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.
The Gospel for to-day is composed of three distinct parts. First it relates how Jesus was present at a banquet; then an account is given of the healing of the dropsical man; finally we have the parable of those who, being invited to a supper, take the first seats at table. Unlike as these different portions of the Gospel appear at first sight, a close connection and this is what is so wonderful in the Gospel exists between them, and they harmonize perfectly with one another. Let us proceed to consider this.
1st. “And it came to pass when Jesus went into the house of one of the chief of the Pharisees on the Sabbath day, that they watched Him.” (St. Luke xiv. 1.) Observe what is told us here: Jesus takes part at a banquet. Nor is this the first time that He does so. We find Him at the nuptial feast on the occasion of the marriage at Cana, we find Him sitting at table when the penitent Magdalen presented herself before Him, we now see Him entertained in the house of Zacheus the Pharisee; in a word, the divine Founder of the Church does not deny Himself all share in earthly enjoyments, on the contrary, He takes part in them and thereby hallows them. The Church, His Bride, acts in a similar manner; not only does she not forbid us to rejoice, but she herself provides us with matter for rejoicing by her beauteous, gladsome feasts, which form a circle throughout the year, a wreath as it were of true joys; and these are for many thousands the only pleasures vouchsafed them in this vale of tears. In short, the spirit of Christianity, the spirit of the Church, the spirit of your Order is not a gloomy one. It rather calls to you in the words of Holy Scripture: “Give not up thy soul to sadness, and afflict not thyself.” (Ecclus. xxx. 22.) Remember that St. Francis liked always to see his disciples looking cheerful and joyous, because as he said, joy is one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit. Therefore you are at full liberty to take part in the banquet of earthly pleasures, provided you do not do so in the character of a dropsical guest.
2d. Consider this: “Behold, there was a certain man before Him who had the dropsy. Jesus, taking him, healed him and sent him away. And Jesus answering spoke to the lawyers and Pharisees saying: Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath-day? But they held their peace.” (v. 2, 4.) Here observe that Jesus healed the man who had the dropsy and would not permit him to remain at table as a lesson for you. Dropsy is a disease which causes all that ought to create healthy humors in the body to turn to water; it is a gradual dissolution of the forces of nature, and in addition to this, the patient experiences the greatest craving for that which is most prejudicial to him, water. Those who are sufferers from spiritual dropsy are they who take part in the feast of earthly delights not as our Lord did moderately, but immoderately. Such as they, intemperate, sensual, gourmands, drunkards, dissolute, ruin the health of their body and destroy the powers of their soul, and the more deeply they drink of this draught, this poison of the soul, the more they thirst for it. From one pleasure they turn to another, they hurry from enjoyment to enjoyment, from feast to feast, till at length, unsatiated and unsatisfied either in body or soul, they fall victims to disease and death. Be ever on your guard against this evil. Take your share in the banquet of earthly joys as a healthy man, in moderation, that is, not as one who is dropsical, in excess. And if hitherto you have sat at table in the character of the unhealthy guest, oh then ask to be healed, ask our Lord to heal you; and remember at the same time that it is on the Sabbath that your cure can best be effected, that is to say, an immoderate craving for earthly gratifications and pleasures will be more easily banished if our soul is accustomed to delight in the joy of the Sabbath, joy in God and with God. Is this so in your case?
3d. Consider finally that our Lord addresses an exhortation to the guests after He has healed the man that had the dropsy. “When thou art invited to a wedding sit not down in the first place . . . but go, sit down in the lowest place.” (v. 8, 10.) Although these words are intended principally to teach us to be humble, yet they are not foreign to the subject of our present meditation. You may, Christian, nay under certain circumstances you must take part in convivial pleasures, especially when good fellowship requires you to do so; but then follow our Lord’s counsel, take the lowest place; that is to say, do not put yourself forward, keep yourself well in hand; for in the lowest place, that is by moderation and sobriety, you will most easily preserve the “secure mind,” which as Solomon tells us, “is like a continual feast.” (Prov. xv. 15.) And there is yet another reason why you should act thus: To him who contents himself with the lowest place at the earthly feast, our Lord will say, when he is invited to the marriage feast in Heaven, “Friend, go up higher.” (v. 16.) Look upwards to our blessed Lady, the holy apostles, the martyrs, the saints of your own Order; they all sat down in the lowest place at the table on earth; now they occupy the first place in Heaven at the celestial banquet God provides for the redeemed, for whoso despises and renounces temporal gratifications to do the will of God, will be made partaker of heavenly and eternal joys in superabundant measure.
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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