The First Sunday In Lent The Gospel Matt.4.v.1. Monday Meditation: A Plaine Path-way To Heaven Thomas Hill 1634
GOSPEL Matt. 4:1-11At 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.
Monday. That Christ was carried into the wilderness, of the spirit, to fast, and to be so tempted of the Devil, (as is aforesaid in the Gospel) all this was merely for our instruction: for he had no need to go into a wilderness, nor to fast for himself; neither could he be tempted interiorly within himself, but only externally assailed by the enemy.
The instruction which is here given us may be this: After we are baptized, that is to say, when we convert ourselves truly to God, by the Sacrament of Penance, which is a second baptism, we are sure to be tempted of the devil, who is therefore called Satan, to wit an adversary to the worship and service of God: and the more perfectly and sincerely we convert ourselves, the more will he impugn us.
Son, saith Solomon, being coming, or newly come, to the service of God,prepare thy soul unto temptation.
Against temptations the best armor is a wilderness, and therefore Christ is said to be lead thither by the spirit: That is to say by the holy ghost.
In our temptations if we have the spirit of God, he will lead us and guide us by sundry good motions and suggestions, into a wilderness, that is to say, into places where there are least occasions of temptations, and most opportunity to serve God, as a wilderness is; but the bad spirit will lead us, if he can, where most occasions and danger of sin are.
When our food is good in it self, but tasteth not well to our palate, it is a sign we are full of gross humors that corrupt our taste, but when we taste things as they are; it is a sign these gross humours are consumed.
The condition of good men is to taste God as he is, that is to say, more sweet then honey and the honeycomb, as the Prophet David testify of him, and therefore they are so much delighted with his familiarity in prayer contemplation and eminency of life that they would desire to forsake all human conversations for it, and to confine themselves to a CAVE, rather then to lose their conversation with God.
And if in case at any time they forbear it, it is only out of necessity to themselves, or charity to others, to do them good and for that purpose a wilderness is the best place, witness so many holy Moncks in the wilderness of Egypt if not that, then a monastary or Religious house, if not that, to male us a cell of solitaries in the world, by sequestering ourselves from worldly conversation & affairs, as much as we can.
For if the devil tempted Christ in the wilderness with gluttony by turning stones into bread to satiate his hunger; with vainglory, to cast himself down from the pinnacle of the temple, and to be carried in the hands of Angels without hurt, which might have been a glory unto him: if with covetousness of whole kingdoms. If I say the Devil tempted Christ with these things in the wilderness: where there is no use nor occasion of these sins; what will he do unto them that live in the world, & aboude in both? If the devil took occasion of very stones, to tempt Christ with gluttony, what will he not do to them that have all occasions of that sin, and means to perform it?
Oh what a benefit is the wilderness of wanting means wherewith all to sin. St Basil complained even in the wilderness, he could go no farther from himself. God made the people of Israel, when they came our of Egypt to pass through the red Sea, which when they came to, it opened unto them and gave them passage: when they were over, it shuts again, that they should not go back into Egypt again, though they would.
So should we take from ourselves all occasions of sin and impediments in the service of God, this holy time of lent, that we could not fall into them though we would; And because we are frail and weak, and cannot so well take this course with ourselves: Therefore our holy mother the Church hath done it for us, commanding us to keep this time of lent in fasting, prayer, alms deeds, hearing Sermons, and the like holy exercises; and not using that freedom and liberty of life and conversation, as at other times; by which commandment, as it were by the spirit which always assisteth Gods church, we are carried into a wilderness; to feed our souls rather then our bodies; and to learn to fight against the temptations of sins as Christ for our example did.
And if we feel not an appetite of this food of souls, as well as of our bodies, knowing, as Christ answered the Devil, man doth not live only by material bread, but by every word that proceedeth from the mouth of God; or if the food of our soul doth not relish or taste sweeter unto us, then any worldly pleasure or delight: we may assure ourselves, as was said in the beginning, it is because our soul is oppressed and corrupted with gross, and crud humors, of worldly pleasure and delights, which take away the taste of our spiritual palate.