On the Third, Fourth, and Fifth Petitions of the Lord’s Prayer.
PRAYER BEFORE MEDITATION.
My God, I firmly believe that Thou art here present. I acknowledge that on account of my many sins I am utterly unworthy to appear before Thy sacred countenance. Yet, confiding in Thy infinite goodness and mercy, I venture to address Thee, to call upon Thy holy name, and meditate upon Thy commandments, in order that I may acquire a better knowledge of Thy holy will, and accomplish it with more fidelity. Wherefore enlighten my understanding that I may perceive what I ought to do or leave undone for the promotion of Thy glory and my own salvation; at the same time excite my will, that I may repent with my whole heart of my past sins, and resolve for the future to do all that Thou requirest of me. Grant me above all to know Jesus, my divine Teacher and Guide, more clearly, that I may love Him more dearly, and consequently labor, struggle and suffer with greater generosity and self-sacrifice in imitation of His example. Holy Mary, Mother of God and my Mother, show Jesus to me now, and let me study thy divine Son to the salvation of my soul. Holy Guardian Angel, keep far from me all distracting thoughts; my patron saint, come to my assistance. Amen.
On the Third, Fourth, and Fifth Petitions of the Lord’s Prayer.
To-day soar aloft in spirit to the realms of eternal bliss in Heaven, and contemplate their happy denizens resplendent with glory, radiant with light. See how they stand around or prostrate themselves before the throne of the divine Majesty, in the most profound recollection, the most fervent devotion, with unspeakable delight adoring and magnifying the great and sovereign God, cherishing no more earnest desire than ever and always to do His will, whose wisdom they behold, whose loving kindness and bounty they experience. And if whilst gazing on this fair sight your soul is kindled within you, if it arouses in you the longing for Heaven, then meditate on these things in prayer, and let the subject of your meditation be the third petition of the Lord’s prayer:
1st. Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven. At the commencement of your mental prayer to-day you placed before you the goal and the reward of your earthly pilgrimage: to join the company of the redeemed in Heaven who enjoy the beatific vision of God. This end can only be attained by doing the will of God, for, as the Apostle tells us, “This is the will of God, your sanctification, and we may add, your eternal blessedness. For of a truth, he who accomplishes the will of God is holy and happy. Ask yourself, my soul, when are your actions unsanctified, when are you unhappy, miserable, restless? It is when you oppose your will to the will of God, when you transgress the law of God, when you murmur and rebel against the ordinances of God. Wherefore remember when you take this prayer upon your lips, remember that what is asked by it is the chief virtue of the Christian and more particularly of the Religious, namely the renunciation of one’s own will and conformity to God’s will. But it is not for yourself alone that you ask this; it is for all men upon the earth. Would indeed that the divine will were done on earth as it is in Heaven; earth would then be again a paradise! There would be no more sin, no more of the sad consequences of sin; then the sufferings and trials of this life would be sweet and acceptable to us, because we should recognize in them the will of God. Wherefore implore this grace with all your heart; implore particularly that, if you are a Priest, in your parish, if you are a Religious, in your convent, the will of God may be done as it is in Heaven; pray that the will of God embodied in the Rules and constitutions of your Order, written under divine inspiration, may be faithfully and exactly accomplished by all its members. If this be so, you and your fellow Religious will already have Heaven here on earth, and you can look forward with them to enter one day upon the eternal possession and enjoyment of celestial beatitude.
2d. Consider the fourth petition: Give us this day our daily bread. The first three petitions of the Lord’s prayer, like the first three commandments of the decalogue, refer to the relations in which man stands towards God. In the fourth the personal needs of the suppliant are brought forward; he asks, as a child might ask his father, for his daily bread in the first place. Man consists of soul and body; hence he has need of a twofold bread, the material bread of the body and the supernatural, supersubstantial Bread of the soul. Therefore before all else we ask, as pilgrims and strangers upon earth, pilgrims on their way to the land where the name of God is for ever hallowed, the will of God at all times accomplished, for the “viaticum” to sustain us during this toilsome pilgrimage. We ask, as St. Cyprian says, that our bread, the nourishment which our Lord indicates when He says: “I am the living Bread which came down from heaven” (St. John vi. 51) may be daily given to us in the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar, in order that we may continually be with Christ and live by Him, and that the defilement of sin may not prevent us from partaking of the supernatural, miraculous Bread of Heaven. Consequently when you pray: Give us this day our daily bread, think primarily of the spiritual signification of this fourth petition of the Lord’s prayer for your interests are not those of the worldling and consider what your daily bread, the daily bread of a Priest, of a Religious, ought to be. Then ask also for the sustenance of the body, for the bread of earth. Who ever you are, rich or poor, noble or peasant, king or emperor, you must ask God for your daily bread. He alone it is who “giveth to all food in season.” Remember how hard many have to work for that daily bread, whilst you, as St. Francis says, going up to the table of the Lord, satisfy your hunger so cheaply and so abundantly; and pray that you, God’s mendicant, may no longer ask carelessly and unreflectingly, like the professional beggar, but humbly and gratefully pray: Give us this day our daily bread.
3d. Consider the fifth petition: Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those that trespass against us. In the fourth petition you asked for your daily bread. But what avails it to have bread enough and to spare if your soul languishes in the sickness of sin, of what use is this Bread of Heaven to you? It will be to you death and condemnation if it is eaten in a state of sin. How necessary therefore is the petition we are now considering! For alas! our guilt in the sight of God, the guilt of each day is indeed great. We know that the just man falls seven times. If God is to forgive us, we must also forgive on our part. When in the first part of this petition, in contrition and humility you confess yourself to be a sinner, in the words that follow: as we forgive those that trespass against us, you pledge yourself by a solemn promise to be reconciled with your brethren in Christ, to live with them in peace and concord. At the same time you pray, according to St. Cyprian, for grace to enable you to fulfil the first commandment of the Christian law, to practise the duty Christian perfection demands of you, to love your enemies, to requite evil with good. Beware lest this petition be your own sentence of damnation! When you repeat it, pray particularly that a spirit of unity and mutual forgiveness may prevail amongst your flock, in your Community; that, as the morning mist vanishes before the sun, so all aversion and rancor may be dispelled from the hearts of those who, reciting the Lord’s prayer in common, say: Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those that trespass against us.
PRAYER AFTER MEDITATION.
My God, I give Thee heartfelt thanks for all the graces and all the light Thou hast conferred on me during this meditation. Pardon me all the negligence and the distractions of which I have been guilty, and give me strength to carry out the resolutions that I have made. Fortify me, that from henceforth I may diligently practise this virtue . . . avoid this fault . . . perform this action . . . to Thy honor. Help me to do this, sweet Virgin Mary; and if I ever forget my good resolutions, I entreat my Angel Guardian to recall them to my memory. Amen.
– Meditations on the Life, Teaching, and Passion of Jesus Christ
(Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur: New York, December 31, 1900)
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