On the Scandal which the Disciples Took at the Anointing of Our Lord by Mary.
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 Scandal which the Disciples Took at the Anointing of Our Lord by Mary.
Realize as vividly as you can the impression produced upon the guests who witnessed Mary’s anointing of Jesus. Whereas the astonishment, at first general, changed in the case of some into admiration for the warm love and veneration Mary displayed for our Lord, others, Judas in particular, possessed by an uncharitable spirit, judged that noble act most harshly. “And the disciples seeing it, had indignation, saying: To what purpose is this waste? For this might have been sold for much, and given to the poor.” (St. Matt. xxvi. 9, 10.)
1st. The disciples were indignant. St. Augustine expresses the opinion that the spiritual meaning of this unction was still hidden, and their ignorance of it led the disciples to blame the act. But it was Judas first of all, who, incited by avarice, uttered that venomous sentence, and the other apostles fell in with his verdict apparently with a good intention and out of charity towards the poor. Here we have before us the two principal causes of rash, uncharitable judgments. The cause is either to be looked for in the speaker’s own malice, as in the case of Judas, or in a mistaken view of things, as in the case of the other apostles. St. Thomas of Aquin says that rash judgments are the outcome of inward depravity. Because we judge others by ourselves we are ready to credit our neighbor with what we perceive in ourselves. An upright and virtuous soul puts a good construction on everything, but the soul that is devoid of virtue puts the worst interpretation on all actions and poisons all it touches. Wherefore since on the one hand we see that spitefulness is the cause of uncharitable judgments, how careful you ought to be to avoid them, and if on the other hand such judgments originate frequently from erroneous views or ignorance of the real facts, how cautious you are bound to be in judging your brother, you who are so prone to error! Yes, for the reasons given above beware not only of rash judgment, but beware of cherishing mere suspicion, for that has been termed the poison of friendship, and St. Bonaventure declares it to be a secret and fatal pestilence, which banishes God from the soul and is destructive to brotherly love.
2d. Consider what St. John relates concerning Judas, the murmurer: “Now he said this, not because he cared for the poor; but because he was a thief, and having the purse carried the things that were put therein.” (St. John xii. 6.) That was why Judas expressed himself so strongly in disapproval of Mary’s act; it deprived him of the opportunity of appropriating to himself a part of the money which the sale of the ointment would have brought to the common purse. In the soul of this man, who was soon to betray his Master, the weeds of evil have long been growing apace, the evil which ere long is to take so terrible a shape. He did not become a traitor all at once, he went on from sin to sin; he began with unfaithfulness in regard to the alms his Lord confided to his keeping, and ended with treachery towards that Lord Himself. St. Augustine bids us observe that Judas’ ruin did not commence with his betrayal of his Master, but at a much earlier period. For a long time he had been a thief, and whilst he outwardly followed Christ, at heart he was far from Him. St. Jerome is of opinion that already in the house at Bethania Judas meditated the betrayal of our Lord, in order that with the price he should obtain for selling Him to His enemies, he might compensate himself for the imagined loss he had sustained by the outpouring of the costly ointment. Herein is a twofold lesson for you, my soul. You may perhaps see a Christian, a Priest fall very low all of a sudden some member of your Order may to your great surprise prove unfaithful to his vows. Immediately you tremble for yourself, you are full of anxiety and doubt. But do not imagine that the sad event is a sudden occurrence. The outward act of apostacy is sudden, but the inward act took place long before. Furthermore the fall of Judas is a warning to you, for it shows you how precipitous is the downward path which leads to destruction. One begins with little failings, one becomes tepid, indifferent, inexact in observance of the Rule, and so it goes on from one thing to another until that which commenced with infidelity to the commandment and injunctions of God ends with infidelity to God Himself.
3d. Consider our Lord’s words: “Why do you trouble this woman? for she hath wrought a good work upon Me.” (St. Matt. xxvi. 10.) How different is God’s judgment to that of men! What they call waste, He asserts to be a good work. But mark the reason why our Lord calls this anointing a good work; St. Mark tells us that He said: “She hath come beforehand to anoint My body for the burial” (St. Mark xiv. 8), and hereby He declares anointing the dead to be a good work. We ought accordingly not only to show charity to our Brethren and Sisters during their lifetime, but also after their death. What we do for them then is a good work. It was on account of this good work that the Lord loved Tobias of old and showed him so much favor. Hence the Wise Man says: “A gift hath grace in the sight of the living; and restrain not grace from the dead.” (Ecclus. vii. 37.) How do you, my soul, fulfil this touching duty, this service of love? What do you do for the departed, especially for those who helped and benefited you when they were living? Our Lord teaches us that the merciful shall obtain mercy. Consequently if you are diligent in prayer at the graves of the departed, if you remember them at holy Mass, others will one day pray at your grave, and will remember you when offering the holy sacrifice. At all events, if you pray for the dead fervently, if you pray for them daily, you will be privileged to hear from our Lord’s lips these welcome words: “She hath done a good work.” Begin to do so this very day.
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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