified.
And even more efficacious their contemplation will prove to be to the extent that they are more deeply and tenderly moved to exert effort to remedy injustice that is the cause of the crucifixion and against which the cross is a sacrament of protest. Hence, they will fight for the oneness of all in Christ Jesus, opposing discriminatory distinctions between natives and foreigners, undocumented and documented, poor and rich, female and male. They will never be forgetful of the poor. They will share their bread with the hungry, as demanded by the Lord’s Supper. Praying in this manner, they be enlightened by Lord’s splendor and will truly know him.