On the Chief Commandment in 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 Chief Commandment in the Gospel for the Day.
Imagine that you see the infinitely lovely and lovable Saviour, standing in the midst of the Jews whose object is to tempt Him with their crafty questions behold Him, an innocent Lamb surrounded by ravening wolves and listen to the answer which with heavenly wisdom and divine patience He makes to their attacks. “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart and with thy whole soul, and with thy whole mind.” (St. Matt. xxii. 37.) That is the first and greatest commandment of the New Covenant, it is a summary of the whole moral code of the Christian.
1st. We ought to love God for our own sake. It was not without intention that our Lord made use of the same words concerning the love of God, when He was asked what one must do to be saved. Very often you think within yourself with a sigh: Would that I knew the right, the sure way to Heaven! Here it is pointed out to you: It is the love of God. You only need to walk in that way and in that way alone; you can walk in it even if you are crooked and lame, blind or dumb; it matters not whether you are counted among the rich or the poor, the learned or the unlearned ones of the earth. You cannot be too poor or too insignificant to love God; remember how St. Bonaventure reminded blessed Brother Giles, who was noted for his extreme simplicity, of this truth for his consolation and encouragement, telling him that in order to obtain eternal salvation it was enough to love God. And he added that a poor illiterate old woman was just as capable of loving God as the most erudite theologian. Take heart then, my soul; as you now know the way to Heaven, walk hence forth in it, and bear in mind continually the admonition given us in the Imitation: “All is vanity, besides loving God and serving Him alone. For he who loves God with his whole heart fears neither death nor chastisement, neither judgment nor hell, because perfect love prepares for the soul freer access to God.”
2d. We ought to love God for His own sake. For this reason it is said: “Thou shalt love thy God with thy whole heart.” Our love for God must not be a selfish love, only for the sake of our own interest; it ought rather to be the love of our whole heart, a free, generous love of God for what He is in Himself. For we know that God first loved us. Reflect awhile to-day on the love of God for you, think of all that His love has done for you. Pass in mental review the innumerable graces and blessings which you owe to God. Consider that all that you see around you, all that you hear or feel that is good and beautiful is His gift. For you the stars shine, the moon gives light, the sun emits its vivifying rays. For you the flowers blossom, the trees bear fruit; oh say, how is it possible that men do not love God with their whole heart? If St. Francis did but hear the love of God mentioned, his soul was stirred to its inmost depths, and his heartstrings made sweet harmony like the chords of a harp. All creatures for him were only so many mirrors wherein he beheld God, the God of his love; they were so many steps whereby he ascended to God, the God of his love; they were so many melodious notes, resounding within his loving heart. Moreover he had but one desire and that was to love God more, so that he prayed: Grant, Lord, that the sweet force of Thy burning love may detach me from all things under Heaven, in order that I may die of love and of longing for Thy love. You see in what a degree Francis loved God, and you hear that same God whom he loved call to you, bidding you love Him with your whole heart; can you remain cold and indifferent?
3d. Consider in what the true love of God actually consists. Our Lord says: “Thou shalt love thy God with thy whole heart, and with thy whole soul, and with thy whole mind.” Commenting on this passage, St. Augustine says: “Thou shalt love God with thy whole heart, thy whole soul, thy whole mind, so that all thy thoughts, thy whole life, all thy intellectual powers may be fixed upon, directed towards Him from whom thou hast received all.” No part of our being is omitted from this category, nothing within us is to be inactive, for the love of God does not consist in mere sentiments, affections, fine phrases: it demands deeds, sacrifices, entire and complete self-surrender. He loves God perfectly who consecrates himself to His service with all his powers of body and soul, so that he may present his body in chastity and continence as “a living sacrifice, holy, pleasing unto God” (Rom. xii. 1), and all the powers of his soul will ever be turned towards God, as flowers turn towards the sun; the understanding thinking of Him, the affections delighting in Him, the will conforming itself to His will. “God,” says St. Augustine, “desires to have thee wholly and entirely. But do not grieve, as though thou wouldst retain nothing wherein to find enjoyment. To love God will be thy truest gain, and if thou dost not love God who made thee, thou hast but little love for thyself.” Ask yourself how it is with you in regard to the love of God, and lay to heart this beautiful passage from the Imitation: “Whatsoever things I love, of these I willingly speak and hear, and carry home with me the images of them. But blessed is the man, Lord, who for Thee gives all things created leave to depart; who does violence to his nature, and through fervor of spirit crucifies the lusts of the flesh; that so he may be worthy to be among the choirs of angels, all earthly things being shut out, whether external or internal.” He is indeed blessed who loves but one, and that one God; who loves Him with his whole heart, with his whole soul and with his whole mind.
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)
Copyright © 2013. Holy Cross Publications. All rights reserved.