On the Conduct of the Ruler in the Gospel of 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 Conduct of the Ruler in the Gospel of the Day.
Imagine that you see the ruler or viceroy presenting himself before our Lord in fear and anxious apprehension on account of the illness of his dearly-loved son, beseeching the great Worker of miracles with the urgency of paternal affection: “Lord, come down before that my son die.” (St. John iv. 49.) What is more touching than this tender, anxious entreaty on the part of the loving father? And yet our Lord, the kind, the bounteous Saviour, instead of returning an answer calculated to reassure the petitioner gives him a gentle rebuke. Listen to His words:
1st. “Unless you see signs and wonders you believe not.” (v. 48.) These grave words our Lord addresses to the father of the sick child, yet not to him only; not for him only are they intended but for all of us as well. The ruler in his affliction went to the Lord as a worker of miracles, as one who could help him and relieve him. He did not come to Him spontaneously, out of a free and joyous heart, but impelled by necessity; he wants our Lord’s assistance, he desires a miracle worked on his behalf, and then perhaps, he will be prepared to believe. Our Lord is not satisfied with that; this selfish attraction to Himself is not enough, a faith so imperfect, dependent upon signs and wonders, is no true faith, and is deservedly, as in this instance, censured by our Lord. It is not His works, His signs, His benefits that we should seek, but Himself; it is not only His miracles that should lead us to believe, on which our faith should be founded, but His words: “Blessed are they that have not seen and have believed.” Abraham believed the word of the Lord when He promised him a son in his old age, while Gedeon required a sign when God assured him of victory. It is no difficult matter to decide which of these two was the most perfect. Ponder this well, my soul, and examine your conscience. How is it with you in this respect? Is your faith, your trust in the Lord as unconditional, as free from all doubts and misgivings, from all desire to have a sign beforehand, as our Lord requires it to be? Is your attachment to Him, your abandonment of yourself to Him, the service you render to your God disinterested, free from all secondary considerations and self-seeking? So that you can conscientiously say that the following words from the Imitation do not apply to you: “In many the eye of pure intention is dim, for men quickly look towards something delightful that comes in their way, and it is rare to find any one wholly free from all blemish of self-seeking. So the Jews heretofore came to Bethania, to Martha and Mary, not for the sake of Jesus only, but that they might see Lazarus.” (Imit. B. iii. ch. 33.)
2d. Consider how quickly the ruler profited by our Lord’s admonition, for St. John tells us: “Jesus saith to him, Go thy way; thy son liveth. The man believed the word which Jesus said to him and went his way.” (v. 30.) The same man who had come with the mistaken idea that our Lord could only heal the sick when present before Him, and who had in fact never known it to be otherwise in the case of those whom He had cured until then, now believes in His word, believes what is contrary to his own opinion and his own experience, that our Lord can do a thing hitherto unheard of, that is, heal the sick at a distance merely by His command. That is right faith, that is true confidence which does not waver although preconceived ideas and experience are at variance with it. Learn a lesson from this ruler, my soul. How often it is said to you: Go thy way! Go to that mission, go to fill that post, go to undertake that difficult work, and so forth. In your own opinion you are wholly unfitted for the task assigned you, or previous experience has convinced you that the mission on which you are sent is hopeless, yet “go thy way” all the same. God speaks to you by the lips of your Superior; trust in God and “believe the word which Jesus said.” You do not send yourself, God sends you, for your Superior is His representative; therefore you ought not to feel the slightest want of confidence, however conscious you may be of your own weakness and misery. “The weak things of the world hath God chosen that He may confound the strong, and things that are not that He might bring to naught things that are, that no flesh should glory in His sight, but that as it is written: He that glorieth may glory in the Lord (I. Cor. i. 27), to whom be praise and honor for ever and ever.” Such was the answer the Seraphic St. Francis gave to a Brother who inquired of him how it was that any one so unlearned and insignificant as the Father was could accomplish so great things in the world.
3d. Consider the conclusion of the Gospel narrative; we are told that the servants of the ruler came to meet him and brought word that his son had recovered. “He asked therefore of them the hour wherein he grew better. And they said to him, Yesterday at the seventh hour the fever left him. The father therefore knew that it was at the same hour that Jesus said to him, Thy son liveth; and “himself believed and his whole house.” (v. 51-53.) Here observe two things: How strikingly the father’s faith in our Lord’s word was justified, and how literally the Lord’s promise was fulfilled. Never, never does He deceive us, never does any one believe in Him in vain! How often have you seen this truth exemplified in your own case and that of others! The second consideration which this narrative offers is this: Doubtless the father, and indeed his whole household with him, regarded it as the greatest calamity that the beloved son of the house should be grievously sick. And yet without this apparent misfortune neither the father nor the members of his household would have come to a knowledge of the truth. The anxious entreaty: “Lord, come down before that my son die,” brought about the happy result: “Himself believed and his whole house.” Here again you may learn a lesson: learn that afflictions may be of great profit, and that God may have the most gracious designs on our behalf, when we are inclined to murmur at His providence. It is good for us to have afflictions and trials to bear sometimes, for they lead a man to look into his own heart, to regard himself as an alien and a pilgrim here on earth, and to place his hopes on nothing in this world. “It is no great thing if a man be cheerful and devout as long as he feels no burden; but if in the time of tribulation he waits with humility and patience, he has the hope of making great progress.” Thus we read in the Imitation of Christ; lay these words to heart.
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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