On the Deaf and Dumb Man in the Gospel.
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 Deaf and Dumb Man in the Gospel.
Place before you the touching picture which the Gospel of the day presents to your view. The deaf and dumb man stands before the divine Redeemer; he looks on that heavenly Physician so hopefully, with such a mute appeal for compassion, that He who has power to give speech to the dumb and hearing to the deaf consents to display His miraculous might on his behalf, and stretches out His hand to cure him. Keep this scene before your mind during your meditation.
1st. The Evangelist tells us that “looking up to Heaven, He groaned.” (St. Mark vii. 34.) This groan our Lord utters has a deep signification. When He sees before Him this unfortunate individual, destitute of speech and of hearing, there rises, as St. Chrysostom says, before His omniscient mind, that sublime moment when the hand of the triune God fashioned Adam’s body out of the dust of the earth to His own image and likeness. He sees human nature in its original beauty, He reflects upon the lofty aim for which Almighty God framed the senses of that wondrously constructed body; the eye, made to gaze upon the loveliness of creation, the ear marvellously adapted to hear and appreciate the sweet mysterious music of nature, otherwise dead and voiceless; the sense of smell, given to man that he might not only, with the sense of sight, behold with delight the fair colors in which the earth is decked, but inhale her invigorating fragrance. In short, once again He beholds in spirit man arrayed in his primeval beauty, gifted with his splendid endowments; and now there stands before Him a specimen of humanity who is a living image of the profound degradation, the utter misery to which sin and Satan have reduced human nature. This misfortune has come upon mankind in consequence of the abuse of the senses. As soon as Eve’s eye looked with longing at the forbidden fruit, as soon as she culpably lent her ear to the voice of the tempter, and for the gratification of her taste in an unlawful manner stretched out her hand to take the apple, by misuse of the senses death became the inevitable lot of mankind, and from that time forward the earth resounded with the cry of woe that arose from the blind and lame; it was moistened by the tears shed by the deaf and dumb. Beholding the havoc wrought by sin in human nature, once so glorious, Jesus groaned. Meditate attentively, my soul, upon this truth, impress it deeply upon your soul, that by so doing you may acquire on the one hand a greater abhorrence of sin which has wrought such harm, and on the other a greater love for those exercises of mortification which your corrupt nature renders necessary, or which are prescribed by the Rule of your Order.
2d. Consider the manner in which our Lord healed the deaf-mute. “And taking him from the multitude apart, He put His fingers into his ears, and spitting touched his tongue.” (v. 33.) This peculiar method of healing is not without its meaning. As the deaf-mute represents unhappy humanity fallen and ruined by sin, human nature permanently inclined to evil, so this cure is typical of the powers given by God to the Church, residing in the sacraments instituted by Him for the healing of the spiritual infirmities of mankind. From this point of view each of the singular and striking actions pertaining to this cure can be severally and distinctly explained. Jesus takes the man who is to be healed apart from the multitude, for He alone has power to cure him; the world has none. So the soul in need of spiritual healing is immediately separated from the crowd of sinners by the first of the sacraments, baptism; he is removed out of the world and taken into the Church, taken to Jesus, who alone can heal him. Furthermore, our Lord puts His finger into the ear of the deaf man. The finger of God formed the ear, and the finger of God restores it when marred by sin to its pristine excellence. This process constitutes part of the ceremonial of baptism, the sacrament whereby the spiritual hearing the medium for the reception of divine truth destroyed by original sin, is renewed in the soul. Finally with spittle Jesus moistens the man’s tongue, that member formed out of the moist earth, the ground out of which God originally created the body of man and which now is made instrumental in healing this particular portion of the body. In like manner the Church, employing this ceremony in baptism, loosens man’s spiritual tongue, tied by sin, and renders it capable of proclaiming the divine praises, publishing divine truth. Again, my soul, you will do well to meditate attentively upon, the deep mystic significance of the miracle you are contemplating to-day, and reflect with feelings of thankfulness on the graces conferred in holy baptism on your senses, especially those of hearing and speech. Look to it that your conscience may not have cause to reproach you bitterly, when our Lord once more by His minister and representative mysteriously touches the members of those senses, and anoints them with the holy oils in the Sacrament of Extreme Unction.
3d. Consider the words wherewith the Evangelist concludes his narrative: “And he spoke right.” (v. 35.) Happy, doubly happy is the man, for he makes a right use of the senses that are restored to him. He can speak now, and he “speaks right.” Take example by this, my soul. Perhaps you say in your heart: why, nothing is more just and right than that the man who is cured should make a good and proper use of the senses bestowed on him by a miracle, that he should employ them in the service and to the glory of God. If you consider it a matter of course that the deaf-mute should do this, why is it not equally a matter of course in your case, since you are in possession of the same grace, and have enjoyed it from your childhood? Therefore as the principal fruit to be derived from to-day s meditation resolve to make a good use of your five senses and above all to “speak right”; for therein consists the perfection of the Religious, of the true Christian. Remember the words of Holy Scripture: “Death and life are in the power of the tongue.” (Prov. xviii. 21.) St. Francis laid the greatest stress on the observance by his Brethren of religious silence, for in this he considered the abstinence from idle words, of which we shall have to give account, to consist. He always blamed severely the habit of indulging in useless conversation, when he remarked it in his monks. Endeavor therefore during the week on which you are entering today to govern your tongue so well, that at its close it may be said of you “he spoke right,” and with this aim keep ever before your mind this saying of Giles, the pious disciple of our Seraphic Father: “He whose conversation is good and profitable to the souls of his hearers is truly the mouthpiece of the Holy Spirit, whereas he whose conversation is bad and unprofitable speaks with the tongue of the devil.”
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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