On the Accusation Brought by the Pharisees against Our Lord’s Disciples.
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 Accusation Brought by the Pharisees against Our Lord’s Disciples.
Hitherto in our meditations we have accompanied our Lord as He went to and fro preaching the Gospel in Palestine, up to the commencement of the third year of His public ministry. We have seen the Good Shepherd footsore and weary with His continual journeyings, hoarse with continual speaking, endeavoring by every means to induce the stray sheep of the house of Israel to come to Him. But alas! Although God Himself in His infinite charity and compassion descends from Heaven to earth, and goes to and fro upon the earth dispensing benefits and blessings at every step, His footsteps are dogged by men who follow Him, not actuated by grateful affection, but by malicious hatred; who follow Him not in the hope of gaining the blessings that strew His path but in order to turn those blessings into curses for themselves. The men of whom we speak are the Pharisees.
1st. Consider that these Pharisees, who outwardly appear so saintly, follow the Redeemer with the most unholy design; they follow Him not with the desire of learning of Him, but with the malicious design of watching His every action, of criticising it, of censuring it. And these men, be it observed, were the Scribes, who sat in Moses seat; they came from Jerusalem, the holiest spot in all Israel; public opinion held them to be the most saintly, the most devout of Israel’s sons, and yet these were the very men who were guilty of such hateful ingratitude towards the Saviour of mankind; who wilfully rejected the graces offered to them, offered to them first of all and most of all. If, while you meditate upon this, your heart swells within you with indignation at the unworthy conduct of those degenerate Pharisees, restrain this feeling awhile and ask yourself whether our Lord does not meet with the like base ingratitude and shameful treatment now, at the hands of those who sit in Moses seat, the Priests, that is, who minister in the sanctuary of God, the Religious who live in hallowed places, and who are considered by the people to be the most pious and holy of men. Ask yourself furthermore whether you have not a share in the guilt they incur, and perhaps at the conclusion of your reflection you will be led to form a serious resolution, and say: I will not be ungrateful towards God as are the heathen; I will not merely appear to be pious and godly because of the state I have embraced, but I will be so in reality.
2d. Consider how the Pharisees manifest their abominable spite by this, that they strive to sow dissension between Christ and His disciples. At one time they endeavor to lessen the respect of the disciples for their Master, saying: “Why doth your Master eat with publicans and sinners?” (St. Matt. ix. 11.) At another time they seek to stir up the Master against His disciples by addressing to Him the malicious question: “Why do Thy disciples transgress the tradition of the ancients, for they wash not their hands when they eat bread?” (St. Matt, xv. 2.) How detestable is this vice in which the Pharisees indulged! Seeking as they did to separate loving hearts and drop the poison of disunion in a community where peace and concord reigned! Now if whilst meditating upon this abominable conduct, your blood boils in just wrath against the Pharisees, pause and ask yourself whether you have not sometimes, perhaps inadvertently and unintentionally, by a few words that you have spoken thoughtlessly, or with more or less ill-will, prejudiced your fellow Religious against the Superior, or the Superior against his subjects? One cannot be careful enough in this respect; one cannot bridle one’s tongue strictly enough; one cannot follow closely enough the sage counsel of St. Bonaventure, who says on this subject: As it is our duty to beware lest we speak evil of others, so we ought to be very careful never to repeat to any one what this person or the other has said of him, remembering the warning of the Wise Man: “The words of a talebearer are as it were simple, but they reach to the innermost parts of the belly.” (Prov. xxvi. 22.) For what we repeat in this way only serves to awaken bitter feelings and sow discord amongst brethren; it is severely denounced in Holy Scripture: “Six things there are that the Lord hateth, and the seventh His soul detesteth . . . him that soweth discord amongst brethren.” (Prov. vi. 16, 19.)
3d. Consider that the Pharisees esteem the precepts of men above the commandments of God. Our Lord expressly says to them: “Why do you transgress the law of God for your tradition?” (St. Matt. xv. 3.) For whilst they reproached the disciples for “transgressing the tradition of the ancients,” disregarding what was an institution of man, they themselves sanctioned an offering which was directly contrary to the expressed commandment of God and the violation of a sacred duty; which was not more over prompted by a good and holy motive, but only permitted them, under the pretence of piety, to indulge hatred, revenge, unkindness to their parents, and their own avarice. For in order to exempt themselves from the onerous duty of maintaining, perhaps for a lengthened period and at considerable expense to themselves, their aged parents, they sought by offering a gift to the temple, money that ought to have been for the support of those parents, to obtain a release from the obligation, and thus gain the credit of performing a good work by violating the law of God and of nature. How great was the blindness of these hypocritical Pharisees! But are the Pharisees the only ones that are blind? Examine your own heart, and see whether somewhat of this pharisaical leaven does not yet adhere to it. How many there are among Christian people and Religions, who are more careful about performing certain self-imposed devotions or particular mortifications than about fulfilling the commandments of God, the laws of the Church, the Rule of their Order! They will shed tears if they are obliged to omit some religious exercise of their own choosing, but they do not trouble themselves about an infraction of the Rule. They consider it a sin to break through the strict rule of life that they have made for themselves, but to carry it out in defiance of the law of charity is of no account. They perform their self-chosen occupations and favorite devotions with indefatigable diligence, but if the time-honored exercises of the Order or the precepts of the Church interfere with these, they do not scruple to set them aside. There may be seen the leaven of the Pharisees. Get rid of it. First of all fulfil the law of God, and whatever God, the Church, or your Rule requires of you; then you are at liberty to keep “the traditions of men”; that is, to perform your self-imposed religious exercises and good works, as you are told in the Imitation (B. i. ch. 19): “Take care that thou be not slack in common exercises and more forward in those of thine own choice; but having fully and faithfully performed what thou art bound to do, and what is enjoined thee, if thou hast any time remaining, give thyself to thyself according as thy devotion shall incline thee.”
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.