On the Woman Who Praised Our Lord Publicly.
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 Woman Who Praised Our Lord Publicly.
It is an animated scene that you are called upon to place before your mind to-day. Whilst Jesus is making His way through a vast crowd of people and the Pharisees are insulting Him, calling Him a servant of the devil, a woman’s voice is suddenly heard to cry aloud: “Blessed is the womb that bore Thee, and the paps that gave Thee suck.” (St. Luke xi. 27.) How extremely annoying this public and well-merited praise must have been to the Pharisees!
1st. Consider the uncharitable judgments of the Pharisees. Jesus had just cast out a devil from one who was dumb, and these Pharisees could find nothing else to say of this act than: “He casteth out devils by Beelzebub, the prince of devils.” (v. 15.) What a shameful blasphemy! They impute blame to the Holiest of the holy for working a miracle, for performing an act of charity with which no work done by the agency of devils could compare. They give the worst of names to the best of actions. Let this show you, my soul, how hideous, how abominable evil-speaking is, and uncharitable judgment of others, and take heed lest you fall into this fault for which the Pharisees were remarkable. Alas, how many Priests and Religious there are who are swift to put a bad construction upon the best, or at any rate the most well-meant actions of their Brethren and Sisters, and pass on them a rash and uncharitable judgment! Listen to what St. Francis says on this point: “What does a Religious do when he finds fault with his Brethren and complains of his Superior? He does nothing short of spreading gall in the bosom of his mother, the Order of which he is a member.” Then the seraphic saint proceeds to bewail the fact that the slanderers, who set themselves up to judge the moral conduct of others, are themselves almost invariably hypocrites, men greedy of fame, or contemptible sycophants; that they wish to appear virtuous without striving to acquire virtue; that they accuse others and will not correct their own faults; that they judge everything and condemn freely, but will not allow any stricture to be passed on their conduct. “By their perpetual fault-finding,” the saint concludes, “they resemble dogs that are always barking and biting; they gnaw at the very heart of their neighbors.” This is forcible language; lay to heart the saint’s words; apply them to yourself, and not to those around you.
2d. Consider that the woman made amends for the wrong the Pharisees did to our Lord. They had just been abusing and slandering Him in the most shameful manner; now she extols Him publicly and highly. “Blessed,” she exclaims, “is the womb that bore Thee, and the paps that gave Thee suck;” and this she says in a loud voice before all the people, in order that they, who have just heard the unjust and calumnious verdict of the Pharisees, may now hear what may justly and truly be said in praise of Him whom they slandered. Learn of this woman, my soul, to take the part of one who is reviled and misjudged, and counteract the unmerited blame, the uncharitable judgment of your neighbor by saying what you can in his praise and justification. Above all never tolerate slander and uncharitable conversation in your presence. “There is no room at my table for him who delights in abusing the absent”; such were the words St. Augustine caused to be inscribed on the walls of his dining room. “Hedge in thy ear with thorns, hear not a wicked tongue” (Ecclus. xxviii. 28), we read in Holy Scripture; and St. Jerome says: “If you hear any one backbiting another, dismiss him from your presence, and avoid him for the future as you would a viper, in order that for very shame he may learn not to censure the actions of others.” If your eloquent silence does not suffice to shut the mouth of the slanderer, let the example of the woman in the Gospel teach you when to speak, and how to speak.
3d. Consider the virtues manifested by this woman who lifts up her voice in praise of our Lord. It is charity, in the first place, that urges her to do honor to Jesus when He is defamed, and a sense of justice also compels her to speak the truth and give the lie to the slanderer. Thus you ought not to keep silence, but speak up in behalf of your neighbor when charity and justice demand that you do so. But in that case speak with prudence and moderation as this woman did. Mark how she praises Jesus without saying a word in direct blame of His adversaries, for it is mere folly to extinguish a fire with one hand and with the other to rekindle the flames; to defend the person attacked and at the same time assail a third party with heat and virulence. A few calm, forcible words are generally all that is needed to silence the malicious tongue; Holy Scripture says: “The north wind driveth away rain, as doth a sad countenance a backbiting tongue.” (Prov. xxv. 23.) If you have hitherto failed in this respect, my soul, examine yourself whether it was owing to want of charity or of a sense of justice, or whether your indiscreet and intemperate defence has done more harm than good. Let the special resolution you form be determined by your answer to this query, and both you and your neighbor will be benefited by it.
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)
Copyright © 2013. Holy Cross Publications. All rights reserved.