On the Jews Who Sought a Sign from Christ.
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 Jews Who Sought a Sign from Christ.
Fix your attention upon the scene which ensued immediately after the cure of the demoniac: it presents to view many a striking contrast. While on the one hand some, whose hearts are full of malice and envy, cry: “He casteth out devils by Beelzebub” (St. Luke xi. 15), and others, like the woman who spoke out boldly in His praise, are struck with wonder and admiration for our Lord, some, again, draw near and demand from Him a special sign, whereby they might know whether He was in very truth the Messias. Join the crowd in spirit; listen to and consider the answer Jesus gives:
1st. “An evil and adulterous generation seeketh a sign.” (St. Matt. xii. 39.) As if they had not already had signs enough! Did they not see the lame walk, the blind restored to sight and sick persons giving God thanks for the recovery of their health? No; they do not really require a sign, they only want an excuse for their incredulity. They will not believe in spite of all the signs they have already had, and they would not believe if another; a fresh sign, were given to them. Consequently our Lord calls them an evil generation, doubly evil, because they seek to conceal their malice. Consider, my soul, whether you do not sometimes act as one of that “evil generation.” You have long known what is the will of God; your Confessor, your Superior, your own conscience has made you acquainted with it. But the will of God is not in accordance with your own desires, your own inclinations, and therefore you want a fresh sign to induce you to follow it. O “evil generation!” Do not allow yourself to be deluded in this way any longer; from henceforth obey promptly without waiting for any further indication as to what you ought to do, and obey most promptly when the command you have received does not correspond with your own wishes.
2d. Consider the words our Lord added: “A sign shall not be given it, but the sign of Jonas the prophet.” (v. 39.) As Jonas was sent to preach repentance to the wicked Ninivites, so Jesus was to the sinful Jews. And as Jonas was three days in the whale’s belly, and his deliverance from that prison on the third day was for the Ninivites an incontrovertible proof of his divine mission, so our Lord’s resurrection from the grave was the principal sign, the chief evidence for the Jews that He came from God. The Scribes and Pharisees sought a sign from on high; our Lord promises them a sign from the deep, His resurrection from the dead. That is the most irrefragable proof of His power and majesty which He gave on earth before all mankind; and He mentions this sign, than which there could be no greater, as one which might suffice to overcome the incredulity of the Jews. If they rejected that there was no more hope for them, for it was the last sign. How many signs has God already given you, my soul? For how long has grace been knocking at the door of your heart, warning and admonishing you? Perchance today’s meditation will be the last sign for you. Our Lord could work no greater wonder to bring conviction to the mind of the Jews than the sign of Jonas, His resurrection, and yet they believed not. In like manner Almighty God could grant you no greater grace, He could give you no more favorable opportunity for your salvation and sanctification, than your vocation to the Priesthood, to the Religious life. Yet perhaps even this is of little avail in your case.
3d. Consider what our Lord says: “The men of Ninive shall rise in judgment with this generation and shall condemn it; because they did penance at the preaching of Jonas. And behold a greater than Jonas here.” (v. 41.) Jonas, as St. Chrysostom remarks, was a servant, the Master Himself is here; Jonas proclaimed the chastisement to come, Jesus offers grace to the sinful. If under these circumstances the Jews are more impenitent than the Ninivites, woe betide them in the judgment! Reflect attentively, my soul, on these serious and weighty words uttered by our Lord. You are a Priest, consequently you are surrounded on all sides with graces as by an ocean. You are in a Religious Order, therefore you are in a sure haven, in the smooth roadstead of grace. Woe betide you if you are tepid and careless! Seculars who have lived in the world, nay Jews and heathen shall rise in the judgment with you and shall condemn you; for many amongst them have been more zealous in the service of God, more abstemious and temperate, less proud, less attached to ease and comfort than you are; and that amid all the many dangers of the world. And behold! you had more graces, more safeguards, more assistance in the pursuit of what is good, and how sorry is the result! Lay this well to heart. Seek no further sign. The state you have chosen in itself requires of you more zeal, greater virtue than from others in the world. This the good friar, the pious disciple of St. Francis, Brother Giles, recognized, and expressed in the following words, on which you will do well to meditate: “I had far rather,” he says, “live in the world, constantly hoping and longing to become a Religious, than lead the life and wear the habit of a monk, and be lukewarm and careless, not striving to advance in virtue and in the practice of good works.”
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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