On the Strife for Precedence among the 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 Strife for Precedence among the Disciples.
We read that on one occasion the apostles disputed amongst themselves and contended with one another as to which of their number should be greatest in the kingdom of God, forming conjectures as to who should have the foremost place there. Although they took all the pains they could to conceal the subject of their dispute from their Master, yet He who reads the heart knew just as well as if He had been told what was going on in their minds, and called them to account for it. Keep this incident before your thoughts.
1st. Consider the question the apostles asked our Lord: “Who, thinkest Thou, is the greater in the kingdom of Heaven?” (St. Matt, xviii. 1.) In connection with this inquiry St. Chrysostom wisely observes: “See how man cannot rest content within the limits assigned him by God, but must needs ever aspire after something higher.” This it is which has been the ruin of many souls, that they persist in reaching out after what is beyond the measure of their strength to attain. This spirit, the spirit of Lucifer, is largely developed in human nature. Every one wants to be the first, no one is willing to be the last. Many desire to fill a higher post instead of serving God in a lowly one; the greater part of mankind consider that they deserve to occupy a more exalted position, and very few acknowledge that they are not equal to their present post. Examine yourself; see whether you too are not to be counted among the disciples who strive for the precedence, and make every effort to rid yourself of the fatal legacy Lucifer has bequeathed to you. St. Ignatius says that if two opportunities of serving God offer themselves, the preference should always be given to the one which involves the most abjection and humiliation on our part; and St. Francis thus admonishes his monks: “Happy the Religious who when raised to a high position can truly say that he has never cherished any desire for it, and who is always willing to fill a subordinate post. Alas for him on whom his fellow Religious have conferred some dignity, and who displays reluctance to resign that dignity and become as one of the others.”
2d. Consider the method our Lord chose of quenching the ambitious spirit of His disciples. St. Luke tells us that “He took a child and set him by Him, and said to them: ‘He that is lesser among you all, he is the greater.’” (St. Luke ix. 47.) He who instead of exalting himself is humble, modest, unassuming as this child, will be great in the kingdom of Heaven. Dwell long in thought, my soul, on the pleasing example and model of humility which our Lord proposes to us in that favored boy. Yes, you must be as a child both in your intercourse with your fellow men, and in your converse with God. Just as children, whether they are the sons of princes, or the daughters of the poorest parent, think nothing of themselves and play together in innocence, never striving for the precedence their rank entitles them to, free from the promptings of pride and ambition, so we should conduct ourselves when brought into contact with our fellow men. And furthermore our feelings, our attitude towards God, ought to resemble those of a child, who, conscious that he is entirely dependent upon his parents, submits with all docility to be led and guided by them, knowing nothing but that he owes everything to his father and mother. It is in this consciousness, this intimate conviction that without God we are nothing, that humility principally consists. We hear of a devout soul to whom God vouchsafed to make this truth apparent by means of a vision. “I seemed,” she writes, “to be standing on the verge of a profound abyss. Within this abyss there were steps which led down to the bottom. These steps were however nothing but a narrow bar of iron, not more than an inch in width and thickness, all else being empty space, so that if one failed to set one’s foot on the iron bar, one must infallibly fall into the abyss, since there was no railing to protect one. Our Lord then said to me: ‘My daughter, descend those steps.’ I would not disobey, but I knew for a certainty that I should fall down. Therefore I laid hold firmly on the hand our Lord extended to me, and began to descend. After a few steps both my feet slipped off the narrow bar. I was terribly frightened and cried out: ‘Lord, hold me up!’ ‘What would become of thee, My daughter, if I let thee go?’ ‘Alas! I should be precipitated into the horrible abyss.’ Then our Lord said to me: ‘You now perceive that without Me you can do nothing; My help is indispensable to you to keep you from falling into the abyss every moment. Of what can you then be proud, since without Me you can do nothing?’”
Meditate upon those words, my soul, that you may the more readily become a child in God’s sight.
3d. Consider wherefore Christ gives the precedence in the kingdom of Heaven to humility, and not to charity, although the latter is generally regarded as the first of virtues. The Angelic Doctor, St. Thomas of Aquin, explains this to us when he says that humility is the invariable accompaniment of charity, and the more humble a man is, the more fervent is his charity towards God. Let your thoughts dwell upon this true dictum, for you will find in it abundant matter for your consideration. The greater the humility, the greater the love. This we see plainly illustrated in our Seraphic Father, St. Francis. He looked upon himself as the most miserable sinner in the whole world. In his estimation every one was superior to him, and he inferior to all. And what did this humility do for him? It was the means whereby he acquired that ardent love which earned for him the name of “Seraphic Father.” Humble as a little child, he at the same time glowed with a seraph’s fervent love. Endeavor my soul to be, or rather to become a little child in your relation to God, unassuming, modest, humble, and you will then become a seraph, consumed by charity, inflamed with devotion both now on earth and hereafter in Heaven, where he is the greater who was the lesser here below. Let this be the goal you strive to attain, and form a resolution to-day as to the means you will employ to attain it.
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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