On the Man Sick of the Palsy.
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 Man Sick of the Palsy.
Place vividly before your mind the affecting scene depicted by the Evangelist in to-day’s Gospel. Imagine that you see our Lord surrounded by an immense, surging multitude, see how laboriously and yet how perseveringly the four men who are carrying the man sick of the palsy endeavor to bring him into the Saviour’s presence; behold how they go up on the roof and let down the sick man with his bed by ropes, never resting until they have laid him at Jesus’ feet. Keep this scene before your eyes during your meditation.
1st. “And behold, they brought unto Him one sick of the palsy, lying on a bed.” (St. Matt. ix. 2.) This man who is sick of the palsy represents those persons to whom God sends sickness as a punishment for their sins and also for their salvation, for, as the Ven. Bede writes: “Our Lord, by granting forgiveness of sin to the sick man before healing him, gives us to understand that the greater part of our physical maladies are the consequence of sin.” Yet observe the teacher whose words we quote does not say all sicknesses are the result of sin. There are other causes for them, and he proceeds to enumerate these causes as follows: “There are five reasons for which men are visited with bodily maladies: Either to increase their merits, as in the case of Job and of the martyrs, or to keep them humble, as when the angel of Satan was sent to St. Paul (II. Cor. xii. 7) or to lead to the confession and expiation of sin, as in the instance of Mary, the sister of Moses (Num. xii.) and of the palsied man in the Gospel, or for the glory of God, like the man who was born blind (St. John ix.) or finally, bodily sickness may be the commencement in this world of the torment of the damned, as was the case with Herod (Acts xii.) and Antiochus (II. Mach. ix.).” Meditate upon this explanation given by the saint, and you will clearly perceive that bodily sickness, far from being a great evil, is often the greatest blessing and benefit from the hand of God. “A grievous sickness maketh the soul sober” (Ecclus. xxxi. 2), says the Wise Man of the Old Testament. Listen to the counsel a patriarch of the desert once gave to a sick man for his consolation: “My son,” he said, “do not let this illness trouble and afflict thee, on the contrary give God thanks for it; for if thou art no more precious than iron, it is a fire which will cleanse thee from rust and impurity, and if thou art gold, it will serve to refine and perfect thee.” And we read of St. Clare, who for twenty-eight years suffered tortures from all kinds of diseases, that when her Confessor exhorted her to be patient, she uttered these admirable words: “Since through the instrumentality of the great St. Francis I have known the grace of Jesus Christ my Redeemer, I have found no illness burdensome, no pain intolerable, no work of penance onerous.” But, you will perhaps say, suppose my sickness were the beginning of eternal punishment? Consider what follows.
2d. According to the account given by St. Mark (ch. ii. 3) there were four bearers who brought the man sick of the palsy to our Lord, of whom it is said in the Gospel: “And Jesus, seeing their faith, said to the man sick of the palsy: “Be of good heart, son, thy sins are forgiven thee.”” Here mark two things: Four bearers carried the sick man to the Physician whose help they sought. If you desire that your illness should not prove, as you dread lest it should, the beginning of eternal torment, but should rather serve to cleanse you from your sins, you must be carried to our Lord by four bearers. Your depressed and broken spirit must rouse itself to confess your misdeeds, the thought of death must be present to your mind, besides the fear of hell and the hope of everlasting salvation. These four bearers will bring you also to Jesus, to Him who can save you. The second thing to which you must pay attention is this: the Evangelist expressly says, Jesus, seeing their faith. He does not mention the faith of the sick man, but of the men who carried him thither, and for the sake of their faith relief was afforded to the sufferer. Here we see the power exercised by faith and charitable intercession on behalf of another, for, as St. Chrysostom remarks, a man often owes his cure to the faith of someone else. Wherefore, my soul, learn hence in seasons of sickness and affliction to claim the assistance of the prayers and vicarious penances of your Brethren and Sisters, for as Scripture tells us “the Lord will hear the prayers of the just.” (Prov. xv. 29.) Many a time God grants to the loving intercession of one of your Brethren on your behalf what He has denied to your own prayers. This truth is confirmed by countless instances in the pages of Holy Scripture; remember how God would have consented even to spare Sodom at Abraham’s entreaty (Gen. xviii. 22), how through Lot’s intercession He did not destroy the city of Segor (Gen. xix. 21), and how often Moses’ prayers were the means of averting evil from Israel. If therefore you are sick, either in body or in spirit, look around in the twofold manner mentioned above for the four bearers; appeal to them, and to you also it will be given to hear the consoling words: “Be of good heart,” and thus you may be assured that your sickness will not prove the commencement of your eternal damnation.
3d. Consider the beautiful, the touching example given us by the four bearers. Nothing deters them from accomplishing their object, no difficulty is too great for their charity to overcome. This charity alone enabled them impossible as it appeared on account of the vast concourse of people to reach the presence of Jesus with the sick man. They went up upon the roof of the house and let down the man sick of the palsy. “Love,” as the author of the Imitation truly says, “love feels no burden, regards not labors; it would willingly do more than it is able to do; it pleads not impossibility because it feels sure that it can and may do all things; it attains its goal where he who loves not faints and lies down.” (Imit. B. iii. ch. 5.) Would that you and all your Brethren and Sisters were animated by this love, more particularly by this charity towards your sick and suffering fellow men! It is such a natural sentiment that it seems almost incomprehensible how Christian people and pre-eminently Religious, can be devoid of it, for are we not all members of Christ’s body? Thus the Apostle expressly declares: “That the members might be mutually careful for one another; if one member suffer anything, all the members suffer with it.” (I. Cor. xii. 25.) St. Augustine adds these words which we should do well to lay to heart: “Lo, the foot treads upon a thorn. Now what is farther from the foot than the eye? It is far as to distance, but for charity it is very near. For the eye immediately looks for the thorn, the body bends down to the foot, the hand draws out that which made it smart; thus all the members are solicitous for one another and suffer one with the other.” Where this is not so – ponder the fact well, my soul! – the body is sick or even dead. Show that you are not dead, but full of vitality; show it to-day by performing some deed of kindness towards the sick.
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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