On the First Temptation of Our Lord.
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 First Temptation of Our Lord.
For forty days Jesus sojourned in the desert in undisturbed solitude, but now a second personage appears upon the scene. It is Satan. My soul, behold in imagination the tempter when, disguised as an angel of light, but concealing under this bright exterior an untold depth of malice and guile, he approaches the Saviour, and artfully taking advantage of His famished condition, whispers in His ear the tempting suggestion: “Command that these stones be made bread.” (St. Matt. iv. 2.) And now proceed to consider:
1st. The natural and apparently charitable character of this advice. Jesus is hungry. Now what could be more simple than that He should make use of His miraculous power to appease His hunger, since in the desert there is no other means of procuring food for Himself? There seems indeed no harm in the suggestion, and why should one suppose that it is not kindly meant? And yet what would have been the result, my soul, if our Lord had followed the counsel that seemed so natural, so unimpeachable? He would have obeyed the dictum of the devil and manifested an unpardonable want of confidence in His heavenly Father, who feeds the sparrow on the roof, and will not suffer the ravens of the air to perish from hunger. Furthermore He would have misused the miraculous power, given to Him for a divine purpose, by exercising it for the satisfaction of a need of His lower nature; observe what a serious misdeed the devil thus tried to induce the Saviour to commit by this apparently harmless suggestion: “Command that these stones be made bread,” and learn this useful lesson for yourself: never on any account to listen to the tempter. How cunningly he begins by prompting you at first to commit some trifling act, to all appearances a very innocent transgression, such as eating some dainty, allowing your eyes to wander through curiosity, speaking a few words in the time of silence, etc. What great harm can there be in that? you ask yourself. But Satan, if once he gets hold of a finger, soon grasps the whole hand. The gratification of your palate, which you thought so harmless, will soon lead to excess at table; the “innocent” look will perhaps kindle unruly, impure passions which will consume your heart for months; and the breach of the rule of silence will open the way for conversation calculated to destroy your brother’s good name, and perhaps occasion hatred and strife that may last for years. Wherefore, my soul, do not trust the tempter; turn a deaf ear to him, even if he urges you to seek a martyr’s death.
2d. Consider how craftily the time of the temptation is chosen. Satan does not come at an earlier period, before Jesus has begun to feel hungry and weak; he waits until the time when he imagines that the Lord, exhausted by His long abstinence from food, will not have the same force to resist him. It is not without mystic meaning that Satan is described in the Apocalypse as sitting on a black horse holding a pair of scales in his hand. (Ap. vi. 5.) The black horse signifies that he endeavors with his temptations to darken men’s minds, so that they may not perceive the evil of that which he the Prince of darkness tempts them to commit, and in order that he may succeed the better, he carefully studies and weighs the time, the place, the ways and means which will be most opportune for the temptation. With this view he pays great attention to each man’s natural inclinations and spiritual condition. See how wisely he selected Judas, the one amongst the apostles who was given to avarice, as the one who should betray our Lord. How artfully he took advantage of the time when David was living in idleness to seduce him to commit adultery. How craftily he availed himself of the moment when Eve’s eyes rested with pleasure on the apple, to persuade her to disobey God’s command. Wherefore, my soul, be constantly on your guard against this wily foe; never think yourself safe; above all never allow passions to gain ground in your soul; never frequent undesirable society; never proudly defy dangers, behind which Satan lies in wait like a roaring lion, seeking how he may devour your unwary soul.
3d. Consider how temptation is to be overcome. Jesus does not parley with the tempter; He simply withstands him by quoting the will of God, saying: “It is written, not in bread alone doth man live.” (St. Matt. iv. 4.) Learn hence, my soul, the plainest, easiest way of repelling Satan’s assaults: Only place God’s commands in opposition to his suggestions, without discussion or long deliberation. If he tempts you to disobedience, say: It is written, God only shalt thou serve; if he tempts you to envy, say: It is written, thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s goods; if he tempts you to untruthfulness, say: It is written, thou shalt not bear false witness, etc. Do this, and Satan will drop his weapons of attack on hearing these words resolutely pronounced, as speedily as he did so when our Lord thus answered him in the first temptation wherewith he assailed Him.
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 Saturday
O Lord, God Almighty, I beseech Thee by the precious Blood that gushed forth from the side of Thy Divine Son Jesus, in the sight and to the extreme pain of His most holy Mother, deliver the souls in purgatory, and amongst them all especially that soul which was ever most devout to this great Lady, that it may soon attain unto Thy glory, there to praise Thee in her and her in Thee, world without end. 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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