On the Disciples Plucking the Ears of Corn.
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 Disciples Plucking the Ears of Corn.
Represent to yourself how our Lord’s disciples, going through the corn-fields one Sabbath day, being hungry, began to pluck the ears and to eat. Jesus, Himself the Lord of the Sabbath, gentle and compassionate, allows them to do this. He, the Judge of all men, the omniscient God, sees the action and finds no sin in it. But beside Him some Pharisees are walking and they watch the disciples with a spiteful expression, crying out loudly and protesting against this profanation of the Sabbath, this violation of the law of God. What a striking contrast this scene presents to us! Keep it before your eyes while you meditate upon the useful lessons to be learnt from it.
1st. We read that our Lord’s disciples were hungry. (St. Matt. xii. 1.) How can this be? Is it possible that the all-merciful, all-bountiful God permits those to suffer hunger who have left all for His sake? He works a miracle to feed thousands who have come from afar, while His own immediate followers must needs appease their hunger with a few ears of corn. In this you see, my soul, how our Lord endeavors to prepare His disciples betimes for the great privations and sacrifices which they will encounter if they follow Him. You also, my soul, have pledged yourself to follow Christ. Oh see that you never forget whom it is that you are following; it is the destitute, the crucified Jesus! Not abundance but want, not riches but poverty, not ease but hardship is the lot of His disciples here on earth. This is the great distinction between you and the worldling; you seek what he flies from, and you renounce what he labors to obtain. But alas for you if you belong to those Religious of whom St. Bernard writes: “Thou, who dost call thyself a Religious, who hast taken the vow of poverty, canst not bear any privation, any discomfort? That argues not the love of poverty, but the love of comfort, the desire to have all things in plenty. Very probably in the world thou wouldst have fared much worse.” Is it right then that we, who have entered a Religious Order for the purpose of mortifying ourselves and doing penance, should enjoy more ease and comfort than we should have had in the world?
2d. Consider that our Lord was accompanied by others besides His disciples, by the Pharisees. These latter did not however follow Him as disciples; their object was to watch Him narrowly and censure Him mercilessly. In fact, as soon as they saw the hungry disciples plucking the ears of corn, they forthwith began to find fault with them, and accuse them of breaking the Sabbath. “Behold,” they said to Jesus, for it was at Him they spoke all the while, “behold, Thy disciples do that which it is not lawful to do on the Sabbath day.” (v. 2.) O hypocrites that you are! You condemn in others what has only the appearance of wrongdoing, and at the same time you yourselves commit real and actual sin. You blame others for appeasing their hunger on the Sabbath day, but you consider it no sin to do your utmost on a Sabbath day to compass the death of Jesus. That is the way in which uncharitable, censorious persons act. They notice the least peccadillo on the part of their brother, they magnify molehills into mountains, they cavil and pick holes in what is most praiseworthy and themselves have a beam of no slight bulk in their eye. Beware, my soul, of this pharisaical fault-finding; beware of rash and severe judgments, which are so common to the children of Adam. “Turn thine eyes upon thyself,” says Thomas a Kempis, “and take heed thou judge not the doings of others. In judging others a man labors in vain, often errs, and easily sins, but in judging and looking into himself he always labors with fruit.” (Imit. B. i. ch. 14.)
3d. Consider the answer which Jesus returns to the spiteful censure of the Jews: “I will have mercy and not sacrifice.” (v. 7.) That is to say, it is far more pleasing to Almighty God that the hungry should be fed, than that the Sabbath rest should be scrupulously observed and at the same time the law of charity should be broken. For the Sabbath, the sacrifice which we make to God, is made for man and not man for the Sabbath. Thus our Lord teaches us on this occasion that it is not right to neglect the greater for the sake of fulfilling the lesser, and that we ought not to offer sacrifice to God, the sacrifice of prayer, of meditation, of attendance at religious services, at the expense of the far greater law of charity. For instance, you would fain assist at the celebration of some grand religious festival, but your sick neighbor needs your help; therefore remain with him, for God says: “I will have mercy and not sacrifice.” Here consider, my soul, another case, a very important one for those who are engaged in the sacred ministry. You are oftentimes heard to complain that you are called away from the enjoyment of the sweet contemplation of a life of seclusion by the duties which the cure of souls, which fraternal charity imposes on you; do not let this disquiet you, for our Lord says: “I will have mercy and not sacrifice.” St. Bernard, not forgetful that no one is a true follower of Christ who is not willing to sacrifice his own tranquillity for his neighbor’s peace of mind, once said: “God’s rule, the rule of Christian charity, must be preferred to the rule of St. Benedict”; and the same eminent saint, who took so great a delight in mental prayer, bids us be ready to abandon the repose of prayer, the quiet of meditation, in order to labor for the salvation of souls and comfort our neighbor with kindly words. For the love of God, he says, cannot remain inactive; not only does it immediately abandon the sweet rest of contemplation, but hastens with the greatest alacrity to display its ardent zeal, its glowing love of souls, its charity towards its neighbor whenever occasion offers. In this respect also, my soul, meditate upon the words of Jesus: “I will have mercy and not sacrifice”; and they will be to you both an exhortation and a consolation.
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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