On Our Lord’s Conduct in the Presence of Herod

Jesus at Herod’s Court, by Duccio, c. 1310

A Lenten Reflection for Wednesday after the Third 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.

On Our Lord’s Conduct in the Presence of Herod.

The scene in our Lord’s Passion which you are invited to contemplate to-day is a singular and a striking one. Herod, whose hands are stained with the blood of St. John the Baptist, is seated upon the soft cushions of his throne, arrayed in his regal robes, surrounded by a brilliant court, in which external splendor and state ceremonial veil the licentiousness lurking beneath. In the marble halls before the throne priests and Pharisees move restlessly to and fro; and amidst all these men—in whom little virtue is to be found—Jesus stands, patient and silent. Look well at Him, my soul, impress His image deeply on your mind.

1st. Consider that our Lord remains silent from a sense of His sublime dignity. The tyrant condescends so far as to accost the Prisoner who is on every hand so shamefully maltreated, in a kind and friendly manner. “He questioned Him in many words, but Jesus answered him nothing.” His accusers lift up their voices, hurling falsehoods and calumnies at their innocent Victim. A single word from our Lord’s lips would have sufficed to unmask these liars; but He answers them nothing. Why, O divine Word, who gavest speech to the tongues of all men, who didst so often preach to the people with the wisdom from on high, why dost Thou now keep silence, why dost Thou not speak in presence of an audience superior to any Thou hadst heretofore? This is the reason: Because Jesus, standing before a dissolute monarch and his yet more dissolute courtiers, is not forgetful of the maxim He Himself enunciated: “Cast ye not your pearls before swine.” (St. Matt. vii. 6.) He valued His own doctrine too highly, He deemed the word of God too sublime, to make it the sport of idle curiosity; He, otherwise so humble, has too keen a sense of His own personal sanctity and exalted nature, not to feel that it would be derogatory to that grandeur and perfection to speak a word in His defence in answer to the false charges brought against Him by His adversaries.

Our Lord’s conduct on this occasion does indeed furnish you with much matter for reflection. Behold yourself in this mirror and you will to your grief be compelled to acknowledge that under similar circumstances you have acted very differently.

2d. Consider that Jesus keeps silence out of love for us. It would have been easy for Him with a few words to satisfy one so vain and superficial as Herod, and had He worked a miracle He would have gained not only the favor of the monarch but the applause of his whole court, and would have been set at liberty. Our Lord did not choose to do that. It was His will to suffer, it was His will to endure derision and contumely, it was His will to be condemned to death in order to convert our shame into glory, to preserve us from everlasting disgrace. Ponder this seriously, my soul; Jesus disdains to obtain exemption from the suffering and shame He endures for our sake by means of a miracle, and you expect Almighty God to work a miracle, or at least to send you supernatural and swift relief, whenever scorn or derision falls to your lot. No, my soul, behold your Lord bearing contempt and mockery in silence out of love for you, and learn in future to bear trials of this nature in silence out of love for Him.

3d. Consider that our Lord keeps silence as an example for us. By keeping silence He desired to inculcate upon His disciples, and especially upon those who by embracing the sacerdotal or Religious state have pledged themselves to follow Him more nearly and more perfectly, the virtue, the admirable virtue of silence. The Wise Man says truly: “In the multitude of words there shall not want sin” (Prov. x. 19.); and: “A wise man will hold his peace.” (Eccles. xx. 7.) St. Ambrose asserts that he had met with many who had transgressed grievously by speaking, but who would have preserved themselves from sin had they kept silence. Wherefore, my soul, learn to-day from our Lord’s example to practise anew the virtue of silence. Make a resolution this day and throughout the whole week to observe this spiritual fast in honor of our Saviour who keeps silence for your sake; you will profit much by so doing, and by speaking little out of confession you will have less to say when you next go to confession.

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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