On the Cutting off of Malchus’ Ear

A Lenten Reflection for Friday after the First Sunday in Lent from Holy Cross Publications

Peter Cutting Off the Ear of Malchus

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.

Friday after the First Sunday in Lent.
On the Cutting off of Malchus’ Ear.

It was of no avail that our Lord’s infatuated enemies had fallen to the ground at the sound of His words. They rose up again, and in the hardness of their hearts laid their sacrilegious hands on His sacred person, to arrest Him. Now endeavor to realize the spectacle presented at the moment when Jesus, meek as a lamb led to the slaughter, allows Himself to be bound, and Peter, inflamed with zeal at the sight of the danger in which his Master is placed, eager to give practical proof of the truth of his determination: “Lord, I am ready to go with Thee to prison and to death” (St. Luke xxii. 33) draws his sword and, “striking the servant of the high priest, cut off his ear.” Much as the apostle’s bravery on the one hand deserves commendation, on the other hand it must be admitted that he allowed his zeal to carry him too far.

1st. Consider that he, single-handed, opposes the whole multitude of soldiers and servants; with the intention of attacking them he draws his sword. Now observe that this bold apostle assuredly did not purpose only to cut off Malchus’ ear; his stroke was aimed at the man’s head. Had he struck home, as he intended, and killed Malchus on the spot, what would have happened? Would not the enemies of our Lord, infuriated at this attack and desirous of revenge, have drawn their swords immediately, and in a hand-to-hand fight probably have killed both Jesus and His apostles? Think of what unspeakable graces, of what all-important and priceless mysteries the world would have been deprived through the untimely death of our Lord and of the apostles, through the intemperate zeal Peter displayed. Learn hence, my soul, and lay to heart the maxim: Discretion is the better part of valor; learn to bridle your impulses and not to act precipitately, although you may mean well. How often our Lord has been obliged, as in the case of Malchus, to make good the harm which the rash zeal of His followers has effected. Take heed that you show your zeal at the opportune time. Peter would have done well to display ardor for his Master’s cause in the court of the high priest, but he failed to do so when he ought; and you, my soul, often act in a similar manner.

2d. Consider that Malchus’ right ear, which was cut off, represents in its mystic signification the Jewish nation, who would not with their right ear harken to the heavenly doctrines the Son of God proclaimed; they would not harken when He exhorted them to be converted and do penance; they only seemed to have the power of hearing with their left ear, and with that they listened to the precepts of men, the whispers of the devil, the suggestions of their blind hatred towards our Lord. On that account, because their right ear was deaf to His teaching, the Lord permitted it to be cut off by Peter’s sword. This was for a warning to you, my soul. For if you do not lend your right ear to the inspirations of the Holy Spirit, to the promptings of your conscience, if in your case that ear is deaf to what is good, the sword of the divine judgments will strike you; you will be entirely deprived of that ear; I mean you will be deprived of grace, you will lose the wish to hear what is conducive to your salvation.

3d. Consider who those persons are who, like Malchus, have only one ear. It is all that class of persons and pre-eminently those Priests and Religious, who prefer to listen to slander and detraction, to idle, useless chatter or the news of the day; who would rather spend their time on frivolous tales and falsehoods than hear the Word of God, who speaks to them in their spiritual reading, in their meditation, in sermons. Those are companions and friends of Malchus who cannot without envy hear of their brother’s good fortune or listen to his praise, who feel a malicious pleasure in learning of any misfortune or disgrace that may have befallen him. Those are the brethren of Malchus who are wilfully deaf to the commands of their Superior, but who listen eagerly to the promptings of self-will. Now if you, my soul, have hitherto been one of Malchus’ amiable brethren, turn today, I beseech you, to the Lord with sincere contrition; entreat Him to heal and give back to you your right ear which you have lost.

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.

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