On the Consolation Imparted in Our Lord’s Teaching.
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 Consolation Imparted in Our Lord’s Teaching.
Behold the Saviour of mankind, in whose person “the goodness and kindness of God” appeared upon earth, standing among His disciples, the embodiment of heavenly gentleness and charity, surrounded by the poor and the afflicted, to whom He speaks words of solace and encouragement. Imagine yourself one of those disciples who press round the divine Teacher, anxious to learn of Him the way of salvation, and listen to the consoling promises which fall from His lips.
1st. “Come to Me,” He says, “all you that labor and are burdened, and I will refresh you.” (St. Matt. xi. 28.) Words of love and mercy, how consoling is the invitation they contain! Our Lord knows that we labor and are burdened. We are burdened, because we groan beneath the weight of sin, and sin, as St. Jerome says, is truly a heavy load. We labor and are burdened, for as St. Gregory declares, it is a hard yoke and an oppressive burden to be subject to the things of time and sense, to strive after earthly things, to cling to what is perishable and desire what is transitory, and yet wish not to pass away with it. Hence all mankind groans bitterly under the twofold weight of sin and earthly care, and each one of us is ready to lament in the words of the great ascetic: “The days of this life are short and evil, full of sorrow and miseries. I am left a poor and banished man in the land of the enemy, where are wars every day and very great mischances.” (Imit. B. iii. ch. 48.) Endeavor while meditating on this subject, my soul, to fathom the profound misery, to estimate aright the cares and sorrows of man’s life upon earth, and you will then comprehend the plenitude of grace and consolation contained in our Lord’s words when He says: “Come to Me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will refresh you.” Amongst your friends and acquaintances, in the world and the pleasures of the world you have vainly sought for rest and refreshment; they are to be found in Jesus alone. But you will perhaps say: “I have come to Jesus, for His sake I have left all, and alas! my life abounds in toil and trouble.” The answer is contained in the context.
2d. Consider the words our Lord adds: “Take up My yoke upon you and learn of Me, because I am meek and humble of heart; and you shall find rest to your souls.” (v. 29.) Lay this sentence to heart. Again our Lord promises refreshment to your soul, but He makes a condition. “Take up My yoke upon you.” He does not promise rest without labor, He does not promise perfect repose; that will be for another life. “The hour for this has not yet come; rather is there yet another season of war, and toil, and trial.” But in the yoke our Lord bids you take up you will find refreshment for your soul, provided only that you are, like Him, “meek and humble of heart.” Consider this truth. Under the yoke of sin you will constantly groan, whereas under the yoke of Jesus, the yoke His commandments and your Rule lay upon you, you may enjoy tranquillity, content, nay happiness, if only you cultivate humility and meekness. Ask yourself when it is that you find the yoke of the Lord irksome, when you begin to groan under its weight, and you will find that it is invariably when you fail in humility and meekness, that is when your patient submission gives way. “You are dejected,” writes Father Rodriguez, “because you think you are not sufficiently considered. You are sad and gloomy because some project has failed, whereby you thought to gain distinction. Pride makes the yoke galling to you, for perpetual peace is only for the humble.” This you will experience if you are wanting in meekness and patience. “My good fellow,” Brother Giles once said to a monk who was complaining about some order his Superior had given him, “the more you murmur, the heavier you will make your burden, the more oppressive will be the load you have to bear; but the more humbly and submissively you bend your head under the yoke of holy obedience the easier you will find it to obey this behest.” Up then, my soul, begin this very day; learn of Jesus to be meek and humble of heart, and you will find refreshment for your soul. But there is something more to be considered.
3d. Our Lord says: “My yoke is sweet and My burden light.” (v. 30.) Have you not yet experienced the truth of His words? The yoke of divine charity in Christ is light, for as St. Bernard teaches, it does not weigh the Christian down; on the contrary it carries him who carries it willingly. What, exclaims one of the saints, what can be sweeter than a yoke which compels us to love all men, to hate no man, to be free from the bondage of the world and to enjoy God, the supreme and eternal Good? This yoke only galls the stiff neck; when you have once overcome your corrupt nature, that which was difficult becomes easy, that is sweet which appeared so bitter. Those who live in the world, who are of the world, as St. Bernard most justly remarks, have a horror of the Religious life, because they see in it nothing but the cross. You, however, my brethren, know by your own experience that the cross we carry contains an unction that renders it not only a light burden, but causes us, if I may so speak, to find most sweetness in that which is most bitter to us. Divine grace, says St. Augustine, makes all things easy. And St. Bernard exclaims: “Where love is there is no labor, but sweetest enjoyment!” Wherefore, my soul, pray and sigh that you may obtain this charity, this grace; exert yourself to the utmost; bear your daily yoke with patience, and you will find that the more perfectly you fulfil your duties as a Priest, the more mortified you are if a Religious, the more you will experience the truth of our Lord’s words: “My yoke is sweet and My burden light.”
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.