Man’s Perfection, in what it consists.- continued 2.
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.
Man’s Perfection, in what it consists.-continued 2.
We must also distinguish between essential perfection and instrumental perfection.
Essential perfection is the thing itself—Charity—the love of God and the neighbour.
Instrumental perfection is the means for acquiring this Charity. Whenever an object is to be attained there must be some means for attaining it. We can accomplish no object without having recourse to the means, for example we cannot write a letter without pen, ink, and paper. These are the means, and if we do not have recourse to them we cannot write. If we want to build a house we must get the stones, mortar, timber, etc., and so of everything else. We cannot attain any object without having recourse to the means.
It is the same in the spiritual life. We have an object to attain, viz. Charity, and we cannot attain it without having recourse to the means. God imposes no obligation without giving the means of fulfilling it. There must therefore be some means for acquiring Charity. What these means are we shall see later on in this work.
Thus far we have almost entirely treated of love towards God.
It will not be difficult to show that we are also bound to love our neighbour. God has commanded us to do so. “And the second is like to this: Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself” (Matt. xxii. 39).
We are to love our neighbour as ourselves, which means that the love we have for our neighbour should resemble the love we bear ourselves, that is, that we should love our neighbour for God and in God. “All things therefore whatsoever you would that men should do to you, do you also to them. For this is the law and the prophets” (Matt. vii. 12).
“We ought to love all men, to carry them all in our hearts, after the example of God who loves them all” (St. Augustine).
“If the words of a father hastening to his grave are so sweet, pleasant, and important, what impression must the words of Christ have upon his heirs”? Now we are the children of Jesus Christ, and at the last supper when He was making His last testament He told His disciples to love one another. “A new commandment I give unto you: That you love one another, as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, if you have love one for another” (John xiii. 34, 35).
We are therefore commanded in the most express terms by Almighty God to love our neighbour, that is, to love all men.
But apart from the command of God there is still another reason, and when it is well considered a very powerful reason, why we ought to love our fellow man, viz. that he has the grace of God in his soul, or is capable of having it. If man possesses the grace of God he thereby becomes the very temple of the Holy Ghost and must in consequence become beautiful and an object of love.
This love of our neighbour is inseparably bound up with the love of God. “If any man say, I love God, and hateth his brother; he is a liar. For he that loveth not his brother, whom he seeth, how can he love God, whom he seeth not? And this commandment we have from God, that he, who loveth God, love also his brother” (I John iv. 20, 21.)
St. Dorotheus illustrating the connection between the love of God and the love of our neighbour says: “The nearer lines drawn from the circumference approach the centre of a circle, the nearer they approach each other; the more they recede from the centre, the more they separate from each other. Similar is the nature of Charity—the more we are united to God by love, the more we are united to one another.”
“The love of God and of our neighbour are two parts which compose one whole, two links which form but one chain, two acts of one virtue, two different actions which proceed from charity as their source, two manners of meriting before God, one of which is not found without the other” (St. Gregory the Great).
We must, therefore, love our neighbour, because Jesus Christ has given us the example, and has commanded us to do so. Our neighbour is a child of God made to the image and likeness of God, he has an immortal soul, redeemed with the blood of Jesus Christ, and for these reasons we are bound to love Him.
“Be ye, therefore, followers of God, as most dear children: And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath delivered himself for us” (Eph. v. 1, 2).
So sublime is the doctrine of our Divine Lord that He will have us love even our enemies. “But I say to you, love your enemies: do good to them that hate you, and pray for them that persecute and calumniate you; that you may be the children of your Father, who is in heaven, who maketh his sun to rise upon the good and bad, and raineth upon the just and the unjust” (Matt. v. 44, 45).
It may be useful for us to ask ourselves the questions, how are we to know if we love God? how are we to know if we love our neighbour?
If we want to know do we love God we have only to apply the test left us by our Divine Lord himself. “If you love Me keep My commandments.” If we are breaking God’s law, if we are falling into mortal sin, it is a sign that we do not love God.
If we want to know do we love our neighbour we have only to ask ourselves the question are we prepared to do kind offices for our neighbour? Are we prepared to inconvenience ourselves for his sake? “My little children, let us not love in word nor in tongue, but in deed, and in truth” (I John iii. 18).
Sympathy and sweet words are very nice—in fact they may be useful and very consoling, but we must remember that they cost us nothing. To speak beautifully of bread to a poor beggar will not satisfy his hunger.
Who was neighbour to the man who fell among robbers? (Luke x. 30-35). Was not it the good Samaritan? The man who did the good? The man who relieved the helpless and bound up the wounds of him who was left half dead by the roadside?
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.
August Devotion: The Most Pure Heart of Mary
Virtues to practice: The sanctification of our actions, diligence, edification, fidelity in little things
O Heart of Mary, Mother of God, and our Mother; Heart most worthy of love, in which the adorable Trinity is ever well pleased, worthy of the veneration and love of all the angels and of all men; Heart most like to the Heart of Jesus, of which thou art the perfect image; Heart full of goodness, ever compassionate toward our miseries; deign to melt our icy hearts and grant that they may be wholly changed into the likeness of the Heart of Jesus, our divine Saviour. Pour into them the love of thy virtues, and kindle in them that divine fire with which thou thyself dost ever burn. In thee let Holy Church find a safe shelter; protect her and be her dearest refuge, her tower of strength, impregnable against every assault of her enemies. Be thou the way which leads to Jesus, and the channel, through which we receive all graces needful for our salvation. Be our refuge in time of trouble, our solace in the midst of trial, our strength against temptation, our haven in persecution, our present help in every danger, and especially at the hour of death, when all hell shall let loose against us its legions to snatch away our souls, at that dread moment, that hour so full of fear, whereon our eternity depends. Ah, then most tender virgin, make us to feel the sweetness of thy motherly heart, and the might of thy intercession with Jesus, and open to us a safe refuge in that very fountain of mercy whence we may come to praise Him with thee in paradise, world without end. Amen.
An indulgence of 7 years once on any day of the month; A plenary indulgence on the usual conditions, if this act of devotion is repeated daily for entire month (Apostolic Brief Dec. 21, 1901)
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