Fifth Sunday After Easter GOSPEL John 16:23-30 The Friday Meditation: A Plaine Path-Way To Heaven By Fr.Thomas Hill 1634
Madonna and Child
GOSPEL Jn. 16:23-30
At that time Jesus saith to His disciples: "Amen, amen, I say to you: if you ask the Father any thing in My Name, He will give it to you. Hitherto you have not asked any thing in my name: Ask, and you shall receive, that your joy may be full. These things I have spoken to you in proverbs. The hour cometh when I will no more speak to you in proverbs, but I will show you plainly of the Father. In that day you shall ask in My Name; and I say not to you that I will ask the Father for you: for the Father Himself loveth you, because you have loved Me and have believed that I came out from God. I came forth from the Father and am come into the world; again I leave the world and I go to the Father." His disciples say to Him: Behold, now Thou speakest plainly and speakest no proverb. Now we know that Thou knowest all things and Thou needest not that any man should ask of Thee: by this we believe that Thou camest forth from God.
There are besides this, certain other conditions of prayer to make it yet more complete, more acceptable to God, and more profitable to our selves, whereof the first is: That as Musicians use to tune well their instruments before they make music, especially if it be before great persons, the better to please and delight their ears; so ought we before we pray, to prepare and recollect our minds from all things that may distract us, and to direct and address our attention, and intention unto what we pray for; whereunto the wise man adviseth us in the Scripture in these words: Before prayer prepare thy mind least thou be like a man, that tempteth or provoketh God, that is to say, to be angry and displeased, and not to hear us.
Where as the Prophet David promiseth in the behalf of God that if we prepare our selves, he will hear the preparation of our hearts, that is to say, our prayers, for our preparation sake, or our preparation more then our prayers. When one balance weighteth down the other riseth up;when our knees go down to the ground in prayer, let us remember to lift up our hearts to heaven. The Priest, before Mass veil his eyes a little, to teach us, that, before prayer we must veil the eyes of our soul from distractions.
The second is, before we pray for new benefits, to give God thanks for the old, for he that is thankful for one benefit, maketh himself worthy of another. In signification of this, when the people of the Jews were fighting against the Amalacites,Moses stood praying for them with his rod in his hands, by which God had formerly done so many benefits for them, for no other cause (for what availeth it a man to hold a rod in his hand in time of prayer) but that they might call to mind those benefits they had received thereby, and calling them to mind might be thankful to God for them, and being thankful for them might deserve victory against their enemies, which Moses prayed for.
The third is to be confident in God, that he will grant our petitions, of which St. James sayeth thus: If a man ask anything of God,let him ask it with full confidence and truth in him, without hesitation or doubt, for he that doubteth, is like a wave of the Sea which is moved & carried every way with the wind; so he that doubteth in in prayer, is quickly carried away from his prayer, prayeth coldly, and is quickly weary. A notable example of confidence in God is Abraham the great Patriarch and Father of the Jews faith, who though God commanded him to kill and sacrifice his only son Issac, in whom he had promised to multiply his seed as the stars of heaven; yet he still confided in Gods promise,even with hope against hope as St.Paul sayeth; and God performed his promise, beyond all expectation: unto which confidence the remembrance of Gods former benefits maketh much, persuading ourselves, that as he hath done for us heretofore so he will still.
The fourth is earnestness or importunity & perseverance in prayer. A notable example of this we have in the Gospel, proposed by our Savior Christ for our instruction in prayer,immediately after he had taught his disciples to pray Our Father which art in heaven &c. The example is of one that being destitute of bread, & having a friend come to him, went to his neighbor at midnight, when he and all his family were a bed, and kept such a bouncing & knocking, that he arose and gave him what he needed, whom otherwise he would have shifted of, and excused himself because it was an unseasonable time: only the difference is, this man was offended with his importunity and unseasonable of the night, and lent him rather to be rid of him, then for any will he had to lend him: but God is well pleased with our importunity and perseverance, neither is there any time unseasonable with him, as appeareth by religious persons whose institute it is to rise at midnight to pray, and sing prays unto God, as the fittest time of all in the silent night: yea God is so well pleased with our importunity, & perseverance in prayer, that he oftentimes delayeth us to make us importunate & perseverant in begging, it being always, when he delayeth us, better for us, then the thing we ask, & as St, Bernard sayeth,God doth oftentimes not hear us as we desire, because he would hear us for our salvation.
The fifth and last is, as beggars show their wounds and infirmities, and set them out to the uttermost to move unto pity and commiseration, that they may be relieved: so must we do our infirmities and necessities, both of body and soul to the uttermost unto almighty God, when we present ourselves before his divine Majesty in prayer, that we may move him to commiseration and mercy,knowing that those that acknowledge themselves to be poor and empty of spiritual riches. ( we all may, if we look well into ourselves ) shall be filled with good things, and those that think themselves rich and full shall be sent empty away: words of the Blessed and glorious Virgin Mary. And here would I end this meditation,but that there is a profitable objection to be answered, why we are distracted in our prayers, more then in any other business? the reason is, the devil knowing the great profit we reap thereby, endeavoreth to hinder us as much as he can by bringing distractions and impertinent imaginations to our mind; as two that are at strife in law, the one will hinder the other from audience with the Judge, or in any other matter as much as they are able.
The remedy against it, may be this: As a falconer passing by a place where there is a great noise & tumult, with a hawk on his fist not well reclaimed,which is apt to bate at every little matter, showeth her a piece of raw bloody flesh,which he holdeth in his fist,whereunto she attending mindeth not the noise: so in the noise and tumult of our distractions, if we propose to our mind the flesh of Christ cruelly scourged,and crucified, upon the cross, with his bloody wounds sustained for us, it will stay our mind if any thing do, from distractions,and drive away the Devil, that doth suggest them unto us, who of all things cannot endure the picture of the death, and passion of Christ, whereby he was confounded.
And besides, as Aristotle sayeth, a vehement object, will work vehemently in our mind or senses,and transport it from other things; no object so vehement as the death & passion of Christ, therefore nothing so prevalent to recall our mind from distractions, as that: and this is one reason amongst many other, that Catholics have the picture of Christ crucified, or other pictures set up before their eyes in Churches, or other places where they pray, partly to mediate upon them, and partly t recall their minds from distractions, and that by the allowance and commendation of a general Council, against certain Heretics that impugned the same.