On the Value of the Kingdom of Heaven.
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 Value of the Kingdom of Heaven.
Another week of your life is drawing to its close. How quickly time passes, the time given to you that in it you may gain eternity, an eternity of happiness; that you may earn Heaven. Our Lord compares the kingdom of Heaven to a pearl, a pearl of such great price that a merchant sacrifices all that he has, the whole of his property, in order to purchase that one pearl. The comparison is just, as you will see by the consideration of the following points:
1st. How great is the value which God the Son attaches to this pearl, i.e., the kingdom of Heaven. Consider how costly, how precious that pearl must have been, to obtain which the merchant in the Gospel (St. Matt. xiii. 45) not only undertook a long and toilsome journey, but staked his all, his whole property and possessions, in order to buy that one single pearl. This merchant is none other than Jesus Christ Himself. For the purpose of gaming this jewel, of purchasing the kingdom of Heaven for us, He, the Almighty God, came down from heaven to earth, and He spent the space of thirty-three years here below in purchasing that pearl, enduring unspeakable hardships and bitter toil, suffering at last cruel torture and anguish, and giving up all, the last drop of His blood, life itself, for the sake of gaining it. Oh how valuable, how costly beyond all price must this pearl be, the kingdom of Heaven, so dearly purchased! And yet you alas! cast this pearl before swine.
2d. Consider how great is the value God the Father attaches to this pearl, the kingdom of Heaven. Think how highly a monarch must value the possession of a fortress, of what paramount importance he must deem it for the welfare of his realm, if in order to conquer it he not only sacrifices the health, the wealth, nay, the life of thousands of his subjects, but does not raise the siege although he is aware that the conquest of that fortress will inevitably cost the life of his own son. Now reflect upon this, my soul: The King of Heaven, the all-bountiful Father of mankind, sees thousands, millions of His children giving all they possess, shedding their blood, in order to gain Heaven; He sees how some strip themselves of their wealth, others mortify and chastise their bodies, in the struggle for this prize, the kingdom of Heaven; how some ruin their health in the service of the sick or in evangelizing distant lands, and oftentimes suffer a painful or violent death; He sees even how His own beloved Son endured the most ignominious, the most cruel death to win that treasure, and yet He permits all that, nay, He, the loving Father, actually takes pleasure in the sight. It would indeed be impossible that He should do so, did He not know the immense, the immeasurable value of the pearl, for the possession of which His children pay so high a price. And you, my soul, regard a trifling exertion, a short struggle, a paltry sacrifice as too much!
3d. Consider how sinful it is to lose the pearl of great price, the kingdom of Heaven. Who can do otherwise than severely condemn Queen Cleopatra’s excessive extravagance, when she melted a pearl of enormous value, worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, in a goblet of wine, which she drank off at one draught. But what is her culpable extravagance, her senseless waste, in comparison with that of which many Christians, not excluding Priests and Religious (who at least cannot excuse themselves on the plea of ignorance, etc.), render themselves guilty, in that they wilfully lose the pearl of incomparably greater price, the kingdom of Heaven which Christ purchased for them with His own sacred blood, for the sake of an hour’s sensual gratification, of a few grains of the incense of earthly applause, for the paltry gain of a few pieces of silver. For this sorry prize they give up the kingdom of Heaven! Grieve over the blindness of those deluded individuals, pray for them; and at the same time see that you are not one of them. The hours, the days, the years pass away in rapid succession. Your life is thus passing away, and when it is run out then you will either have gained or lost the celestial pearl of great price.
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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