A Lenten Reflection for Monday after the Second Sunday in Lent from Holy Cross Publications
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.
Monday after the Second Sunday in Lent.
On the Blow Our Lord Received upon His Sacred Countenance.
It was about midnight when our Lord reached the palace of Annas the high priest, who, with the Pharisees who had assembled there, was impatiently awaiting the arrival of the detested Nazarene with undisguised feelings of malicious pleasure, spiteful craft and bitter scorn. Try to realize this painful scene in our Lord’s Passion. Behold Him in the high priest’s house, standing before His iniquitous judges, pale as death, worn and weary, His garments besmeared with mire, His head sunk on His breast, His hands bound with cords, speechless in presence of the chief council. And when at last He returns a quiet, dignified answer to the question put to Him with the cold contempt and pride of a haughty Jew, by Annas, one of the servants standing by strikes Him on the face.
1st. Consider the gross cruelty of that blow. Tradition tells us that the hand of the soldier who dealt the blow was covered with an iron glove; and thus armed with all his might he strikes the sorrowful face of the Saviour, so that He staggers beneath the pain of the blow and blood flows from His mouth and nose. O cruel blow, all the more barbarous because it was given without reason, and the pain it inflicted was intensified by the mockery, the contemptuous laughter, the murmur of applause wherewith the Pharisees greeted the inhuman action. There our Lord stands with the blood running down His cheek, and no one comes forward to wipe away the traces of the blow. “Alas!” cries St. Chrysostom, “is our God to be received with buffets! Grow dark, ye heavens, with horror; O earth, tremble at such a deed!” As for you, my soul, weep and bewail your sin, for it is that which struck the cruel blow.
2d. Consider the reason why the servant of the high priest gave our Lord this buffet. He had no just cause to do so. He only saw the ill-concealed annoyance that the high priest felt at our Lord’s dignified defence of Himself, and the officious menial could not refrain from covering his master’s discomfiture in his own coarse, rough fashion. It was the desire to gain the favor of man, it was human respect that guided his hand. Pause, my soul, and reflect how often from similar motives you have in your way buffeted your Lord. Your heart would have been in the best dispositions, you would have been content to serve Christ and keep His law, the idea of offering Him an affront would never have entered your mind, if it had not been that through the dread of losing the favor of this or that person, the fear of giving offence in this or that quarter, you acted against the better impulses of your heart, the warnings of your conscience. How foolish this was and how wrong! You shrink from displeasing man, but you are not afraid to give your God a blow! Listen, is that not the reproachful voice of Jesus, whom you have perhaps this very day struck upon the face, which calls to you in pain and grief: What wrong have I done thee? Have I not called thee to the sacerdotal, the Religious state, abounding in privileges and graces; why strikest thou Me? Why dost thou break one after another of the precepts, the regulations binding on thee, out of human respect, out of desire to gain the favor of man?
3d. Consider the marvellous meekness Jesus displayed when He received this brutal blow. Although He could have caused the impious wretch who dealt it to fall dead on the spot, although He, who healed the withered hand of the mason in the temple, could with equal ease have rendered powerless that sacrilegious hand that struck Him, yet all anger, all desire for revenge is so alien to His spirit, that in sublime composure He only permits His bleeding lips to murmur the gentle reproach: “Why strikest thou Me?” (St. John xviii. 23.) Compare yourself, my soul, with this grand example of meekness. See how a God answers and acts who is treated with the utmost contumely, who is cruelly buffeted, and blush to think that you, a mortal man, a sinner, can cherish resentment for days, for weeks, on account of some thoughtless speech, some jest not meant to wound, uttered by one of your Brethren or Sisters; or perhaps because of a reprimand it may be of somewhat undue severity administered by your Superior; and for this slight hurt which you have received you will cause dissension and disquiet to a whole Community. You forget that in acting thus you give a blow, a cruel blow, to your meek and gentle Lord.
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.