On the Conversion of St. Mary Magdalen.
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 Conversion of St. Mary Magdalen.
Imagine that you see our Lord sitting at table in the house of one of the Pharisees, partaking of the banquet to which He had been invited. He is in the company of several Pharisees, who, though perhaps outwardly most friendly towards Him, are at heart malicious and crafty, and on the watch to discover something about their fellow Guest at which exception may be taken. Keep this scene before your eyes during your meditation.
1st. Observe that Jesus is present at this repast in compliance with the Pharisees invitation, not so much for the purpose of partaking of material food as for the purpose of dispensing spiritual nourishment; not so much with the intention of appeasing His natural hunger and thirst as in order to satisfy His supernatural hunger and thirst for the salvation and sanctification of unhappy sinners. The Pharisees on their part, in inviting our Lord to be their guest, were actuated less by motives of kindness and friendship than by the desire of profiting by this opportunity to observe His conduct more narrowly. From this incident, my soul, two things may be learnt: Do not readily accept invitations to worldly festivities and banquets, and if, as is often the case, you cannot decline them, only accept them as Jesus did, from the highest motives, for the sake of promoting the salvation of souls and of giving edification by your modesty and temperance, and your exemplary conversation. The second lesson to be learnt is this: The persons with whom you are brought into contact will observe you as closely as the Pharisees did our Lord, and here we may quote the words of Rodriguez: “In a man of the world,” he says, “such is the low tone that prevails, a venial sin, or even in some cases a mortal sin is hardly remarked upon, but in a Religious, a beloved and favored child of God, the slightest stain strikes the eye. An attempt to put himself into prominence, a surly word, which would attract no notice in the case of seculars, is severely blamed in a Religious and often gives great scandal.” Reflect upon this fact and make a special resolution for the guidance of your own conduct.
2d. Consider the appearance of St. Mary Magdalen on the scene. “While they were sitting at meal, behold a woman that was in the city, when she knew that Jesus was at meal in the Pharisees house, went thither.” (St. Luke vii. 37.) What an unwonted step to take! A young lady, of good family but of dissolute life, goes to the house of a Pharisee who is outwardly most godly and of strictest morality. She approaches the Holiest of the holy, One whom no man could convict of sin, and in the presence of all the guests she long accustomed to be the object of admiration, flattery, homage acknowledges herself to be a sinner and sheds tears of compunction. She throws herself on the ground before Him who is the source and fount of compassion, in order, as St. Gregory remarks, to cleanse herself from the stain of her hideous impurity. She blushes not thus to humiliate herself in the sight of so many onlookers, for the intensity of her inward shame makes her count as nothing any outward shame and humiliation she may bring on herself. Meditate upon this, my soul; lay to heart both Magdalen’s example and St. Gregory’s comments on her conduct, and beware of false shame which may close your lips and deter you from sincerely confessing your fault, even in the tribunal of penance, especially if you have sinned be it in only the remotest and slightest degree. For, as St. Bonaventure writes, however trifling small offences against chastity may appear, we must be careful not to omit to mention them in confession. Such omissions have often been the germ of serious misdeeds, and the perdition of many souls may be traced to that source. Beware of this false shame, be open and outspoken, even more so than is requisite for the validity of confession, for this self-humiliation and conquest of pride is not unfrequently the means of overcoming the temptations of the flesh.
3d. Consider how sincere and thorough was Magdalen’s conversion. She was not satisfied with this public, humiliating acknowledgment of her sin. “Standing behind,” St. Luke tells us, “at His feet, she began to wash His feet with her tears and wiped them with the hairs of her head, and kissed His feet, and anointed them with the ointment.” (v. 38.) Here again St. Gregory remarks: “With her eyes she had looked after the things of earth; now she humbles them by penance, for she weeps. Her hair had been elaborately dressed to enhance her charms; now with it she wipes away the tears she has shed. With the lips that uttered proud and boastful words she now kisses our Lord’s feet. The ointment formerly employed to impart fragrance to her person is now turned to a laudable instead of a reprehensible use. All the enjoyments in which she revelled are given up, her vices are changed into virtues, and by penance she atones for her past guilt, and sacrifices to God those things by which she had offended Him.” Look into this mirror, my soul, and do penance in those matters wherein you have transgressed. It is for the sake of becoming a penitent that you left the world. Formerly you imposed no restraint on your senses; see that now you hold them in check; formerly, immersed in pleasures, you were dissipated and distracted; now recollect yourself in silence and seclusion; formerly you took delight in the enjoyment of good things, in rest and indolence; now apply yourself to mortification and labor; formerly you were, like the Magdalen, in sin; now become like to her in penance. “O wondrous spectacle!” cries the great Father of the Church, “whose heart will prove so hard, so stony, as not to be softened by the tears of this penitent sinner, not to be melted by them to compunction!” The saint could not believe such obduracy of heart to be possible; my soul, see that you do not prove him to have been mistaken in that belief.
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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