Understanding the Bible Series:
Meditation on Our Lord in the Gospels - Part 2
by Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J.
They all universally
deny the Johannine authorship of the fourth Gospel, and this is one reason.
It is so mercifully clear on those truths of the Catholic faith, like Christs
divinity, like Marys divine maternity, like the Real Presence. You might also
have told your friends or tell your friends, the Protestants who do not believe
in the Real Presence, by the year 1600, thats 83 years after Martin Luther
broke with the Catholic Church, St. Robert Bellermine found over two hundred
interpretations of the meaning of Christs words at the Last Supper, This is
My Body, This is My Blood.
Having taught in six
Protestant seminaries, having over the years, Ive taught many courses in Protestant
theology, the two principle errors for us Catholics of Protestantism are the
very ones that Ive told you are the main reason for people leaving the Catholic
Church. Historically they left the Catholic Church because of the Churchs uncompromising
position on the indissolubility of sacramental, consummated Christian marriage.
And the second reason Luther having left the Catholic Church, thats by the
way why we have Halloween, there would be no Halloween except for Protestantism,
to make a mockery of Catholic faith in all the saints. Oh how totally brainwashed
many Catholics have become.
But then secondly,
denying the indissolubility of Christian marriage which is historically the
reason, the reason why Luther broke from the Catholic Church. Then having
been a priest for 15 years he logically had to justify his leaving the priesthood
so he wrote book after book denying the necessity of the priesthood. Why do
we have to have priests? The single most fundamental reason is that we might
have the Sacrifice of the Mass and have the Real Presence. Having rejected
his own priesthood, then Luther wrote book after book denying the necessity
of the priesthood. What we must give, what we call the heresiarchs, they are
the leading, the chief heretics, they are smart, they dont miss a thing, and
those are the two errors that are plaguing the western world today among Catholics.
You dont close forty-two parishes in Detroit, or sixty-two in Chicago without
a reason, the final reason is those two articles of our faith. And the Catholic
Church will survive, as I keep saying, only where there are people still left
who believe that Christian consummated marriage is indissolvable and that Jesus
Christ, the Son of Mary Who is the Son of God is on earth in flesh, physically
present in the Eucharist. And whats happening to so many church edifices is
a reflection of the weakening and the loss of that faith. Oh what I could not
say, how specific I could be, what names I could name. And that is why, thanks
for coming, thats why Im coming here, to keep our faith alive. Whats happening
now has been going on since, for our purpose, since Christ made the promise
of the Eucharist in the sixth chapter of Johns Gospel. So whats new? Oh
whats new is that so many of these ex-Catholics insist on parading, talk
about a Halloween party, talk about walking around, walking around in disguise,
theyre not Catholic.
John is the one who
gives us the long discourse of Jesus at the Last Supper, its the longest sustained
narrative of Christ in the Gospels. And remember, absolutely speaking had John
been martyred, which he well could have been because of the attempts on his
life, but God spared him to wait until there had been, listen to this, enough
heretics, enough heresies to then justify writing a Gospel to, well, refute
those heresies, including of course, Christs divinity and His Real Presence.
And at the Last Supper Christ discourse, as we know, was mainly about the love,
the love that those who believe in Christ are to have for one another out of
love for Christ.
And finally, it was
John who recalls the story of Christ making Peter the head of the Church on
earth. Why? Because the primacy, the papal primacy was already denied and
rejected in the first century. And the rejection and denial came from whom?
From bishops. It is John again, in his Apocalypse or the Book of Revelation
who describes, remember, the bishops, this is Christ revealing to John about
the different kind of bishops, then in that early Church and in the 1st
century not all were good bishops and then John quotes Our Lord calling them
some very bad names. And youd better reform, youd better reform or else.
Now some practical
recommendations, I have to be exact twelve.
Though I spoke for
the next ten days, and spoke only on this subject on meditating on the Gospels,
I could not tell you how important that is and whatever else you do as a result
of these classes, not just know but do, if you do begin, if you have not yet
begun, if you do not begin to meditate on the Gospels then I have wasted your
time. I mean it. In todays world, no one, no Catholic can survive in the
Church, I couldnt make my language more clear, no Catholic can survive in the
Church without daily meditation on the Gospels. I mean it. Where there is
Christ Himself with His words and His actions teaching us.
Now some practical recommendations.
Know beforehand on
what event in Christs life you will meditate. I think I told you it is a very
good idea to meditate on the Gospel for that day. Now when there is an option
of Gospels, say when you either have a saints feast or what we call a ferial
day, two different gospels well then youve got your choice. But most of the
days in the year have one Gospel specified. Now Im not sure that I ever asked
you people, do you people have access to, do you have a source for knowing what
are the Gospels for each day of the year? How many have such information?
Accessible. Good. Everybody should have it. And Ive been doing this for
years, in the Society of Jesus we have what we call the Jesuit Ordo. Called
Jesuit Ordo, 1992, 1993 for Jesuits of the United States Assistancy. In other
words, the major countries in the world are divided in the Jesuit Order into
what we call Assistancies. The United States is an Assistancy. For example
for tomorrow, October 25, it is not a feast day. Gives you different information
but the Gospel is Luke 13:10-17 and even a short sentence, This daughter of
Abraham was it not right to untie her on the Sabbath day? In other words,
what did Christ do? He worked a miracle on the Sabbath. After having performed
the miracle His enemies, well, criticized Him. Then Christ is asking them,
well, are you telling me we cannot perform an act of charity on the Sabbath?
And what an act of charitya miracle.
In any case, I would
recommend to all of you, now what I can do, its still time before the first
Sunday of Advent of this year, which is about a month away, anyway if is dont
do they usually cost? Four, four dollars, is it four dollars, I think its
four dollars, I could order copies and if anybody would want copies, if you
wouldnt mind doing this let me [Are you talking about for next year, 93-94?]
Thats 93-94 and, why dont we do this, lets not do it now and spend time during
class in filling out lets say after the break well have a paper passed around,
sign your names if you would want to order a Jesuit Ordo. Thats what Ordo
means Order, okay, theres much more to it.
- So know beforehand,
because what happens, if you know beforehand you are thinking about what you
are going to meditate on. St. Ignatius recommends, St. Ignatius recommends
that you think of that the night before and honest, if you do that the night
before, even your dreams will change. Gosh, thats hypnotic. And if you want
to have the right kinds of thoughts in the morning, be sure you have the right
kind of thoughts before you retire.
- Divide the event
into a few points, thats Ignatius language, few parts. Ignatius recommends
three. Thus the first fifteen meditations of St. Ignatius in the Spiritual
Exercises, then have read as follows, I dont have the text here but 1, 2, 3,
1, 2, 3, 1,2 ,3, always in honor of the Holy Trinity. So the Annunciation,
1, 2, 3, the angel appears and he speaks, thats point one. Then Our Lady talks
to the angel, thats part two. And then the angel, what does he say? How did
the angel answer Our Lady? Nothing. [The Holy Spirit will over shadow you?]
The Holy Spirit will overshadow you? Nothing is impossible with God and then
the third point of course is the most important where Mary says, Be it done
to me according to your word. And this by the way, I cannot tell you how important
this is in understanding our faith. The faith by definition is our acceptance
of Gods revealed Word. However, the faith is not a feeling. The faith is
not an emotion. The faith is a judgment made by the mind assenting to what?
I understand God revealed. What did Mary do? At the Annunciation she made
an act of faith. And the moment she pronounced the words, Be it done to me
according to your word, at that moment God became man. In other words, and
having had years of graduate studies in science, my doctoral studies in chemistry,
pulled out of science and put into theology. What I found out and I want to
share with you, theology is a science. And those who dont realize its a science,
they are the ones causing us so much trouble. All kinds of vague ideas, we
call them weasel words they use, they never get down and tell you this is it.
When God reveals He tells us this is it. And consequently, dividing our meditations
into mathematical numbers is not at all strange, in fact, its perfectly consistent.
Its consistent with the nature of revelation. Truth, of course, is in the
mind but what is in the mind is specific, its definite.
- Before you start
meditating place yourself in Gods presence. I must by now for some of you
Ive said this fifty times in different context. The secret is to consciously
be aware that I am not in Gods presence. In whose presence are most of us
most of the time? [Our own] Our own presence and remember we said, the essence
of being in the presence of anyone is to be thinking of the person whom I love.
Having loving thoughts or thinking lovingly and the one that were always, of
course we hide it, all kinds of ways we can mask our profound, deep mystical
self-love, lost in ecstasy in the adoration of the one god that most human beings
adorethemselves. Im not being rhetorical by the way, weve got to go out
of our way and make ourselves aware of the presence of God. Speak to Him.
- Make a preparatory
prayer. O God, grant that all the actions, intentions and operations of this
spiritual exercise may tend solely to the praise and glory of your divine majesty.
Doesnt matter what we say, thats what I was taught fifty years ago and Im
still saying it. And well, you also make a gesture, we were taught always when
we start a meditation make an act of the presence of God and then, not just
bow, but literally touch the ground with your head either with the forehead
or with the lips, bowing. I just make sure the doors closed and that I do
this everyday. So, make a preparatory prayer.
- Recall in memory
the situation on which you will meditate. It is a good thing to have, those
call them points for meditation planned beforehand, even written out. And over
the years I cannot tell you, not just hundreds but several thousand such synthesis
over the years, being under training, I was making.
- Picture in your
imagination the event on which you are reflecting. One thing that may surprise
some of us is the fact that these meditations are not meditations as such, our
ideas, they are rather meditations on events. On events that occurred on words
that are used. And this is one of the great dangers that given the two forms
of prayer, vocal prayer that people will be praying using words but the mind
may be a thousand miles away. Or maybe, not a thousand miles away, very close,
lost in rapture in thinking about, well, myself. And with mental prayer, the
danger there is that a person may make the prayer so speculative, so intellectual
that its hardly prayer anymore. The advantage therefore in meditating on an
event or on words is that you bring yourself down to, well, down to earth.
- Start with part
one. I dont even have part two because Ignatius says if you do, youre doing
well in your meditation on part one or point one, dont go on, dont be in a
hurry. The last thing you do, the last thing you do when you meditate, the
last thing is do speed reading. And this by the way is almost a diagnosis of
the intellectual disease of a country like ours. Accumulating a lot of ideas,
ideas, ideas, ideas and never getting to the root of a single idea. Some people
have never thought through a single idea in their lives. I know, Ive taught
them. You read the words of the Gospel, see with your imagination the persons,
hear what they say and when I, over the years, have been teaching this as a
course in spiritual theology, my students, especially my Jesuits would ask me
my gosh, thats so childish, Im not used to that. Well, my friend, have
you thought maybe of starting? In other words, theres a childlike simplicity
about meditation. Hear what they say, seek to understand what the actions and
words mean. Why the angel Gabriel, why him? Remember what he had just finished,
he finished an assignment, remember, with whom? [Zachary] Zachary, and so
the same angel was sent to Mary. To whom did he come? And its remarkable
how having, say, read or heard read maybe a thousand or more times the Annunciation
narrative in the Gospel I never realized these are the words. Oh by the way,
may I ask, what did the angel say? [Hail, full of grace] Hail. Did the angel
address Mary by name? [No] Okay. Hail, full of grace are those the words
he used, Hail, full of grace? [Yes] Yes. And the Church for centuries has
believed that, thats why we have the Hail Mary. And then what does full of
grace mean? In other words, now heres the beauty of it, youre meditating
on the Scriptures, which obviously, which are the revealed word of God, youre
in Gods presence because you made yourself so, and then you are in effect asking
yourself, but in Gods presence what assurance do you have that when you are
in Gods presence and you are asking for what something means, what assurance
do you have that God will tell you what it means? This may come as a surprise,
hope not to too many of you, but I know of nothing, no single recommendation
I could make on the spiritual life, and I can make a thousand, none in my judgment
is more fundamental than in the presence of God, prayerfully to ask God what
something means. Because its the meaning, its the meaning which is the ground
of our motivation. Our wills, as weve heard so often, are blind faculties,
they cannot think. The mind must provide the ideas for the will. But ideas
have meaning. And remember that parable of the sower, the seed falling on different
kinds of ground, only the fourth, the last kind of soil was fruitful and the
first soil produced nothing. Remember why, because corresponding to the seed
falling on the wayside, this is the word of God, falling on the wayside, shall
we say sown on the mind. What a difference between the word of God being
sown on the mind and being sown in the mind, to penetrate the
mind. What happened to the first seed, produced nothing, why, because the birds
had a feast. They picked it up. And then what does Christ say, They are those
who having received the word of God, failed to understand it. I could now
talk for eight days, eight hours a day on the transcendent importance of understanding
the meaning of what we believe. Most people dont, I know it, they dont.
Theyll quote somebody who will have a meaning, they dont even know what that
person means by his meaning. So what does full of grace just to use that
as an example, what does it mean? And what was the message? But then, and
this is crucial, what does this mean to me? In other words, every statement
that we find in the Gospels has a meaning for each one of us. If I didnt believe
that I wouldnt be here. And God is speaking to each one of us individually,
personally. We go on.
- Apply these thoughts
to yourself. And whatever you do dont rush. Most Americans are in a hurry
but the worst kind of hurry is speed of the mind. It takes time for ideas to
penetrate. So why did the angel come to Mary? Because she was humble, because
of her deep faith, because she was chaste. And then I ask myself, how deep
is my faith? How deep is my humility? How deep is my chastity?
And our faith, humility
and chastity are being tested, and I mean it, as never before in the history
of the world. You dont have, as we have, in our United States, bishops coming
out in defense of homosexuality. Without your faith, what word shall I use,
being tried, being tempted, you dont have as I think I told you, was it in
this class, was it a full page ad by the seamless garment network, remember,
that we shouldnt be so narrow minded as to concentrate on well, you know,
the right-to-life and against abortion, we should, well, take a broader perspective
and consider the right-to-life of a condemned major criminal, we should be concerned
about war, that become convinced that all war is unjust. Is it? Is all war
unjust? [No.] No. We should be concerned about other forms of life and not
just human life. Like the whales remember? And there are bishops behind this.
Id rather crawl under this building sixty feet deep than talk this way, but
talk this way I must, otherwise I wouldnt be telling you what we are going
through in our, in our world today. A deep faith, a deep humility, and a deep
chastity and I mean a deep chastity. I was in California yesterday and just
before I left back for Detroit what did I read, this is the San Francisco
Chronicle for October 22, so that was Fridays paper. And this is full
page of relationships, a great way to meet people, these are ads, female to
male relationships, male to male relationships, female to female relationships,
these are lesbians, homosexuals, married people who want to have sex relations
with someone else while remaining married. This is a full page of urgent and
ardent requests for relationships. Wed better, wed better know whats going
on and deepen, deepen our faith, our humility and our chastity.
How firmly do I believe
that the Son of God became man for me? And that, in working on the Catechism
as I am doing now, if theres one thing that comes out in the Catechism of the
Catholic Church repeatedly, section after section, the foundation of our faith
is belief that the Son of Mary is the Son of the Living God, the Creator of
heaven and earth, Who became man. How aware am I of the angels? I wont ask
for a raising of hands, how many of you pray everyday to the angels. All right,
put up your hands, how many? Start praying to the angels and by the way, you
wont like this, but so what? Lets those of us who pray to our guardian angels
tonight lets ask our guardian angel to keep those people awake who are not
in the habit of praying to their guardian angels until they start praying to
their guardian angels. Pardon me, if you cant fall asleep tonight youll know
why. How much do I listen to him, to my guardian angel? Am I convinced that
God will work miracles in my life provided I trust in God? Thats what the
angel told Mary. Mary, are you willing to become the mother of the Creator?
But she did say in effect, I want to live a virginal life, so the angel told
her about Elizabeth. For God miracles are, well thats daily routine. And
He wants to work miracles, He does, the only condition is that we believe.
Do not go on to parts
2 or 3 as long as you are doing, gathering fruit from part 1. Then set a definite
time limit to your meditation. Now for most people its not so much a time
limit, they keep looking at their watch, Ive got eleven more minutes to go.
And finally before
you close, pray to Our Lord asking Him for the graces that you need, light,
strength, patience and charity.
Lets read the prayer
weve got, lets read it together.
Lord Jesus, You are
our God who became man to show us the way to true happiness in this life and
to perfect happiness in the life to come. Teach us how to meditate everyday
on Your earthly life in Palestine. Make us realize that this meditation is
absolutely necessary to please You and bring to You all the souls that You want
to save through us before You call us into eternity. Amen.
In the Name of the
Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Copyright © 2005 Institute on Religious Life
Conference transcription from a talk that Father Hardon
gave to the Institute on Religious Life
Institute on Religious Life, Inc.
PO. Box 410007
Chicago, Illinois 60641