On 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 Gospel for the Day.
In order to touch and arouse the obdurate hearts of the Jews, our Lord, after His solemn entry into Jerusalem, related in the temple, as we have seen, the parable of the king’s marriage-feast, and as a warning to His hearers, He added the words: “Many are called, but few are chosen.” (St. Matt. xxii. 14.) Picture to yourself the sacred Teacher of Israel, standing there in all His majesty; He, the Good Shepherd, utters in a loud voice those admonitory words. Then consider what follows.
1st. “Then the Pharisees going, consulted among themselves how to ensnare Him in His speech.” (v. 15.) Thus that is all the result produced by our Lord’s impressive discourse; fresh iniquity of a deeper dye! Observe, as St. Chrysostom remarks, that little word then. Then they went away when they had heard the words of salvation; at the very time when they ought to have entered into their own heart, when they ought to have repented of their sins, marvelled at the loving kindness of the Lord, trembled at the fate which threatened to overtake them, precisely at that time, in that decisive moment which might have been the turning-point of their lives, their thoughts ran on fresh schemes of malice and guile: they meditated how they could entrap the innocent Jesus! Truly indeed did Solomon say: “The wicked man when he is come into the depth of sins, contemneth.” (Prov. xviii. 3.) Then he no longer heeds his misdeeds, he troubles not himself about the chastisement impending over him, or the divine wrath – he runs headlong on the road to perdition. How often we see this to be the case if we look around us! However, my soul, you must remember that no man falls into this awful state except through his own fault. We become indifferent in trifling matters at first, then gradually we go on to what is more important; we remain indifferent in spite of every exhortation and warning on the part of our Superiors, our Confessor, nay even of God Himself; and before he is aware, a man reaches the point of which Solomon speaks: “The wicked man when he is come into the depth of sins, contemneth”; he becomes so callous that nothing more makes any impression on him. Be on your guard against this spirit of indifference even in what appears most trifling, and forget not that there is no condition more dangerous for the Priest and Religious, than carelessness in the matters that concern salvation.
2d. “And they sent to him their disciples with the Herodians, saying: Master, we know that Thou art a true speaker, and teachest the way of God in truth, neither carest Thou for any man; for Thou dost not regard the person of men.” (v. 16.) St. Chrysostom well explains this laudatory speech from the lips of our Lord’s enemies when he says, “That is the way with hypocrites; their first lie is to praise those whom they seek to ruin. Through their praise and flattery the Pharisees think they will entrap our Lord and entice Him to perdition, whereas He, on the contrary, did His utmost to rescue them from perdition by means of severe reprobation, embodied in the form of a parable.” Here, my soul, you may learn a salutary lesson. The man who praises you is not always your friend, still less is he who blames you invariably your enemy. David knew how true this is: “The just man shall correct me in mercy and shall reprove me, but let not the sinner’s oil fatten my head.” (Ps. cxl. 5.) The unction here spoken of is said by St. Augustine to be flattery, the fulsome praise which only serves to strengthen and confirm us in our folly and error, according to the prophet’s words: “my people, they that call thee blessed, the same deceive thee.” (Is. iii. 12.) Ponder this, and never forget the wise maxim of the learned Solomon: “Better are the wounds of a friend than the kisses of an enemy.” (Prov. xxvii. 6.)
3d. “Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” (v. 21.) Such was our Lord’s decision when He had caused a coin of the tribute, stamped with the emperor’s image, to be shown Him. This speech disconcerted the Jews. Their wiles were frustrated by the wisdom of the Lord. Neither could the Herodians, the adherents of the emperor, whom the Pharisees had purposely brought with them, take exception at His answer, for He had recognized the emperor’s claim; nor could the Pharisees accuse Him of impiety towards God and the people of Israel, because our Lord had expressly acknowledged and asserted the divine rights. Pause and admire the wisdom of God, which so often brings to naught the wily plans and crafty attacks of the adversaries of God and of His Church, and do not allow yourself to be dismayed by any snare, though woven with diabolical ingenuity, spread by the enemies of God and of your salvation. Even where to the human eye every way of escape seems closed, where human understanding cannot conceive any deliverance out of the net to be possible, divine Wisdom all at once puts to confusion the projects of the ungodly. Meditate upon this to-day for your consolation, and in order that you may feel yourself safe and happy beneath this protection of the divine Wisdom, in conclusion impress upon your mind this saying of St. Hilary: “The currency issued from the imperial mint consists of pieces of money whereon the emperor’s image is stamped; the coins struck in the divine mint are human beings on whom the image of God is stamped; therefore pay your gold and silver to the emperor, but reserve for God the tribute of your conscious innocence.”
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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