To help us realize the full import of Jesus’ death Cardinal Newman enlightens us in 12 short reflections. Who is this Jesus who died for us on Good Friday? Jesus is the Lamb of God, the Lord of Armies, the Only Begotten Son. He is also the Eternal King.
When he took flesh of the Blessed Virgin, the Angel Gabriel said to her, “Behold, thou shalt bring forth a Son, and thou shalt call His Name Jesus. “But, though he then gained a new name, he had existed from eternity. He never was not— He never had a beginning, and his true name, therefore, is the Eternal King.
Shortly before his crucifixion Jesus prayed:
“Glorify Thou Me, O Father, with Thyself, with the glory which I had, before the world was, with Thee.” (John xvii. 5). He Who was the Eternal King in heaven, came to be King, and Lord, and Lawgiver, and Judge upon earth.
The prophet Isaiah had foretold that governance would be on his shoulders, and that he would be called God the Mighty and Prince of Peace.
Newman explains how Jesus left his kingdom in the hands of his disciples, granting them authority or spiritual power in different measure.
“He gave the fulness of His power to St. Peter, and to his successors, who, in consequence, are His vicars and representatives—so that, as the Father sent the Son, so the Son has sent St. Peter. But not only St. Peter and the other Apostles, but all bishops and prelates in Holy Church, all pastors of souls, all Christian kings have power from Him, and stand to us in His place.”
And since this kingdom on earth will continue till the end of time Newman reiterates his trust in God to grant the Church endurance through every difficulty.
“Thou hast sent grievous trials for many years upon the Holy See of Rome. We believe and confess, O Lord, without any hesitation at all, that Thou hast promised a continuous duration to Thy Church while the world lasts—and we confess before Thee, that we are in no doubt or trouble whatever, we have not a shadow of misgiving as to the permanence and the spiritual well-being either of Thy Church itself or of its rulers.”
Again, writing shortly after the political unification of Italy and the loss of the Papal States, Newman continues his prayer:
“Nor do we know what is best for Thy Church, and for the interests of the Catholic faith, and for the Pope, or the bishops throughout the world at this time. We leave the event entirely to Thee; we do so without any anxiety, knowing that everything must turn to the prosperity of Thy ransomed possession, even though things may look threatening for a season. Only we earnestly entreat that Thou wouldest give Thy own servant and representative, the Pope Leo, true wisdom and courage, and fortitude, and the consolations of Thy grace in this life, and a glorious immortal crown in the life to come.”
Hence, Newman exhorts us to pray for the Holy Father and all those who rule in the Church, and voices his trust in God’s protection over the Holy See and the bishops. In the words of St. Catherine, the pope is “il dolce Cristo in terra” (the sweet Christ on earth). He needs our affection, prayer and mortification. At times we worry about something the pope might say or might not say, but do we pray for him and ask others to do likewise? In all matters, whether material, spiritual or doctrinal, we should imitate Newman’s prayer and trust in God.