Meditations by St. Anthony Mary Claret
Composition of Place – Imagine that you are in God’s Presence and that all angels and saints are interceding for you.
Prayer of Petition – My God and Lord, grant me a clear knowledge of the Divine benefits, so that, knowing them and being grateful for them, I may love and serve Thy Divine Majesty in all things.
God deserves to be loved for the infinite goodness and affection with which He has loved and favored us until now. In order to understand the depths of this goodness and affection, consider their circumstances. Collect your thoughts, my soul, and pay attention as much as you can in order to consider well three things:
(1) God’s kindness and affection toward you is eternal – Just as God never had a beginning, but always existed, likewise His kindness and love for you, my soul, had no beginning and is as ancient as God Himself; that is, it is eternal. In Holy Scripture God tells us: “I have loved thee with an everlasting love; therefore, have I drawn thee.” Jer 31:3
Bring to your mind another age of two thousand years ago and tell me, What were you then? You were simply nothing. And what was God doing then? Ah, He was loving you, and with the very love that moved Him then to shed all His Blood for you.
Go back with your mind to a time just before the creation of the world and again tell me, my soul: What was there then? There was absolutely nothing, neither Heaven nor earth nor angels nor men – nothing. And God at that time, what was He doing? He was engaged in loving you. He loved you so much that for love of you He created Heaven and earth – earth, to serve as your dwelling place in this short life; Heaven, so that you might rule in a kingdom there for all eternity in the next life.
Go back further with your thoughts, my soul, and plunge into that beginningless period as far back as you can, and tell me: What was there then? There was nothing but God alone, infinitely glorious and infinitely happy in Himself and all by Himself (Father, Son, and Holy Ghost). And what was He doing during all that immense eternity?
He was – if you do not know – He was occupied in loving you, and there was never a moment in which He was not thinking about you, and in which He was not settled in His choice to die for your sake and in His wish to have you share all His goods, all His riches, all His happiness for ever and ever. Is this not a wonderful, amazing instance of kindness and love?
(2) God’s kindness and affection for you is generous – In order to convince you of this truth it is not necessary to list one by one the favors God has granted you. Just the mystery of the Incarnation, which you might bring to mind, would be enough to make this well understood.
Suppose that an official in the service of a prince has by trickery robbed him and taken a large sum of gold which had been entrusted to him. Suppose that the man has been convicted for this and has been condemned to prison, to continue his life in tears and grief until he has paid back all of the theft.
Imagine that a rich, highly respected man, in order to put this unfortunate one at liberty, sells all of his own property and makes full payment to the prince, and then, finding himself extremely poor, he is forced into the unpleasant lot of going to work in a shop in order to earn by the sweat of his brow what is necessary so that he will not die of hunger.
Would this not be a wonderful, amazing example of love? Now do you know, my soul, to whom this illustration refers? Who was the unfortunate prisoner? Who was his merciful rescuer? Think about it, my soul, and consider it attentively…Mankind is the prisoner, and the Word, the Son of God, is the rescuer.
(3) God’s kindness toward you is patient and constant – Turn your gaze, my soul, into the prison of hell and see a sight that you have never seen! What do you see? You see a numberless throng of condemned souls who burn in the flames of a devouring fire. Then, behold, Jesus comes down from Heaven, and out of the many souls that are suffering He picks just one, and drawing it out of hell He joins it again to its body and gives it a period of time for repentance.
What do you say, my soul, at seeing this? Do you not admit that Jesus’ love for that soul is incomprehensible? Perhaps you will remark, “That soul deserved hell just as much as the others. It deserved it even more than a thousand others who were less sinful.” Yet all the others remained imprisoned down in hell for all eternity. Only this one was drawn out; or, what is even greater, just this one has been kept from falling into hell. To this soul alone is the favor done; to this one alone is a period given for repentance. Oh, how great, how special, must be the affection with which Jesus loves this soul!
Now will you, perhaps, have a fear of deceiving yourself, my soul, if you recognize yourself in that chosen soul? And what fear should there be? Is it not certain that thousands of souls who have sinned less than you, are in hell, who have not made bad use of as many aids as you have, who have not treated lightly as many graces as you have treated lightly and have disregarded, who have not grown as hard in lukewarm dispositions as you have, and who have yet been condemned for all eternity, whereas you are still alive, plentifully supplied with all kinds of grace and with Divine favors?
You have been indeed favored, but not with the favoritism some might presume; for Christ admonished us: “And unto whomsoever much is given, of him much shall be required: and to whom they have committed much, of him they will demand the more.” (Lk. 12:48) Should not one say of you what the Jews said when they watched Jesus weep over Lazarus - “See, see how much He loved him?”
How ungrateful I have been toward God when I should have loved Him with all my heart! I recognize it. I admit it. O my loyal Lover and my God, my ingratitude is very great and I supremely detest it. I have loved those who have shown me a so-called generosity. I have not loved God, to Whom I am in debt for all that I am and all that I possess.
I have loved those who have done nothing for me, and I have not loved God, Who has gone so far as to die on the Cross for me. Yes, I recognize my ingratitude. I detest it and repent of it. I now have other sentiments and other desires.
Thou has conquered, O Divine Lover, Thou has conquered! My heart will no longer be mine. I give it irrevocably to Thee for always and for eternity. I will love Thee from this moment on. I will love Thee alone. And as I have been neglectful in loving Theen in the past, I will love Thee with all the more zeal and devotion in the future.
(to be continued...)