The First Sunday In Lent The Gospel Matt.4.v.1. Sunday Meditation: A Plaine Path-way To Heaven Thomas Hill 1634
GOSPEL Matt. 4:1-11
At that time, Jesus was led by the spirit into the desert, to be tempted by the devil. And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, afterwards he was hungry. And the tempter coming said to him: "If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread." Who answered and said: "It is written, Not in bread alone doth man live, but in every word that proceedeth from themouth of God." Then the devil took him up into the holy city, and set him upon the pinnacle of the temple, And said to him: "If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down, for it is written: That he hath given his angels charge over thee, and in their hands shall they bear thee up, lest perhaps thou dash thy foot against a stone." Jesus said to him: "It is written again: Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God." Again the devil took him up into a very high mountain, and shewed him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them, And said to him: "All these will I give thee, if falling down thou wilt adore me." Then Jesus saith to him: "Begone, Satan: for it is written: The Lord thy God shalt thou adore, and him only shalt thou serve."
Naaman, a great Prince of the King of Syria his court, being strike with a leprosy all over his body, hearing of the fame of Heliseus the Prophet, for such cures, went to him: he appointed him to was himself in a certain river seven times, and told him he should be cured; he did it, and was cured. Sin is a leprosy, and we are all infected and, in the compass of a year, no doubt much defiled therewith: wherefore our holy mother the Church appointed this time of lent, to wash ourselves, & make us clean in the wholesome waters of fasting, prayer and alms, and other holy exercises, for the worthy celebration of Easter; and in this time of lent we may aptly be said to wash ourselves seven times, because we fast seven weeks, resting every Sunday between, which taketh it, as it were, seven several washings: as that of Naamans was, which washing of his, no doubt was a figure or type of ours, as very many other things in the old law were of the new.
The Jesus was carried of the spirit, into the wilderness & c.
The first thing that occurreth unto us, in this gospel, is this word (then) that is to say, after he had been baptized by St. John, in the river Jordan. To signify unto us, that out fasting, prayer, and alms, and other good deeds, if we all have them meritorious of life everlasting, to wit, in the merits of Christ (as Catholic always, when they speak of meritorious works, understand) must be done, when we are free from sin, either from original by baptism, or from actual by the Sacrament of Penance which is, (as it were) a second baptism, or, as the fathers of the Church, call it, a second Table after shipwreck. Our good works are called in the scripture, our justice, because they proceed from one that is just: and then shall we have reward for the same of almighty God, then are our works meritorious, as aforesaid, according to those express words of Christ, Take heed yes do not your justice before men, to be seen of them, otherwise you shall not have reward of your father which is in heaven; from whence we may rightly infer, if we do our justice not before men to be seen, we shall have reward.
Now reward of justice implieth merit; That it is of justice, it we fight a good fight, if we finish our course,if we keep our faith, St. Paul saith it, calling it a crown of justice; and in another place, that God should be unjust, if he did not reward our good works. Now to know whether we are in sin or no, we have need to pray unto God with the Prophet David, to illuminate our darkness, and to Illuminate our eyes, that we never sleep in death; that is to say, in deadly sin: for many times we may be in deadly sin: for many times we may be in deadly sin and not know it.
We may be in deadly and venal, sin, and see the venial, but not the deadly; by reason whereof we may, as the Proverb saith, strain at a gnat and swallow a Camel.
The Jews made a scruple to enter into the Counsel house upon the Sabbath day, least they should be contaminated, which at most could be but a venial sin: but they made no scruple to say unto Pilate of Christ when he fought to free him, If he had not been a malefactor we would not have delivered him unto thee; or to cry out with open mouth, Crucify, crucify him.
Or, we will not have Christ set free; but rather the murderer Barrabas, they being the worst murderers themselves.
They made a scruple of putting thirty pieces of silver, for which Christ was sold, into the common treasure, but they made no bones to buy his innocent blood with the same; and when Judas cast the money away, and said he head betrayed innocent blood: they made no scruple to answer him, what is that to us? look thou to that.
So many will accuse themselves in confession of distractions in prayer, officious lies, and the like: but make no scruple of pride, hatred, covetness, detraction, & the like, which they see not in themselves, and which is the most dangerous condition of all; for these do not only continue in a state of sin through their culpable and gross ignorance: but think themselves very holy, because they fast and pray much, and accuse themselves of small sins, not feign the great.
These are like the hypocritical pharisees, of whom Christ said, They Tithe mint and rew, but the greater tithes they detain They make clean the outside of the dish, but leave it foul within; they see a moat in another mans eye, but not a became in their own These have need to pray with the prophet David from my hidden sins, O Lord, deliver me, that is to say, O Lord, let me see them, that I may sorrow for them, and amend them, and so be delivered from them; or, as the same Prophet praieth in another place, O Lord, illuminate my darkness; and again, O Lord, illuminate mine eyes, that I sleep not in death, that is to say, that being in deadly sin, I may see it, and not let it rest in me, as if I were asleep.
We must therefore now remember that word (then) aforesaid, that is to say, we must first have care to purge our souls of sin, and, as the Prophet David termeth it, to sweep them clean, at the beginning of Lent, and then to go in hand with fasting and prayer, and other works of justice.
We must first be baptized in the Sacrament of penance, and then go into the wilderness of Lent, to fast and pray with Christ.
And therefore it is, that the week before this Sunday, is called the cleansing week.