The Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany.

On the Threefold Warning Contained in To-day’s Gospel.

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 Threefold Warning Contained in To-day’s Gospel.

Represent to yourself, my soul, in vivid colors, the scene described in the Gospel for to-day. The servants of the proprietor of the land have sown good seed, the best of its kind, in his fields, with confident hope of a good crop. They go out in the spring-time to inspect the young wheat that has sprung up in the fields, and who can depict their amazement, their dismay, when they perceive the ground to be a mass of weeds! Listen to their sorrowful exclamation:  “Did we not sow good seed, whence then hath it cockle?” (St. Matt. xiii. 27.) In order that you, my soul, may not be compelled to join in this bitter cry, or share the fate of these unfortunate servants, lay to your heart to-day the threefold warning of the Gospel on which you will now proceed to meditate.

1st. While the servants slept, the evil enemy came and sowed cockle in the fields. Here we have the first warning; the Apostle gives us a similar one in other words, few in number, but pregnant with meaning: fratres vigilate; watch, brethren, do not sleep, do not grow careless, do not think yourselves secure. Believe me, the evil enemy watches for nothing more keenly than for the moment when men sleep. For months, for years you have struggled against evil, you have striven after what is good; already you anticipate with delight the fruit that may be expected from your efforts, when alas! confident of victory beforehand, you become lukewarm, indifferent, you slumber, and the evil enemy comes and sows cockle. Or you are perhaps a Superior, or one who has the cure of souls. Woe betide you if you sleep, though it be forever so short a time! The devil lies in wait for that instant, and if you fail in vigilance in one respect, in regard to one single soul, if out of human respect or for any reason whatsoever you wink at what is wrong then the evil adversary comes and sows cockle. Wherefore, my soul, vigila, watch and be vigilant.

2d. The devil moreover sows the cockle in among the wheat. Here observe for your further warning Satan’s malice and craft. He sows the cockle among the good seed. Bad men, tempters of others, know well how they can artfully conceal their cockle among the wheat; they assume an external appearance of being pious and retiring, chaste and devout, but if one frequents their company for any length of time, the cloven foot shows itself. Wherefore, my soul, be very cautious whom you trust. Do not give yourself away unsuspiciously to the first comer, though his influence may seem to be good; do not take for granted that it is fine wheat that he sows in your heart; wait a little; after awhile the seed will spring up, and you will then see whether cockle or wheat makes its appearance. O how many innocent, pious, contented souls have lost their innocence, their piety, their peace of mind, because they have rashly, unsuspiciously allowed themselves to make friends with certain individuals, to hold intercourse with strangers, to be indiscriminate in their reading. And if the Religious life shelters you in a great measure from this danger though it yet exists even in the cloister then pray earnestly this and every day for the guileless souls in the world who inadvertently run into the arms of destruction.

3d. “Suffer both to grow until the harvest,” the good-man says to his servants, “lest perhaps gathering up the cockle, you root up the wheat also together with it.” (v. 30.) These words contain the third warning of the Gospel; it is against premature and exaggerated zeal. It has been well said: Blind zeal only does harm. Do not immediately condemn, do not instantly speak in strong reprobation, do not, as soon as you perceive anything that is, or appears to be evil, come down upon it in a whirlwind of indignation. How much mischief has been, done by intemperate zeal in the pulpit, in the confessional, in convents, in the Church and in the State! It repels the good and does not convert the bad.  “All in its right time.” See that you keep your eye on the sprouting cockle, lest it spread too rapidly, but do not begin to root up, to condemn, to pass sentence forthwith, for the Church of God, which is the field He has planted, possesses a singular virtue, whereby, as St. Augustine teaches, it often happens that those who at first have the appearance of cockle, are changed and become a choice kind of wheat, children of God. The sunshine of gentle words, the soft breezes of patient charity and compassion, the celestial dew of tears and supplications, the unseen influence of voluntary penance and mortification, does far more to produce the fruit of conversion in the case of a sinner than the downpour of a torrent of rash zeal. Reflect upon this, and for the future act with a like caution towards the cockle in the Church, in your Community, in your convent, and the evil adversary will not be able to do much harm.

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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A Week for the Poor Souls:

Prayer for Sunday

O Lord, God Almighty, I beseech Thee by the Precious Blood which Thy Divine Son Jesus shed in the garden, deliver the souls in purgatory, and amongst them all especially that soul which is the most destitute of aid, and bring it to Thy glory, there to praise and bless Thee forever. Amen.

Our Father, and Hail Mary.

Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them. May they rest in peace. Amen.

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De Profundis for the Faithful Departed (Ps. 129)

Out of the depths I have cried to Thee, O Lord! Lord, hear my voice.

Let Thine ears be attentive to the voice of my supplication.

If Thou, O Lord, shalt mark our iniquities: O Lord, who shall stand it?

For with Thee there is merciful forgiveness: and by reason of Thy law I have waited for Thee, O Lord.

My soul hath relied on His word: my soul hath hoped in the Lord.

From the morning watch even unto night, let Israel hope in the Lord.

Because with the Lord there is mercy: and with Him plenteous redemption.

And He shall redeem Israel from all his iniquities.

V. Eternal rest give unto them, O Lord.

R. And let perpetual light shine upon them.

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