A Lenten Reflection for Thursday after the Fourth 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 Condemnation to Death.
To-day, my soul, imagine that you hear the terrible cry which re-echoes through Pilate’s judgment-hall: “Crucify Him, crucify Him!” Thus even the sight of that personification of suffering and misery, at which the very rocks of Calvary were rent in horror, fails to produce any impression on the hard hearts of the Jews. In fact the sight of our Lord bathed in His blood seems to have the same effect on them as on tigers or hyenas, that of whetting their thirst for blood, so that the clamor of the multitude sounds ever louder in Pilate’s ears: “Let Him be crucified!” Hence Jesus forlorn and forsaken stands defenceless in presence of a raging mob, and Pilate weakly yields to the populace by condemning Him to death.
1st. Consider how painful this condemnation was for our Lord. He stands before His own nation, before those whose sick He has healed, whose dead He has raised to life; those whom He fed with material bread and to whom He for the space of three years dispensed the supersubstantial bread of His divine teaching; ever in His intercourse with them He showed Himself most merciful and compassionate, and now, when with tears of blood He implores them to have mercy, to have pity upon Him, their only response is the furious vociferation: “Let Him be crucified.” Oh how terribly painful, more painful by far than the scourging, must this ingratitude, this rejection of Him, this unjust condemnation of Him have been for our Saviour! See, my soul, how your Lord paid the penalty of man’s pride, paid the bitter penalty, when, in presence of the people that shamefully unjust sentence was passed upon Him. What a different position proud mortals, the great and mighty ones of the earth assume in regard to the common people to that in which our Lord was placed. They have not to listen to a sentence of death, shouts of applause ring in their ears; they are not despised and rejected, they are fawned upon and flattered; garlands and laurel-wreaths are showered by the populace on sinners and transgressors of God’s law. Jesus has to expiate the courting of popular favor, the craving for the praise and adulation of men; He has to expiate it with bitter shame and reproach. Should this temptation ever assail you, my soul, especially when preaching to a large audience, think of our Lord’s cruel condemnation; think how He stood a spectacle to the Jews, and heard the verdict sentencing Him to a death of the lowest ignominy.
2d. Consider what our Lord’s behavior was when He was condemned to death. What think you, if Jesus, whose wisdom and eloquence attracted universal notice to Him, who could hold the multitude and for the space of three days in the desert could keep them hanging on His lips, had lifted up His voice in the presence of the people and called to mind the benefits they had received from Him; if with burning words and His divine authority He had denounced their ingratitude, can it be doubted that the fickle mob, so easily swayed, would have taken His part and their hatred would have been transformed into enthusiastic devotion? But far from doing anything of the sort He holds His peace and bears the unjust sentence patiently. Had He spoken He would indeed have gained the people for the moment but not made them His forever, and His death upon the cross, our consolation and salvation, would not have had a place in the history of the world. But through His keeping silence our redemption was effected, and the multitude brought to a sense of guilt and a knowledge of the truth, for we read that the Jews who in the morning were transported with rage and fury, went to their homes in the evening smiting their breasts in compunction, in shame and sorrow. Wherefore if it fall to your lot to be wrongfully judged or unkindly treated, learn of Jesus to endure it patiently and silently until God speaks on your behalf, and all ultimately turns out for your greater good and that of your enemies.
3d. Consider the cause of our Lord’s condemnation. Pilate, in passing the unjust sentence, is actuated by fear of man; the Pharisees cry: “Crucify Him!” and the people join in the fatal cry blindly and heedlessly. Ask yourself whenever you judge your Lord unjustly in the person of your neighbor by uncharitable speeches, detraction, etc., is not the motive from which you act human respect that fears to speak in defence of the innocent? Or is it malice that dips your tongue in venom, or perhaps it may after all be loquacity and love of chattering which so ill-becomes a Priest and Religious and whereby Christian charity is wounded without forethought and almost unconsciously. Beware of this, my soul; to-day make a resolution in honor of your Saviour, who when innocent was unjustly condemned, to abstain from all uncharitable judgments of your neighbor, and above all to dry up the source whence this reprehensible conduct springs.
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.