The First Sunday In Lent The Gospel Matt.4.v.1. Thursday Meditation
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.
If our blessed Savior Christ had been subject to sin, (as he was altogether impeccable of his own nature, or rather purity itself) as he fasted from corporal food forty days and forty nights for us, & for our example: so would he have fasted from all manner of sin, for that is the great and general fast.
If the belly, saith St. Bernard, hath offended, let the belly only pinch for it: but if also the other members have offended, why should not they suffer as well as that?
Let the eye fast from unlawful or dangerous aspects, the ear from hearing fables, rumors, detraction, scurrility, lascivious talk, and the like, the tongue from speaking it, hands from doing evil, the soul from vices.
This do the Collects or prayers in the service of the Church call upon us to do all this lent, and namely that of the Friday in the third week of lent, in these words we beseech thee, O Lord, further our fasting, with thy benign favor, that as we abstain from food, with our body, so we may fast from vices with our minds; the like prayers we have almost for every day in the lent, to put us in mind hereof.
This if we do, we go truly with Christ into the wilderness, not a wilderness out of the world, but a wilderness out of ourselves, and our sins which is better; for holy Saint Basil complained, that though he lived in a wilderness, out of the world; yet not in a wilderness far enough out of himself.
If we put ourselves into this happy wilderness, we must look for temptations, as Christ had, and many assaults of the Devil, but must fight against them with the same weapons, that he did, to wit, sentences of the holy Scripture, to all the temptations of the devil, not the words of the Scripture so much, but the true sense contained therein, which the Devil did pervert; nor that we should fly to any other reasons or motives while we should fast, but only because it is the word of God, declared unto us by the Catholic Church.
This is the best motive, this is most meritorious, this stoppeth the Devils mouth, that he hath nothing to inject or suggest against it.
Whereas if we allege other reasons, we give him weapons to fight against us, and if we do it for any other motive, we diminish our merit: the food of our soul is obedience, to the word and will of God.
A Plaine Path-way To Heaven Thomas Hill 1634
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