St. Laurence, Martyr.
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.
St. Laurence, Martyr.
I suffer, but I am not ashamed: for I know Whom I have believed, and I am certain that He is able to keep that which I have committed to Him against that day (2 Timothy i. 12).
I. Consider first, that perhaps the greatest temptations which assail thee in the spiritual life are temptations to distrust. Thou thinkest at times that all that thou doest in it for God is lost, and that in spite of it thou wilt be damned. Now, as a weapon against them, take this beautiful passage of the Apostle, which I here propose for thy contemplation. Listen to the first word which pain seems, as it were, to force from his lips: “I suffer.” He confesses openly that his suffering is great, but immediately after he adds, “but I am not ashamed,” or, as it is literally, “confounded.” Thou often thinkest that because the saints were so greatly inflamed with the love of God they were insensible in the midst of their sufferings, as certain of the martyrs were on the cross or at the stake. Not so; they were very sensible both of the injuries inflicted on them, and of troubles, trials, and sickness, but they felt these things without losing courage. They said boldly with the Apostle: “I suffer, but I am not ashamed.” And why did they say so? Because they knew to what a Master they had committed themselves: “I know Whom I have believed.” Wonder not, therefore, if thou, who art so feeble of mind, feelest suffering very keenly; if thou didst not feel it, it would not be suffering. It is enough if when thou sufferest thou art not confounded, that is, if thou dost not abandon the strong faith and confidence which thou shouldst have in God: “Thou shalt know that I am the Lord, for they shall not be confounded that wait for Him.” Oh, how much reason hast thou to say in this matter with the Apostle: “I know Whom I have believed!” If thou hast a master whom thou knowest well, thou dost not suffer thyself to be turned against him by those who would fain discredit him in thy eyes, as though he took no thought for thee; on the contrary, thou treatest their words with contempt, saying to thyself, I know who it is I am trusting. So, too, oughtest thou to say in the case we are considering. What does it matter that thy thoughts are overcast by a thousand fanciful shadows and clouds, representing to thee that thou art serving a Master Who will in the end abandon thee on account of thy sins? Do not think of combating them, but simply say to thyself: “I know in Whom I have believed.” This is the easiest way of putting them to flight.
II. Consider secondly, what it is that the Apostle here understands more particularly by this, “I know Whom I have believed.” He understands two things, which, after all, are but one. First, I know Who it is in Whom I have trusted—“Whom I have believed;” and secondly, I know to Whom I have trusted all the good that I do. He says, “I know Whom I have believed,” not “what I have believed,” to show that it ought to be enough for thee to know certainly how faithful a Master He is Whom thou servest, how good, how gracious, how prone to mercy, because He is God. And for the rest, if thou art unable to solve the difficulties which are suggested by thy thoughts to perplex thee concerning the grace which He gives to others and not to thee, concerning predestination, perseverance, and the like, which are obscure even to the learned, be not troubled at this; enough for thee that thou knowest on Whom thou dependest: “I know Whom I have believed.” Is not faith a stronger ground of assurance than any amount of revelations which could possibly be made to thee in these matters? They are liable to delusion, faith is not. And therefore it is not necessary to understand all about such matters in order to do right; it is enough to believe them by making an act of faith. And so, it is not even necessary to be able to say, “I know Whom I believe,” so long as thou canst say, “I know Whom I have believed;” and if at times thou art in such a state of mental darkness, dryness, and distress as to be incapable of eliciting that faith from thy heart, then habitual faith is sufficient. Call to mind those acts of confidence which thou hast formerly made, and hold fast by them, and though past, they have the power of securing thee for the present: “I know Whom I have believed, and I am certain.” Observe, it is not said, “I was certain,” but “I am certain.”
III. Consider thirdly, what it is that is committed to God, of which the Apostle speaks when he says, “I am certain that He is able to keep that which I have committed to Him against that day.” It is the sufferings which he endured for God, the journeyings, the preachings, the imprisonments, the scourgings, and the rest, which thou mayest go through in thy mind. All these he includes in the word depositum, because he had once committed them into God’s hands, and determined never again to think of himself, not even in matters concerning his salvation, but only of God. Oh, how beautiful an act was this! Why, then, dost thou not endeavour to imitate it, so far at least as thy misery allows? Do thou, too, give up everything into the hands of thy God, even the concern of thy everlasting salvation, which sometimes makes thee so anxious; and, instead of occupying thy thoughts with troublesome fancies and arguing with thyself whether or not thou wilt be saved, betake thyself rather to making acts of the love of God, labour for Him, study for Him, perform thy devotions for Him, protest that all thy desire is to depend on Him alone: “My lots are in Thy hands,” and by this means thou wilt gain the time which thou art now losing in thoughts which are either useless or disquieting.
IV. Consider fourthly, why it is that the Apostle does not say, “I am certain that He will keep that which I have committed to Him,” but only “that He is able to keep” it. He says this to make the expression stronger, saying less but meaning more: Dost thou not believe that God is very well able to keep safely all that thou hast suffered for His sake? If, then, he can consider it absolutely certain that He will do so, because, in our opinion, thou wouldst do God a more grievous wrong in questioning His fidelity than His power—” He is able to keep “—if so, what is there to fear ? If He is able to keep He will keep. “God is not unjust,” said the Apostle to the afflicted believers, “that He should forget your work, and the love which But is not this a strange manner of speaking? Should he not rather have said, “God is not unmindful” than “God is not unjust”? Nevertheless, this is what he did say, to show what that “deposit” was of which we are speaking. We men may now and then forget some small matter which has been committed in trust to us without blame, but not so God. He “is able to keep” in the deep store-house of His Divine mind the very smallest straw picked up from the ground for His sake. And therefore if He is able to do so, He is bound to do so; and if He is so bound, it would be impossible for Him without injustice to be unmindful of the least item of anything done for Him. Hence it is that where men are concerned the prudent warning, of the Preacher is very applicable: “Deliver all things in number and weight, and put all in writing that thou givest out or receivest in;” but with God it would be superfluous, and therefore a wrong to Him to do so. Leave, then, the care of everything to Him, and let it suffice thee to know that He is very well able to keep all that thou hast committed to Him, in order also to know that He will so keep it. Art thou afraid that if He keeps it for thee He will not one day faithfully restore it to thee? This is the way with men, but never with God.
V. Consider fifthly, why the Apostle said, “I am certain that He is able to keep that which I have committed to Him against that day,” that is, the Last Day. Could he not, if we may say so, have caused God to restore this “deposit” to him before that day, by receiving from Him, even on earth, a great part at least of the recompense which had been merited by the successive trials borne for God? But it was enough for him that what was due to him should be kept till the day we are speaking of. Men who are wanting in prudence, when they are engaged on some work involving great labour and outlay, insist on being paid day by day, and so they never become rich, but wiser persons prefer, on the contrary, to receive the whole in one sum, when the work is completed. How is it, then, that thou complainest in thy heart, as though God had wholly forgotten thee? Thou wouldst fain have Him pay thee from time to time? Not so; be satisfied to wait till the Last Day—“that day”—so shalt thou be far richer. And what is this Last Day? It is the day both of the Particular and the General Judgment. On the former God will reward thee most exactly for all that thou hast borne for Him; and on the latter He will, in addition, restore to thee the body in which thou hast borne it. This, then, is another “deposit,” of which the Apostle may have intended to speak when he says, “He is able to keep that which I have committed to Him,” that body of his which has been so wearied and worn, so mortified and afflicted. The first “deposit” appertains to the former of these two days, and the second to the second, and the latter is called “that day,” without any adjective, because there is no other like it either to the good for blessedness, or to the wicked for misery. This is the day which thou shouldst have always vividly in mind for thine encouragement, saying to thyself: “I suffer, but I am not ashamed: for I know Whom I have believed, and I am certain that He is able to keep that which I have committed to Him against that day,” not “for that day,” because then there will no longer be a question of keeping, but of restoring, but “against that day,” because it is only up to that day that He will have to keep it: “Behold, I come quickly, and My reward is with Me, to render to every man according to his works.”
VI. Consider sixthly, that it may be gathered from this passage that even the greatest saints are permitted, especially in times of affliction, suffering, and adversity, to encourage themselves with the hope of their certain reward; indeed, it has always been their custom to do so, as thou wilt see by consulting the Sacred Scriptures. It is true that sometimes, in order to drive away the devil with greater ignominy, and prevent him from ever again returning to disturb thee by temptations to mistrust, thou mayest have to say to him, “I know Whom I have believed, and I am certain that He is able to keep that which I have committed to Him against that day;” but even if He refused to keep it, and were to forget it, so as to allow me to be lost, as He might do, I would nevertheless, in spite of thee, go on serving Him to the utmost, because He is so glorious a Lord that He deserves to be loved for Himself alone, even by those whom He might hold in abhorrence. These were the words of those three courageous children to King Nabuchodonosor, when he tempted them to idolatry, under the pretence that their God would never deliver them from his hands: “Who is the God that shall deliver you out of my hand?” But, they answered: “We have no occasion to answer thee concerning this matter,” because to do so would be waste of time; “for behold our God, Whom we worship, is able to save us from the furnace of burning fire, and to deliver us out of thy hands, O King. But if He will not, be it known to thee, O King, that we will not worship thy gods, nor adore the golden statue which thou hast set up.” 0 Divine answer! Such a one shouldst thou give to the devil whenever he would tempt thee to worship his idols, which are sin and vanity, under pretence that after all thou wilt be lost; say, “I have no occasion to answer thee concerning this matter. I will not stop to argue with thee, O King of darkness. I know that my God is able to do far more good to me than I deserve: ‘Behold my God, Whom I worship, is able to save me from the furnace of burning fire,’ in which thou hast been tormented for so many ages, ‘and to deliver me out of thy hands.’ But even if He will not do so, because of the grievous injuries He has received at my hands, ‘if He will not,’ still I say to thee, ‘Be it known to thee,’ that even then I will strive to serve Him with all possible fidelity till death. I will love and adore Him, and never consent to bend the knee to any save to Him alone: ‘Be it known to thee, O King,’ but King of darkness, ‘that I will not worship thy gods, nor adore the golden statue which thou hast set up ;’ that is, the happiness which thou falsely promisest.” By this means the devil will be forced to cease from tempting thee to distrust in this matter of thy salvation, perhaps the most cruel of all temptations.
And now, if thou preferrest on this day to apply this glorious passage of the Apostle to the heroic martyr St. Laurence, whom it so wells suits, thou wilt be able to do so very easily for thyself. How well might he have said in his heart, when he was stretched upon that terrible gridiron: “I suffer, but I am not ashamed, for I know Whom I have believed, and I am certain that He is able to keep that which I have committed to Him against that day.”
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.
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