On Our Lord’s Flight from his Enemies.
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 Our Lord’s Flight from his Enemies.
In the council the resolution was taken to compass our Lord’s death at any cost. This decision, which was prompted by no good motive, was the greatest blessing to the world; it was the world’s salvation, as we saw yesterday. It was to carry out this decree, in reality to die for the people that Jesus had come down from Heaven, and now when the time had come for action listen to what St. John narrates:
1st. “Wherefore Jesus walked no more openly among the Jews, but He went into a country near the desert, into a city that is called Ephrem, and there He abode with His disciples.” (St. John xi. 54.) Thus our Lord fled from His enemies and concealed Himself from them, not because He lacked the power, as St. Augustine remarks, to go about openly among the Jews had He so wished without sustaining any injury from them, but for the purpose of giving His disciples an example, an example of complete submission to the will of God. His hour was not yet come; He was not to lay down His life then, but at the paschal time; that was the will of the Father and consequently it was also the will of the Son. Would that we had this example always before our eyes! How often the desire awakens within us to perform great and good works, works that are for the glory of God! how often we feel ourselves to possess the power to accomplish something beyond the ordinary at some special place, or in some particular post! how often are we actuated by the best motives, guided by the purest intentions in our undertakings! And yet what we do proves a failure, God’s blessing does not rest upon it. The hour for that particular work was not yet come. God did not desire this service of you, or He did not desire it at that time, in that place. Why did you consult your own ideas, your own will, rather than the will of God? Why did you apply yourself to the work – excellent as it was in itself – with such impetuosity, without due deliberation, instead – to quote the beautiful words of the Imitation – instead of entering like Moses into the tabernacle to consult the Lord and implore the divine assistance? “For Josue and the children of Israel, as thou readest, were therefore deceived by the Gabaonites, because they did not first ask counsel from the mouth of the Lord, but trusting too easily to fair words, were deluded with counterfeit piety.” (Imit. B. iii. ch. 38.)
2d. Consider another reason why our Lord concealed Himself from His adversaries. Origen, the great Father of the Church, states it when he says: “It is an honorable thing for a man at a time of persecution, if he is required to confess Christ, not to shrink from suffering death for the truth; but it is no less praiseworthy to avoid giving occasion for such a trial, not only because of the doubtfulness of the issue as far as he himself is concerned, but also in order not to give others the opportunity of committing another of their impious deeds.” Thus by His flight from His enemies our Lord designed to teach us that without necessity, without some higher end, without knowing it to be God’s will, we should never rashly expose ourselves to danger either of body or soul; not only on our own account for we know that he who courts danger lightly succumbs to it but also for the sake of our neighbor, whom we keep from sin by placing ourselves beyond the reach of his active hatred and rage. Be assured that in taking flight as our Lord did, there is not unfrequently more virtue than in engaging in conflict rashly, and without absolute necessity. For instance, by going out of your adversary’s way, even if you are conscious that you are completely his superior, and have every reason to hope that his derision and calumnious accusations would not overcome your patience, but only serve to increase your merit, you exercise three distinct virtues. For at one and the same time you practise humility, since you do not trust too much to your own strength; you practise charity to your neighbor, because you preserve him from sin, and finally you practise charity towards God, inasmuch as you prevent an offence against His majesty. Remember this, my soul, and for the future under similar circumstances follow our Lord’s example.
3d. Consider what the apostle proceeds to relate: “But the chief priests and Pharisees had given a commandment, that if anyone knew where He was, he should tell, that they might apprehend Him.” (v. 56.) Oh what malice, what hardness of heart these men display! Our Lord eludes their rage, for the purpose of allowing them time to desist from their guilty design it is none other than deicide but they do not understand the purport of that season of grace, on the contrary they choose that very time to give orders that Jesus should be forcibly dragged from the hiding-place to which He withdrew for their benefit. Now consider what is the most shocking thing of all; the chief priests and Pharisees were almost immediately to celebrate the solemnities of the Passover, for the festival was near at hand. What a preparation was theirs for the sacred feast! “Those in whom the greatest devotion was to be looked for,” writes St. Chrysostom, “we find planning the greatest of crimes. At the time when they commemorate their own deliverance from bondage, they do their utmost to arrest one who is perfectly innocent.” But instead of glowing with indignation at the conduct of these misguided men, pause, my soul, and reflect whether you do not act in a similar manner. Alas! when going up to the altar or to Holy Communion, at the most hallowed moment, that is, do you not sometimes entertain the most unhallowed thoughts and wishes in your breast? While preaching on the love of God, does not your heart ever burn with envy and aversion? When arrayed in a vestment of white the garb of innocence are you not inwardly defiled by evil thoughts, and while you go about wearing the habit of a monk, are not you little as this might be expected of you the prey of vainer cares and anxieties than seculars are? “Those in whom the greatest sanctity is to be looked for, prepare themselves for the greatest of crimes,” St. Chrysostom said in reference to the Jewish Priests and Scribes, and how frequently the same might be said of Christian Priests and Religious. Where one might expect to meet with the greatest sanctity, devotion and charity one sometimes finds the least!
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.