On the Gospel for the Day.
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 Gospel for the Day.
Place before your eyes the divine Teacher, dispensing the Bread of Life to the attentive multitude. Amongst many other truths new to His hearers, equally deep in meaning and profitable to salvation, He addresses to them this admonition conveyed in the solemn words taken from the Gospel for the day: “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in the covering of sheep, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. By their fruits you shall know them.” (St. Matt. vii. 15, 16.)
1st. Consider that our Lord, speaking of the false prophets, those men, that is, who seek to mislead Christian people in matters pertaining to faith and morals, tells us three things concerning them: First, that they outwardly bear the semblance of sheep; secondly, that they are inwardly “ravening wolves,” and thirdly, that in spite of all their hypocrisy and dissimulation they may yet be known by their fruits. Consider, my soul, in your meditation these three points in succession, that false prophets at all times and in all places make their appearance under the guise of sheep; that is to say, they outwardly simulate the simplicity and innocence of a lamb, they over flow apparently with meekness, patience, charity, and the like virtues, whilst in reality they resemble ravening wolves, their hearts being full of hatred, dissension, pride and covetousness; and like wolves they are ever on the watch to destroy your innocence, your faith, your peace of mind. Outwardly a sheep, inwardly a wolf, that is their distinctive mark. Yet however thick the sheepskin in which they wrap themselves may be, one thing infallibly reveals their true nature, and that is their fruits. Therefore, my soul, before you place confidence in one who calls himself a “prophet,” look first what are the fruits of his teaching, of his guidance, and before you act upon the principles he lays down for you, ascertain first what are the practical fruits produced in daily life by his teaching, his maxims, and you will then be safe against deception. For you know that the Apostle in his Epistle to the Galatians (ch. v.) enumerates for your instruction the fruits of the evil as well as of the good tree, in the following passage: “Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are fornication, uncleanness, immodesty, luxury, idolatry, witchcraft, wraths, quarrels, dissensions, sects, envies, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like. But the fruit of the Spirit is charity, joy, peace, patience, benignity, goodness, longanimity, mildness, faith, modesty, continence, and chastity.” Where you doubt, my soul, apply this test the Apostle gives you.
2d. Consider our Lord’s words: “By their fruits you shall know them” in regard to yourself, and ask yourself whether your tree produces the good or the evil fruits specified in the words we have quoted. Where are the fruits, the good fruits, which do not consist in the applause and favor of those around you, but in the improvement of your life? Perhaps after all, the tree is not a good one; after all, its root will be found to be eaten away by ambition and self-love; the worm of vanity and jealousy will have gnawed out the heart of fruits otherwise good and sound. Or you may be placed in the garden of a holy Order. Many fine trees stand and in time past have stood therein laden with numerous and excellent fruits! And if your tree, standing amongst them, is almost destitute of fruit, or produces only sour and worm eaten ones, what is the reason of this? Is not every tree equally well watered, equally well tended? Do not all the trees alike enjoy the same sunshine, the same dew of divine grace? Do you receive Holy Communion less often, have you fewer opportunities of spiritual profit than your fellow Religious? Surely not. Alas! we can only conclude that you are not a good tree. Examine yourself seriously on this point, and see that this very day by the use of the sacraments you cease to be a “wild” tree, being “grafted” into the good tree, and the result will be apparent in the excellent fruit you will bear.
3d. Consider our Lord’s closing words: “Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit shall be cut down and shall be cast into the fire.” (St. Matt. vii. 19.) You may perhaps at present stand a stately tree in the garden of the Lord, occupying the best situation, your foliage thick and luxuriant – the honors and pleasures you enjoy – but what does all this profit you? Sooner or later Death will come and cut down the proud tree, and the Judge, finding no fruit upon it, will cast it into everlasting fire. Impress this truth deeply upon your heart, and take serious, definite resolutions; form for yourself, so to speak, a plan of campaign; determine how you will act from henceforth with the result of producing fruit, good fruit; and with this end in view follow the counsel which an eminent master of the spiritual life gave to his disciples: He told them that the famous painter Apelles never allowed a single day to pass without painting something; however engrossed he was with business, he put it aside with this accustomed apology: “I have not taken my brush in my hand to-day.” Thus he became a great artist. Now let not us, my soul, permit a day to pass without having put our hand to the work, without having made some progress in virtue, in mortification. Do this, and when you retire to rest at night ask yourself always what has been the fruit of the past day.
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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