On the Raising of the Widow’s Son at Naim.
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 Raising of the Widow’s Son at Naim.
Represent to yourself the pathetic scene set before you in to-day’s Gospel. A mournful funeral procession is passing through the streets of Naim. Weeping bitterly the bereaved mother follows to its last resting-place the remains of her only son. A multitude of people, desirous to manifest their sympathy, but unable to render assistance or relief, accompany the bier. Just as the city gates are reached, Jesus enters, the great Worker of miracles, ready to afford succor when it seems impossible. Keep this scene before your mind during your meditation.
1st. Contemplate the dead man. The corpse is not that of an old man, nor of one who was wasted away by a long illness, it is that of a young man in his bloom, in the prime of life. Furthermore this youth is not one of a number of sons, he is not the scion of a wealthy house, richly endowed with this world’s goods and in other respects happy and prosperous; he is the only son of a poor widow, her sole support, her only treasure, in a word her all. See how ruthless death is. He has no pity on the infant in the cradle, hungry, crying for its mother. He carries off the mother and leaves the child to spend its little strength in fruitless wailing. He is not touched by the lamentations of the unhappy orphans, he takes their father from them, and anon he relentlessly plucks a fairer flower, the maiden, the youth growing up to man’s estate in the heyday of health and strength, to the infinite grief of the sorrowing parents. Reflect upon the cruelty of death, call to mind the distress and grief, the pain and tears that he causes in the world, not in order that these thoughts may have the effect of rendering you gloomy and sad, but that you may the rather rejoice, and congratulate yourself on this, that for you, as a Priest, a Religious, death no longer has this sting. He can rob you of nothing, since you possess nothing; he cannot take from you property to which your heart clings, nor relatives, for you parted from them long ago; nor life itself, for that is consecrated to God. How happy you are, my soul, in contrast to the children of the world! Yet perhaps you do not entertain these feelings in regard to death if it is so, then be assured that you are as yet no true Priest or Religious.
2d. Contemplate the mother of the dead man, as she follows the body of her son to the grave, almost beside herself with grief and sorrow, dissolved in tears, overwhelmed with pain and affliction. How keenly she feels the loss, the great, the irreparable loss she has sustained! Jesus sees her trouble and is “moved with mercy.” (St. Luke vii. 13.) This mother is a type of our dear and faithful Mother, the Church. How bitterly she bewails the spiritual death of her children, for she knows the extent of the loss involved in such a death, the loss of an immortal soul, of a member of the Saviour’s body, of a soul redeemed by the precious blood of Christ. Accordingly she sends up her sighs to Heaven day and night, in order to move Jesus to show mercy to unhappy sinners. Many a transgressor owes his conversion to the penitential tears and prayers, to the sacrifices of his Mother the Church, which have been the means of raising him from the dead. You also are a member of this same Church, my soul. Show yourself worthy of such a mother. Take part in her sorrow, her tears, her compassionate supplications on behalf of those who are spiritually dead, unrepentant sinners. Nothing is more admirable in a Priest or the member of a Religious Order than this compassion with the sinner. St. Francis once said to his monks: “Go and seek out thieves, who albeit they are thieves, are yet our brethren; set before them the best bread that you have, invite them to dine with you in the kindest manner, and I hope by God’s grace you may win their souls.” Ask yourself how many souls you have gained by mercy, how many have you repulsed by pride and severity?
3d. Contemplate Him who raised the dead. The first words He utters are addressed to the widow: “Weep not.” Only omnipotent love can speak in this wise, says St. Gregory of Nyssa; only the love that can change mourning into joy, and death into life. How often since then has He performed this miracle! Whenever a sinner is absolved from his guilt, Jesus stays the sorrowing tears which the sinner himself has shed, or which others have shed on his account; and the sadness that filled his soul and the heart of his pious friends, the sadness he caused to the Church, to his Angel Guardian, is changed into gladness. Remember this, you who are a Priest, if you are tempted to grow impatient in the confessional. “He came near,” the Evangelist tells us, “and touched the bier. And they that carried it stood still. And He said, Young man, I say to thee arise. And he that was dead sat up and began to speak. And He gave him to his mother.” (v. 14, 15.) Here we have the whole process of conversion. The Redeemer first of all touches the bier with His grace the bier signifies the habit of sin and the bearers stand still, the transgressor at last stops in his course of sin. By the lips of His Priest our Lord then speaks the word: Arise; He calls the dead man back to life by means of the Sacrament of Penance, and then, as St. Albert says, gives the child newly re-awakened to the life of grace back to the Church, his Mother. Now when you consider all this, when you think how often our Lord has wrought and still works this miracle in you and thousands of other Christians, have you not reason to glorify God as did the people of Naim, and with a grateful heart to laud and magnify Jesus, who raised you from spiritual death? Yes, give thanks to God with your whole heart for your conversion and that of your brother, and resolve during the week on which we have entered to show your thankfulness by daily performing some act of devotion and penance on behalf of unhappy sinners.
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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