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.
Set before your mind our Lord when, in His wondrous sermon on the Mount, He expounded to His disciples and to the assembled multitude the whole Christian code of faith and morals, and proclaimed those weighty maxims which contain the perfection of Christian practice. Place yourself among His audience, imagine that you hear from the divine Master’s own lips the words of the Gospel of the day.
1st. “You cannot serve God and Mammon.” (St. Matt, vi. 24.) Such is the statement the Saviour makes. Mammon is the god of riches, and whoso serves Mammon, cannot serve God as well. It must not, however, be thought that the possession of wealth is incompatible with the service of God; no, on the contrary, as St. Chrysostom teaches, it is quite possible to possess riches and property and yet serve God, as Abraham, Job, Solomon, many saints and devout men have done and still do, by spending their substance on good works. In that case they do not forsake the service of God to serve Mammon, but rather make Mammon helpful to them in the service of God. Not so the avaricious, those who are immersed in material interests, who serve Mammon, who are his slaves; such bondman’s service cannot be combined with the service of the free man, of the children of God. Consider this, my soul, in order to understand aright what our Lord declares, and from your meditation draw two practical conclusions. If you have earthly goods, do not serve them, but make them serve you, remembering what the blessed Brother Giles said: “How much sorrow and grief that unhappy man will have to endure, who sets his heart and hopes and aspirations upon earthly things, who for their sake neglects and finally loses heavenly things, since at the end he will, after all, have to part with those earthly things.” If on the other hand you have none of this world’s goods, give thanks to God for not having laid upon you a weight which would have been more of a hindrance than a help to you in your upward way to Heaven; yet beware lest you think yourself superior to your richer neighbor, since St. Francis bids us remember that we ought to judge and despise no one but ourselves.
2d. Consider the further admonition our Lord gives us: “Behold the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor do they reap, nor gather into barns, and your heavenly Father feedeth them.” (v. 26.) By directing our attention to the birds of the air, who take no thought, He does not intend to prohibit all labor and solicitude on our part. Work is the lot, the duty of the sons of Adam; to them as to him, the words apply: “In the sweat of thy face thou shalt eat bread.” (Gen. iii. xix.) It is still more the bounden duty of the children of St. Francis to labor, since shortly before his death our Seraphic Father declared: “I have labored and will labor with my hands, and it is my expressed wish that the other Brethren should all occupy themselves with some honest work.” By what He here says, our Lord supposes that man should work, and His meaning is that we should not be too careful and anxious over our work, and think ourselves entirely dependent on the labor of our own hands for our sustenance, instead of looking for our maintenance from the hands of our heavenly Father. In respect to this St. Augustine remarks: “If we are really unable to work and provide for ourselves, then our heavenly Father will provide for us, as He feeds the birds of the air, who do not distress themselves about the future.” Yes, my soul, you will do well to take example by the birds of heaven, whom our Seraphic Father liked much better than the ants, because they do not lay up a store for the winter time as the ants do. Nor should you burrow in the earth like the ants, or in your restlessness you will never seek rest in God; but when you have built your nest as the birds do, that is to say, when you have provided for your most pressing needs, then imitate them in singing the praises of God, soar aloft on the pinions of meditation and the contemplative life, wing your flight to God and do not be careful as to what you shall eat and what you shall drink, since you serve Him who feedeth the birds.
3d. Consider our Lord’s concluding words: “Seek ye therefore first the kingdom of God and His justice, and all these things shall be added unto you.” (v. 33.) The kingdom of God is the goal of our earthly pilgrimage, and justice is the way that conducts to that goal. If, faithful to our high calling, we walk in this way to our goal, God will not allow us to want; the necessary things shall be added to us, what is needful for the body will be supplied to us on our way. Now my soul, consider how many men, and you perhaps are after all amongst the number, act in a directly opposite manner. They regard as essential what is merely accessory, the earthly things that are added; on them they expend all their care and all their exertions, thereby forgetting their true aim, and, burdened as they are by material interests, make no progress on the way to that goal. Unfortunate delusion! It does not make man happy here below; on the contrary, it overwhelms him with cares and sorrows, and hereafter casts him into misery still more terrible. See, my soul, that you pursue an opposite course of conduct. Go straight to the mark, strive to gain the kingdom of God, and be assured that in doing so you will not lack what is necessary for the body. Do not forget that as a Priest, as a Religious, you are, so to speak, the domestic servants of God, you belong to His household. Now we know that the upper servants of a king fulfil the duties of their calling, which brings them into the immediate presence of the sovereign, without troubling themselves about food and clothing, since with both their master provides them. In fact, it would be an insult to their king were they to neglect the special duties of their office, under the pretext of having to get their daily bread and see after their clothes. Why do you act like this in regard to the King of Heaven? Will you not alter your conduct in this respect for the future? How shall you set about doing so?
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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