On the Words: “Jesus Was Led by the Spirit into the Desert.” (St. Matt. iv. 1.)
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 Words: “Jesus Was Led by the Spirit into the Desert.” (St. Matt. iv. 1.)
Represent to yourself, my soul, the desert, a barren, desolate, interminable plain. Far and wide there is no tree to cast a shade, no spring to refresh the thirsty traveller, nothing but burning sand, calcined rocks, thorny bushes; and the only sign of life in the dreary death-like expanse is the howling of the wild beasts that inhabit it. It is for this gruesome wilderness that our Lord leaves the fair and fertile plains of Jordan, with its verdant meadows, its sparkling, silvery streams, shady trees and fragrant gardens. What induces Him to do this? Holy Scripture tells us.
1st. It was the Spirit, none other than the Holy Spirit of God. Jesus is not impelled by His own spirit, as wilful mortals often are; He was not driven by the Spirit of evil disguised as an angel of light, as is the case with many Religious who are instigated by pride and a desire of singularity; He was not actuated by ill-temper, a spirit of disappointed ambition, of desperation, as are many individuals on whom the world turns its back; no, Jesus retires into solitude led by the Holy Spirit. That is a point of the utmost importance, and one in which self-deception is extremely easy. How often the real, the secret motives for some step, some action are of a very different nature to the ostensible ones! Wherefore if you purpose to enter an Order, assume a post, embrace a peculiar manner of life, or to adopt exercises of devotion, austerities, practices of virtue which are not those which the Rule prescribes and your fellow Religious are accustomed to observe, scrutinize your motives carefully that you may discern by what spirit you are led. Listen to the words of the great ascetic: “Not every desire is from the Holy Ghost even though it seem to a man right and good. It is hard to judge truly whether it be a good or an evil spirit which urges thee on to desire this or that, or whether thou art not moved by thine own. Many have been deceived in the end who at first seemed to be led by a good spirit.” (Imit., B. iii., ch. xv.) Hence if you should be interiorly impelled to any act, before you obey that impulse lift up your heart to God in prayer, saying: “Lord, Thou knowest what is for the best; let everything be done that Thou willest, and when and how Thou willest it.”
2d. Consider how, according to the testimony of the Evangelist, our Lord went up by the Spirit into the desert immediately after His baptism, without any delay, because He had surrendered His sacred humanity entirely to the guidance and direction of the Holy Spirit. Learn from this, my soul, in what wise you ought to obey the inspirations of the divine Spirit: promptly and unhesitatingly. If you have made a careful scrutiny of your motives, as you saw it was necessary for you to do from the first point of this meditation; if after this examination, after consulting with your Confessor and other enlightened advisers, you no longer feel any doubt that the Spirit of God is urging you to do this or that, then obey that impulse as Jesus did, obey in spite of all hindrances and opposition, and obey as Jesus did, promptly. Strike the iron while it is hot. Alas! how many souls have let the right moment go by, how many have neglected to follow the first impulse of the Holy Ghost, and that first impulse has never been repeated! Here again we may quote the words of the great master of the spiritual life: “Sometimes it behooves thee to use violence, and manfully resist the sensitive appetite, not regarding what the flesh likes and what it dislikes; but rather to make it thy care that, even though unwilling, it may become subject to the spirit.” (Imit., B. iii., ch. xi.)
3d. Consider that it is into the desert that our Lord is led by the Spirit. After He had been solemnly confirmed in His office of Redeemer and consecrated to it by the Holy Ghost, the Spirit does not impel Him to go up to Jerusalem, or out into the world to exercise His sacred ministry; on the contrary, it leads Him into the desert. There, far from the society of men, solitary and alone with God, He is to prepare Himself for the work of His exalted vocation; to prepare Himself by tranquil prayer, by solitude and seclusion, by a forty days fast, by vigils, by sleeping on the bare ground under the open sky, and dwelling among wild beasts. My soul, apart from the fact that you ought, before entering upon any office, before commencing any special active work, to prepare yourself for it in the company of Jesus, in retirement and mortification, there is yet another lesson to be learnt from our Lord’s example. It may be that you suddenly feel yourself animated by grand, by lofty desires. You long to devote yourself exclusively to the service of God, to do great things for mankind, to go as a missionary to savage tribes, to offer yourself, as so many saints have offered themselves, to suffer as a victim of expiation for the sins of the human race. Unrest seizes upon you; the quiet monotony of the cloister, of your daily life seems too narrow for your aspirations, you become discontented. Learn of Jesus, Christian! Learn of Him to remain tranquil and secluded in the retirement, the obscurity of your position. In this desert, whither the Spirit led you, occupy yourself with prayer, with meditation; fast with Jesus, practise mortification with Him, that will be the best of all preparations for the wider sphere of activity after which you yearn. If your desire is inspired by God, it will certainly be accomplished; meanwhile I again advise you to follow the precious counsel the author of the Imitation gives you in these words: “No man safely goes abroad but he who willingly remains hidden at home; no man speaks safely but he who willingly holds his peace; no man rules safely but he who is willingly ruled; no man safely rejoices unless he have within him the testimony of a good conscience. It is better for a man to live in obscurity and take care of himself, than, neglecting himself, to work miracles.” (B. i., ch. xxii.)
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)
A Week for the Poor Souls:
Prayer for Wednesday
O Lord, God Almighty, I beseech Thee by the precious Blood which Thy Divine Son Jesus shed through the streets of Jerusalem, when He carried the cross upon His sacred shoulders, deliver the souls in purgatory and especially that soul which is richest in merits before Thee; that so, on that high throne of glory which awaits it, it may magnify Thee 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.
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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