On Jesus’ Visit to Martha’s House.
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 Jesus’ Visit to Martha’s House.
Fix your eyes in imagination on the pleasing scene which St. Luke depicts in his gospel (ch. x. 38-42.) He shows us Jesus present as a Guest, a divine Guest, in the house where the two pious sisters of Lazarus live. At the Lord’s feet Mary is seated, Mary the contemplative, whose soul delights in recollection and reflection; with holy eagerness she hangs on the lips of the divine Teacher, whilst Martha, who is fully occupied, draws near and complains that her sister affords her no assistance in preparing a repast for their beloved and honored Guest. Let this scene be present to your mind during your meditation.
1st. Both these sisters love Jesus, both respect Him, both seek to show Him every attention, each however in her own way; Mary by remaining quietly seated at the Master’s feet, Martha by busying herself in preparing a suitable entertainment for Him. Our Lord praises Mary’s part, but Martha is not to be blamed, for without her there would have been nothing to set before Jesus. Thus these two sisters represent the two states, the contemplative and the active life. Both are good in themselves and can exist in harmony side by side. You of all others, who are a Priest, a Religious, a Christian aspiring to perfection, ought to combine these two modes of life; you ought to be active, without thereby losing, amid the pressure of the occupations of your calling, the spirit of meditation and contemplation; whilst on the other hand, you ought to devote yourself to mental prayer without allowing this to interfere in any way with the due performance of the duties of your state or the salvation of souls. St. Francis, our seraphic Father, lays great stress upon this in his exhortations. He declaims in forcible terms against those who, neglecting mental prayer and meditation, give themselves up to external works and secular studies; yet, on the other hand, when he observed that a certain Brother devoted his time too exclusively to contemplation, he at once said to him: “Brother, the other monks have received from God the gift of mental prayer in a far higher degree than thou hast; it is therefore only fitting that thou shouldst serve in the kitchen, or mind the door, so as to give them more opportunity for the exercise of that gift.” How is it with you, reader? Perhaps you are careless in respect to both of these conditions; examine yourself on this point before proceeding further.
2d. Consider Jesus words: “Martha, Martha, thou art careful, and art troubled about many things.” (St. Luke x. 41.) Consider that our Lord does not tell Martha that she ought not to prepare a repast for Him, He does not blame her for employing herself in that manner; He blames the undue solicitude she displays, and particularly for being “troubled about many things.” In the active life, St. Gregory says, we must beware of excessive anxiety, and whilst performing our work, must look up with a tranquil heart to God, to whom all actions should be consecrated. Here we have the solution of the problem how to combine the two states of life. Pursue your avocations, be actively employed, but see that you do not thereby lose your serenity, the spirit of recollection, the constant remembrance of God’s presence. Cassian, speaking of the anchorites and hermits of bygone times, says that they did not desist from contemplation even while they were at work, and when their hands were busily employed after the fashion of Martha, their hearts were occupied, like Mary, in the exercises of the spiritual life. And when St. John Climacus once asked a Brother how it was that he who had to cook for nine hundred monks every day was yet seen to be always recollected and frequently to shed tears of devotion, the Brother replied: “I keep constantly before my mind that I am serving God and not man, and my tears are due to this, that the sight of the large fire in the kitchen reminds me of the fire that never will be quenched.” My soul, are you thus serene and recollected amid your occupations? Listen once more to our Lord’s words: “Martha, Martha, thou art troubled about many things.”
3d. Consider that Jesus said: “Mary hath chosen the best part.” He who is Eternal Truth has thus by His own lips declared that to be the best and most perfect state which is symbolized by Mary, the contemplative life. For this a very special vocation is required, and happy those on whom that precious gift is bestowed! It is described by Brother Giles, the favorite disciple of our Seraphic Father, in the following manner: “It is a divine flame, a fervor of devotion inspired by the Holy Ghost, a rapture, an elevation of the mind, which in mental prayer is inebriated with ineffable delight in the enjoyment of the divine sweetness; it is a calm, a happy, a joyful posture of the soul, wherein the soul, fascinated and enraptured, is absorbed in wondering admiration of divine things.” Wherefore prize highly this inestimable gift, and in as far as is possible, cultivate mental prayer; at least once in the day withdraw from all your Martha-like avocations, and sit with Mary in tranquil meditation at Jesus feet; for as He said to Martha: “but one thing is necessary.” Apply this admonition to yourself.
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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