On the Good Samaritan.
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 Good Samaritan.
Imagine that you see before you the unhappy man, who having fallen among robbers, lies groaning and bleeding in the wood, fixing his dim eyes sorrowfully upon the priest and the Levite, who ruthlessly pass him by. His strength is gradually ebbing away, when joy! the good Samaritan comes near him, and seeing him, rescues him from his wretched condition. Keep this picture before your eyes while you meditate on this subject.
1st. Consider the higher mystic signification of the parable. According to the gloss of the two great Fathers of the Church, St. Augustine and St. Ambrose, it refers to Christ and His great compassion for man. Adam went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, he descended from the height of paradise to the depth of sin by the fall, and all mankind, pilgrims upon earth, fell with him. They fell among thieves, the spirits of evil who robbed them, stripping them of the garment of sanctifying grace, and wounded them with the deep wounds of sin. Priest and Levite, the representatives of the Old Covenant with its rigid code, passed by the traveller who lay mortally wounded without rendering him any assistance. Then Jesus came, Jesus the merciful came in His humility and poverty, the Samaritan, hated and despised by the Jews; He does not pass by the forsaken sufferer; He goes up to him, and bending kindly over him, pours into his gaping wounds the invigorating wine of His sacred doctrines, He drops into them the holy oil of the graces His sacraments impart, and in His character of the Good Shepherd He carries the lamb upon His shoulders to the inn, holy Church. To her He gives “two pence,” the two testaments, embracing all that is ordained and instituted for our salvation, in order that she may “take care” of poor wounded humanity, until the Lord shall return on the great day when payment shall be made. Meditate carefully upon this time-honored interpretation of today’s parable, fraught as it is with deep meaning, and let your heart overflow with love and gratitude to the good Samaritan, to whom you also are indebted for your rescue.
2d. Consider the reason why our Lord made choice of a Samaritan as the model of fraternal charity He proposed to the lawyer. St. Augustine tells us the reason. Whilst in the schools of the Jews the teachers of the law debated whether, as only an Israelite could be neighbor to Israelites, the precept of charity included any duty to heathens and Samaritans, our Lord, by the parable of the good Samaritan, taught that charity and mercy must be shown to all, without distinction of race or nation. Christian charity, symbolized in the Samaritan, recognizes him as her neighbor, to whom – to quote St. Augustine’s beautiful words – she is bound to render service, to show compassion if he needs it and because he needs it; and as she would render such aid to every one who requires it, it follows that no one is excluded from, or without claim upon, that charity. Thus we can say of no man, nor he of us, that we are not his neighbor, nor have we any right to withhold our compassion from him. Wherefore if every one in the whole wide world is to be reckoned as our neighbor, and every one has a claim upon our charity, so that we are allowed to make no exceptions, alas for you! my soul, who are apt to make such exceptions even in the narrow circle of your immediate surroundings; you, too, who are a Priest, a Levite, one highly favored by God. It is not without intention that our Lord proposes to us a Samaritan when He would teach us to show mercy. The Samaritan, the one who leads a secular life, has far more charity than the Priest and the Levite. Thus, as St. Gregory says, the good works of laymen who live in the world often put the clergy to shame. Lay to heart this day the words of St. Jerome: “It is charity that makes men true Religious, true monks: without charity the convent would be a hell upon earth and its inmates would be devils; while with charity it will become an earthly paradise and its denizens will be angels.”
3d. Consider what a high value the charity towards our neighbor enjoined on us in today’s Gospel possesses in God’s sight. The Most High Himself places the precept of charity towards our neighbor on a par with the precept of charity towards God. “The second is like unto it,” He says. (St. Mark xii. 31.) Thus charity towards our neighbor is inseparable from charity towards God. “If any man say: I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar” (I. St. John iv. 20); this we read in St. John’s epistle, and St. Chrysostom likewise says: “No man who loves God can hate his neighbor, nor can any man love God who hates his fellow man. If the love of our brother wanes, we may be sure that the love of God has already waned also in our heart.” This commandment is given so high a place that unless we fulfil it it is impossible for us to love God. Hence our Lord in His last discourse declares it to be the indispensable, the essential mark of His disciples that they love one another; and St. Francis impresses nothing more emphatically upon Christians than the practice of that brotherly love which our Lord requires of His followers. Pause awhile, my soul, and consider this: How great, how infinitely great God is, and how small, how unspeakably small man is! And yet this God declares that no one truly loves Him who withholds his love from his fellow man. Thus we see how highly God values charity towards our neighbor. If therefore, my soul, you complain of having so little devotion, of being so seldom recollected, of knowing nothing of the spirit of penance, and you puzzle your brains as to the reason why you are so deficient in the fruits of divine grace, trouble yourself no longer on this point, but ask yourself what amount of love you have for your neighbor.
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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