Meditations on the Psalms, On The Interior Life #7, by Monsignor Ronald Arbuthnott Knox

cover of the ebook 'Meditations on the Psalms, by Monsignor Ronald Arbuthnott Knox'

Psalm 72

How good is God to Israel, to them that are of a right heart! But my feet were almost moved; my steps had well nigh slipped. Because I had a zeal on occasion of the wicked, seeing the prosperity of sinners. For there is no regard to their death, nor is there strength in their stripes. They are not in the labour of men: neither shall they be scourged like other men.

Therefore pride hath held them fast: they are covered with their iniquity and their wickedness. Their iniquity hath come forth, as it were from fatness: they have passed into the affection of the heart. They have thought and spoken wickedness: they have spoken iniquity on high. They have set their mouth against heaven: and their tongue hath passed through the earth. Therefore will my people return here and full days shall be found in them.

And they said: How doth God know? and is there knowledge in the most High? Behold these are sinners; and yet abounding in the world they have obtained riches. And I said: Then have I in vain justified my heart, and washed my hands among the innocent. And I have been scourged all the day; and my chastisement hath been in the mornings. If I said: I will speak thus; behold I should condemn the generation of thy children.

I studied that I might know this thing, it is a labour in my sight: Until I go into the sanctuary of God, and understand concerning their last ends. But indeed for deceits thou hast put it to them: when they were lifted up thou hast cast them down. How are they brought to desolation? they have suddenly ceased to be: they have perished by reason of their iniquity. As the dream of them that awake, O Lord; so in thy city thou shalt bring their image to nothing.

For my heart hath been inflamed, and my reins have been changed: And I am brought to nothing, and I knew not. I am become as a beast before thee: and I am always with thee. Thou hast held me by my right hand; and by thy will thou hast conducted me, and with thy glory thou hast received me. For what have I in heaven? and besides thee what do I desire upon earth?

For thee my flesh and my heart hath fainted away: thou art the God of my heart, and the God that is my portion for ever. For behold they that go far from thee shall perish: thou hast destroyed all them that are disloyal to thee. But it is good for me to adhere to my God, to put my hope in the Lord God: That I may declare all thy praises, in the gates of the daughter of Sion.

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The Prosperity of the Worldly

First Point. Apparent prosperity of the worldly. We know that God cares especially for his own servants, and rewards, even in this world, their pure intentions. And yet, as we climb the painful hill- path towards the mountain of perfection, now and again our foot seems to slip when we look back at what we have left behind. We see those who are neither reconciled with God nor just to their fellow- men apparently undisturbed in their peace of conscience. The thought of death does not appall them: when trouble comes they derive, we know not whence, a sort of Stoical courage. When times are bad all round, these are often the people least affected by it. And the effect of this on their souls is to give them a good conceit of themselves, so that they never seem to feel the need of heavenly aid. They feel so secure that they will sometimes even glory in their worldliness, and the ease with which they gain the objects of their desire; they talk arrogantly and blasphemously, as if they had scaled heaven and made conquest of earth. Small wonder that the simple servants of God should be distracted by their example, and given scandal by their prosperity, beginning to wonder if, after all, there is a God in Heaven, or a God who marks and cares for human fortunes, if sinners can so thrive on their ill-gotten gains with impunity.

Second Point. The devout soul will be fortified against worldly judgments. And we, who have transferred the centre of our hopes to the next world, do not we too sometimes hesitate, as if all our careful custody of the senses, our mortifications, our constant spiritual exercises, might after all have been undertaken in vain? Yet we have only to frame such a thought in order to see that it is impossible; are we to brush aside the history and the testimony of all God’s Saints? We shall not solve the riddle in an arm-chair, but only on our knees, only when, enlightened by prayer, we view this human prosperity in the light of death and eternity. Then we see that there is no injustice which will not claim its punishment, no pride that will not be visited by humiliation. A sudden accident, and the unjust soul is hurled into eternity, to answer without delay for its crimes; meantime, the world rolls on, and forgets its proud conquerors before the grass has sprung up over their graves.

Third Point. The gradual annihilation of self must quell these unruly motions in us. Such indignation as we have been considering, though righteous in its motive, is unbecoming to an interior soul, which should avoid all inordinate motions of anger. By God’s grace, if we keep still and let him work in us, we shall be brought to feel what we really are that is, nothing; we shall learn the limitations of our knowledge that is, that we know nothing. Our souls will be dumb and passive under God’s exercising, like patient beasts that do not reason or remonstrate, but wait for the reins or the whip. When we have become thus passive and responsive, we shall know that God is near to direct us, that he holds us by the hand, leads us by interior motions along the way he has chosen, fits us for future glory. There will be, for us, only one end and object in heaven or earth God himself; we shall fear nothing except absence from him, he will be our only hope, enjoyment, and reward. To be for one moment and in the least degree disobedient to him will be an infidelity crying out for punishment in hell; the sole good and meaning of life will be closer and ever closer union with him, fitting us for an eternity spent in proclaiming his praise.

Acts – Resolution against inordinate anger: self-annihilation.

Colloquy in which we compare ourselves to dumb beasts.