On the Gospel for the Day.
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 Gospel for the Day.
Imagine that you see Jesus passing through Samaria, journeying up to Jerusalem. On the same road there are ten lepers; as soon as they descry the great Worker of miracles, a gleam of joy lights up their features, distorted by that fell disease; a new hope animates the unhappy sufferers for whom human science knows no cure, and they lift up their voices in accents of pathetic entreaty, imploring: “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” This is a most touching scene.
1st. Consider how loathsome and painful a malady leprosy is. How horribly it disfigures the human body, formed by the master-hand of the Most High, and deprives it of all its pristine beauty. The fair soft skin is covered with disgusting sores, no less revolting to the smell than to the sight. Add to this the racking pains that torment the sufferer day and night, the feverish heat and convulsive throbs; and remember, to crown all, that those unfortunate creatures are excluded from the companionship of their fellow men, and must needs waste away in sad and hopeless solitude. With deep compassion you will exclaim: What a life, far worse, far bitterer than death itself! And yet, my soul, there is something more terrible, more revolting than leprosy; it is mortal sin, the leprosy of the soul. For this does much more than stamp its devastating, defacing impress on the body; it deforms and destroys that which is God’s own image, the immortal soul. The soul that is stained with mortal sin is more disgusting in God’s sight than the body which is devoured by leprosy, and the stings of conscience cause it to ache and smart with pain more acute than that which the swellings of leprosy inflict upon the body. And if the leper on account of his hideous malady is shut out for life from genial intercourse with his kind, spiritual leprosy does more, for it deprives the soul of blissful communion with God, and of the company of the saints, not only for time, but for all eternity. Meditate upon this, meditate upon it in all its horror. You would consider it impossible, or at any rate most foolish and imprudent to embrace a leper, to eat with him out of the same dish, to share his bed; you shrink in disgust from the mere idea of such a thing. Why then do you not shrink from the touch of that far worse leprosy, the leprosy of the soul, mortal sin, and from close communion with it?
2d. Consider the healing of the lepers. Their malady is in itself incurable. No human skill has power to deliver them from that terrible affliction; One alone can do this, Jesus, and to Him they appeal. “Whom when He saw, He said, Go show yourselves to the priests. And it came to pass as they went they were made clean.” (St. Luke xvii. 14.) In the manner whereby their cure was effected the deliverance from the spiritual leprosy of sin is typified. Hear how St. Antony of Padua expounds this passage. The word “Go,” according to the teaching of the saint, signifies the first step in conversion, when the contrite soul rouses herself to do penance and resolves to forsake sin and avoid the occasion of sin. The words: “Show yourselves” signify public confession, the manifestation of one’s spiritual state, both before the tribunal of one’s own conscience and also “to the priests.” Furthermore, as the lepers were cleansed by our Lord’s wondrous mercy while they were on their way to the priests, so it often happens that a sinner is, through the operation of divine grace, enabled to conceive supernatural, perfect contrition, and is thus freed from sin, and yet it is indispensable for him to “show himself to the priests.” Only through the instrumentality of the Priest can the soul be duly and rightly cleansed, and even in cases where confession is impossible, and perfect compunction suffices to wash away sin, one must at least be on one’s way to the Priest; that is, one must have the will, the intention to go to confession as soon as circumstances permit. Mark this well. You may perhaps shed floods of tears, you may be almost in despair on account of your sins, you may impose on yourself the severest penances, yet our Lord only heals you if you are on your way, whilst you are going to the Priest; never without sincere and full confession on your part. Are your confessions always of this nature? Are you willing, are you always ready when it is necessary or salutary, to “go to the priests,” or do you postpone as long as possible approaching the Sacrament of Penance? Examine yourself on this point; it is of no slight importance; form such resolutions concerning it as are suitable for a Priest or a Religious, who is bound to preserve the utmost purity of heart.
3d. Consider another meaning which may be found in the words: “Go show yourselves to the priests.” Almighty God is pleased to make men the channels of His grace; through them, through them alone He communicates His favors to souls. This is pre-eminently the case in regard to Priests, the directors of souls, ecclesiastical Superiors. Hence it is of paramount importance in the spiritual life to be frank and candid in conferring upon such matters with one’s director or Superior. Not only does your spiritual advancement depend upon the observance of this rule, but under certain circumstances your eternal salvation. Try to remember how often in the course of your life, especially in seasons of temptation, sincerity has been of the greatest service to you, or reticence has been most baneful. Nothing, says St. Dorotheus, gives the devil greater pleasure than to meet with someone who conceals his temptations. He knows he is certain of vanquishing him, because it is a conflict of one against one, as Holy Scripture tells us: “Woe to him that is alone, for when he falleth, he hath none to lift him up.” (Eccles. iv. 10.) Nothing on the other hand annoys him more than to see his artifices disclosed; then he loses courage and all hope of victory and takes to flight. “He who opens his heart freely and candidly to his confessor,” says Cassian, “is safe against the assaults and delusions of the evil one.” Bear in mind these maxims of the saints, my soul; examine your past life; see whether your experience does not confirm the truth of them; then make a resolution that in future in such matters you will prefer humble frankness to proud reserve, for this will assuredly conduce to your soul’s health; and it may even be with you as with the lepers: you may experience relief from violent temptations whilst you are going to the Priest; that is, when you once have fully determined to manifest your conscience openly to him.
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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