Skip to comments.Sunday, 12/12/18: [Catholic Caucus] The Twelfth Sunday After Pentecost (Gueranger)
Posted on 08/11/2018 7:48:02 AM PDT by CMRosary
ON THIS SUNDAY, which is their Twelfth of St. Matthew, the Greeks read, in the Mass, the episode of the young rich man who questions Jesus, given in the 19th of the Saint’s Gospel. In the West, it is the Gospel of the good Samaritan, which gives its name to this twelfth Sunday after Pentecost.
The Introit begins with that beautiful verse of the 69th Psalm: Come to mine assistance, O God! O Lord, make haste to help me! Cassian, in his tenth Conference has admirably drawn out the beauty of these words, and shows how they are appropriate for every circumstance of life, and how fully they respond to every sentiment of the Christian soul. Durandus applies this Introit’s being used in today’s liturgy to Job, because the Lessons for the Divine Office, which are taken from that Book of Scripture, are sometimes, though not often, the ones which coincide with this Sunday. Rupert looks on this Introit as the fitting prayer of the deaf and dumb man, whose cure was the subject of our reflections this day last week. He says: “The human race, in the person of our first parents, had become deaf to the commandments of God, and dumb in his praise; the first use he makes of his untied tongue is to call upon the God who had healed him.” The same words are the Church’s first address each morning to her Creator, and her opening of each of the canonical hours, both day and night.
It frequently happens (and we have already explained the reason) that the Collect of the Masses for the Time after Pentecost contains an allusion to the Gospel of the foregoing Sunday. The one for today is evidently such. Eight days back, we were taught how man, who had rendered himself incapable of serving his Creator, finds by Divine mercy that his supernatural faculties are restored to him; and that, then, he gives forth the voice of praise, and that, too, rightly—(loquebator recte). The Church, taking up the idea here suggested, prays thus:
The other Collects, as in the Fourth Sunday After Pentecost.
The glorious promises, mentioned in the concluding words of our Collect, are described to us in the Epistle, which seems, at first sight, to be entirely in praise of the Apostolic ministry; but the glory of the Apostles is the glory of Him whom they announce; and this one glory, which is His—Christ, the Head, communicates it to all his members, making it also their one glory. This divine glory flows, together with the divine life, from that sacred Head; and they both flow, and copiously too, through all the channels of holy Church. If they do not come to all christians in the same proportions—such difference in no wise denotes that the glory or the life themselves are of a different kind to some from what they are to others. Each member of Christ’s mystical Body is called upon to form his own degree of capacity for glory; not of course, as the Apostle says, that we are of ourselves sufficient even to think anything as of ourselves—but what diversity is there not, in the way in which men turn to profit the divine capital allotted to each by grace!
Oh! if we did but know the gift of God! if we did but understand the supereminent dignity reserved, under the law of love, to every man of good will! then perhaps our cowardice and sluggishness would, at last, go; perhaps, then, our souls would get fired with the noble ambition which turns men into saints. At all events, we should then come to realise that christian humility, of which we were speaking on the last two Sundays, is not the vulgar grovelling of a low-minded man, but the glorious entrance upon the way which leads, by divine Union, to the one true greatness. Are not these men inconsistent and senseless who, longing by the very law of their nature for glory—go seeking it in the phantoms of pride, and allow themselves to be diverted, by the baubles of vanity, from the pursuit of those real honors which Eternal Wisdom had destined for them! And those grand honors were to have been heaped upon them not only in their future heaven, but even here in their earthly habitation—and God and his Saints were to have been admiring and applauding spectators!
In the name, then, of our dearest and truest interests, let us give ear to our Apostle, and get into us his heavenly enthusiasm. We shall understand his exquisite teaching all the better if we read the sequel to the few lines assigned for today’s Epistle. It is but fully carrying out the wishes of the Church when her children, after or before assisting at her liturgical services, take the Sacred Scriptures, and read for themselves the continuation of passages, which are necessarily abridged during the public celebrations. It were well if they did this all through the Year. What a fund of instruction they would thus acquire! Today, however, there is an additional motive for the suggestion, inasmuch as this second Epistle to the Corinthians is brought before us for the first and only time during this season of the Liturgy.
But let us examine what is this glory of the New Testament, which so ills the Apostle with ecstasy and, in his mind, almost entirely eclipses the splendor of the Old. Splendor here undoubtedly was in the Sinai covenant. Never had there been such a manifestation of God’s majesty and omnipotence and holiness as on that day, when gathering together at the foot of the Mount, the descendants of the twelve sons of Jacob, he mercifully renewed, with this immense family, the covenant formerly made with their Fathers, and gave them his Law in the extraordinarily solemn manner described in the book of Exodus. And yet that law, engraven as it was on stone by God’s own hand, was not, for all that, in the hearts of the receivers; neither did its holiness prevent, though it condemned, sin—sin which reigns in man’s heart. Moses, who carried the divine writing, came down from the Mount, having the rays of God’s glory blazing on his face; but it was a glory which was not to be shared in by the people of whom he was the head; it was for himself alone, as was likewise the privilege he had enjoyed of speaking with God face to face; it ceased with him; thus signifying by its short duration the character of that ministration, which was to cease in the coming of the Messiah, just as the night’s borrowed light vanishes when the day appears. And as it were the better to show that the time was not as yet come when God would manifest his glory—the children of Israel were not able to gaze steadfastly on the face of Moses; so that, when he had to speak to the people, he had need to put on a veil. Though a mere borrowed light, the brightness of Moses’ face represented the glory of the future Covenant, whose splendor ws to shine, not of course externally, but in the hearts of us all, by giving us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God, in the face of Christ Jesus. Light, living and life-giving, which is none other than the divine Word, the Wisdom of the Father, a Light and a Wisdom which the entergy of the Sacraments, seconded by contemplation and love, makes to pass from the Humanity of our divine Head to the very recessed of our souls.
We shall find our Sunday giving us a second reminder of Moses; but the true and enduring greatness of the Hebrew leader is in what we have been stating. In the same way that Abraham was grander by the spiritual progeny which was the issue of his Faith, than he was by the posterity that was his in the flesh—so the glory of Moses consisted not so much in his having been at the head of the ancient Israelites for forty long years as in his having represented, in his own person, both the office of the Messiah King, and the prerogatives of the new people. The Gentile is set free from the law of fear and sin by the law of grace, which not only declares justice, but gives it; the Gentile, having been made a son of God, communes with Him in that liberty which comes of the Spirit of love. But this privileged Gentile has no type which so perfectly represents him, in the first Covenant, as this the very lawgiver of Israel, this Moses who find such favor with the Most High as to be admitted to behold His glory, and converse with Him with all the intimacy of friend to friend. Whereas God showed himself to this his servant—as far, that is, as mortal man is capable of such sight—and as he was seen by him without the intermediation of figures or images—so, when he approached thus to God, Moses took from his face the veil he wore at other times. The Jew persists, even to this very day, in keeping between himself and Christ, this veil, which is removed to all the world else; the Christian, on the contrary, with the holy daring, of which the Apostle speaks, removes all intermediates between God and himself, and draws aside the veil of all figures. Beholding the glory of the Lord with face uncovered, we are transformed into the same image from glory to glory, as by the Spirit of the Lord, for as we become other christs, and are made like to God the Father, as is his Son Christ Jesus.
Thus is fulfilled the will of this Almighty Father for the sanctification of the elect. God sees himself reflected in these predestinated, who are become, in the beautiful light divine, comformable to the image of his Son. He could say of each one of them what he spoke at the Jordan and on Thabor; This is my beloved son, in whom I am well pleased. He makes them his true temple; verifying the word he spoke of old: I will walk among you, and will be your God; I will bring thy seed from the East, and gather thee from the West; I will say to the North: “Give up!” and to the South: “Keep not back!” Bring my sons from afar, and my daughters from the ends of the earth!
Such are the promises, for whose realization we should, as the Apostle says, be all earnestness in working out our sanctification, by cleansing ourselves from all defilement of the flesh and of the spirit, in the fear of God, and in his love. Such is that glory of the New Testament, that glory of the Church and of every Christian soul, which so immensely surpasses the glory of the Old and the brightness which lit up the face of Moses. As to our carrying this treasure in frail vessels, we must not, on that account, lose heart but rather rejoice in this weakness, which makes God’s power all the more evident; we must take our miseries, and even Death itself, and turn them into profit, by giving the strong manifestation of our Lord Jesus’ life in this mortal flesh of ours. What matters it to our faith and our hope if our outward man is gradually falling to decay, when the inner is being renewed day by day? The light and transitory suffering of the present is producing within us an eternal weight of glory. Let us then fix our gaze not on what is seen, but on what is unseen; the visible passes, the invisible is eternal.
The human race, delivered from its long ages of dumbness, and blessed, at the same time, with God’s gifts, sings, in the Gradual, the hymn of its warmest gratitude.
The Doctor and Apostle of the Gentiles was speaking to us in the Epistle of the glory of the New Testament: He, of whom Paul was but the servant—Jesus, the Man-God, reveals to us, in the Gospel, the perfection of that Law, which he came to give to the world. And as though he would, in a certain way, unite his own divine teachings with those of his Apostle, and justify that Apostle’s enthusiasm, it is from the very depth of his own most holy soul, and in the Holy Ghost that, having thanked his Eternal Father for these great things, he cries out, turning to his Disciples: “Blessed are the eyes that see the things which ye see!”
The same idea was expressed by the Prince of the Apostolic College, when he spoke of the unspeaking and glorious joy which resulted from the new Alliance, wherein figures were to be replaced by realities. In his first Epistle to the elect of the Holy Spirit, Peter speaks in the same strain as his divine Master had done, of the unfulfilled aspirations of the Saints of the Old Testaments—these admirable men whom St. Paul describes as being so grand in faith, as to be both heroic in combat and sublime in virtue. St. Peter than expresses, in inspired language, how the elect of the Church of expectation were continually looking forward to the grace of the time that was to come; how they were ever counting the years which were to intervene; how they were carefully searching (scrutinizing, as our Vulgate words it) the long ages to find out when that happy time would be realized, although they were well aware that the longed-for sight of the mysteries of salvation was never to be theirs, and that their mission was limited to prophesying those future grandeurs to future generations.
But who are those Kings spoken of in our Gospel, as uniting with the Prophets in the desire to see the things we see? To say nothing of those holy ones who thought less of the throne they sat on than of the divine Object of the world’s expectation—may we not say, with the holy Fathers, that they well deserved to be called kings, whom St. Paul describes as, by their faith, conquering kingdoms, vanquishing armies, stopping the mouths of lions, masters of the very elements, yea, what is more, masters of their own selves? Heedless of the mockeries, as well as that of the persecutions of the world that was not worthy to possess such men—these champions of the faith were seen wandering in the deserts, sheltering in dens and caves, and yet as happy as kings, because of a certain Object whom they intensely loved and longed to see, and yet whom they knew they were not to see, until after their deaths, and until tedious ages had run their long course.
We, then, who are their descendants—we for whom they were obliged to wait, in order to enjoy a share of those blessings which their sighs and vehement desires did so much to hasten—do we appreciate the immense favor bestowed on us by our Lord? We, whose virtue scarcely bears comparison with that of the fathers of our faith, and who, notwithstanding, by the descent of the Holy Spirit of love, have been put more enlightened than ever were the prophets, for, by that Holy Spirit, we have been put in possession of the mysteries which they only foretold—how is it that we are so sadly slow to feel the obligation we are under of responding, by holiness of life, and by an ardent and generous love, to the liberality of that God who has gratuitously called us, from darkness, to his admirable light? Having so great a cloud of witnesses over our heads, let us lay aside every weight and sin which surrounds us, and run, by patience, in the fight proposed to us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and finisher of faith, who, having joy set before him, preferred to endure the cross, despising the shame, and now sitteth on the right hand of the throne of God. We know him with greater certainty than we do the events which are happening under our eyes, for he himself, by his Holy Spirit, is ever within us, incorporating his mysteries into us.
The illumination of holy Baptism has produced within our souls that revelation of Christ Jesus which constitutes the basis of the Christian life, and for which the Man-God congratulated his disciples. It was of that revelation or knowledge that he spoke, rather than of the exterior sight of his human nature, a sight which was common not only to his devoted followers, but to every enemy that chose to stare at him. The Apostle of the Gentiles makes this very clear, when after the change produced in the Disciples by the Holy Ghost’s coming upon them, he thus spoke: If we once knew Christ according to the flesh—now we know him so no longer. It is literally in us, and no longer in the cities of Judea, that the kingdom of God is to be found. It is faith that shows us the Christ who is dwelling in our hearts, that he may establish us in charity, and grow in us, by transforming us into himself, and fill us with all the fullness of God. It is by fixing his eye on the divine image, which silently lights up the soul that has been purified by Baptism—that as we were just now saying, the inner man is renewed from day to day, by incessant contemplation, and growing love, and persevering and, at last, perfect imitation—of his Creator and Savior.
How important, then, that we let the supernatural light have such free scope and expansion within us, that not one of our acts or thoughts, not even the deepest recess of our hearts, shall escape its sovereign influence and guidance! It is on this point that the Holy Ghost works prodigies in faithful souls: the unrestrained development of those his highest Gifts—Understanding and Wisdom—gives such a predominance to the divine light, that the brightness of the sun’s rays pales to the eyes of these Saints. Sometimes even, in his omnipotent freedom of breathing when and as he willeth, this Holy Spirit waits not for the regular development of those Gifts of His, which he bestows upon all: the soul, drawn up to heights unreached by the ordinary paths of the christian life, finds herself plunged in the deepest abyss of Wisdom; there she delightedly imbibes the rays which come to her from the eternal summits and, in their tranquil and radiant simplicity which holds all in itself, she feels that she has the secret of all things. There are moments when, raised up still higher—above the region of the senses or the domain of human reasoning, yea, as St. Denis the Areopagite words it, above all the intelligible—she is permitted to rest her wings on the summit, where dwells the uncreated light in its essence—that thrice holy sanctuary, whence it streams down even to the furthest limits of creation, lending something of its divine splendor to every creature. Then is it that, mercifully acting on the soul, which cannot yet bear the direct infinite glory, the Blessed Trinity shrouds her in that mysterious darkness, of which the Saints speak as belonging to these highest degrees of mystical ascension. The darkness, beyond which is the very God of Majesty, is an obscurity which penetrates the soul with higher bliss than does light itself; it is a sacred night whose silence is more eloquent than any sound that this earth could hear; it is a holy of holies, where adoration absorbs the soul; vision is not there, still less is science; and yet it is in this sanctuary that understanding and love, acting together in ineffable unison, take hold of the sublimest mysteries of theology.
It is quite true that such favors as these are imparted to but few; and no man can lay the slightest claim to them, be his virtue ever so great or his fidelity ever so tried. Neither does perfection depend upon them. Faith, which guides the just man, is enough to make him estimate the life of the senses for what it really us—miserable and groveling. With the aid of ordinary grace, he easily lives in that intimate retirement of the soul, where he knows that the holy Trinity resides—he knows it because he has it from the teaching of the Scripture. His heart is a kind of heaven, where his life is hidden in God, together with that Jesus upon whom are fixed all his thought: there he gives to his beloved Lord the only proof of love which is to be trusted, the only one that this Lord asks at our hands—the keeping of the commandments. In spite of the ardent longings of his hope, he waits patiently and calmly for that final revelation of Christ, which on the last day will give him to appear together with Him in glory; for, as without seeing him, he knows that he loves Him. The ever advancing growth in virtue, which men observe in such a man, is a more unmistakable proof of the power of faith than can be those extraordinary manifestations of which we were just speaking, and in which the soul is so irresistibly subdued, that she has scarcely the power to refuse her love.
Hence it is not without a reason and a connection that the Gospel chosen for today passes at once, after the opening verses which we have been commenting, to the new promulgation of the great commandment, which includes the whole Law and the Prophets. Faith assures man that he may and must love the Lord his God with his whole heart, and with his whole soul, and his whole strength, and his whole mind, and his neighbor as himself. In the Homily on the sacred text offered to us by the Church, the interpretation goes not beyond the question proposed by the Jewish lawyer: by this, she as good as tells us that the latter portion of the Gospel, though by far the longer, is but the practical conclusion of the former, according to that saying of the Apostle, that Faith worketh by charity The parable of the good Samaritan, though containing materials for the sublimest symbolic teaching, is spoken here in its literal sense by our Lord, for the one purpose of removing the restrictions put by the Jews on the great precept of love.
If all perfection be included in love—if, without love, no virtue produces fruit for heaven—it is important for us to remember that love is not of the right kind unless it include our neighbor; and it is only after stating this particular that St. Paul affirms that love fulfilleth the whole law, and that love is the plenitude of the law. Thus we find that the greater number of the precepts of the Decalogue are upon our duties to our neighbor; and we are told that the love we have for God is only then what it ought to be, when we not only love Him, but when we also love what He loves, that is, when we love man whom He made to his own likeness. Hence, the apostle St. Paul does not explicitly distinguish, as the Gospel does, between the two precepts of love, and says: All the law is fulfilled in one sentence: “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.”
Such being the importance of this love, it is necessary to have a clear understanding as to the meaning and extent of the word neighbor. In the mind of the Jews, it comprised only their own race; and in this they were following the custom of the pagan nations, for whom every stranger was an enemy. But here in our Gospel, we have a representative of this jewish diminished law eliciting, from Him who is the author of the law, an answer which declares the precept in all its fullness. This time, he does not make his voice be heard amidst thunder and fire, as on Mount Sinai. He, as Man living and conversing with men, reveals to them, and in the most intelligible possible way, the whole import of the eternal commandment which leads to life. In a parable (wherein, as many think, He is relating a fact which has really happened and is known to those to whom he is addressing it), our Jesus describes how there was a man who went forth from the Holy City, and how he fell in with a Samaritan, that is, with a stranger the most despises and the most disliked of all that an inhabitant of Jerusalem looked on as his enemies. And yet, the shrewd lawyer who questions Jesus, and, no doubt, all those who had been listening to the answer, are obliged to own that the neighbor, for the poor fellow had fell into the hands of robbers, was not so truly the priest, or the levite (though both of them were of his own race), as this stranger, this Samaritan, who forgets all national grudges as soon as he sees a suffering creature and cannot look on him in any other light than as a fellow man. Our Jesus made himself thoroughly understood; and every one present must have well learned the lesson—that the greatest of all laws, the law of love, admits no exception, either here or in heaven.
The Offertory is taken from the book of Exodus, where Moses is described as striving with God—striving, that is, to induce him to spare his people, after their crime of the golden calf; Moses was permitted to triumph, and God’s anger was appeased. It may sometimes happen that this Sunday falls close upon, or even on, the very day when the Church, in her Martyrology (September the fourth), makes a commemoration of the jewish leader; and Honorius of Autun tells us that this is the reason of their being such frequent mention made in today’s liturgy of this glorious lawgiver of Israel.
The Secret prays our Lord to accept graciously the offerings of the Sacrifice—&offerings which are made for the purpose of winning pardon for us, and giving honor to his divine majesty.
The other Secrets as in the Fourth Sunday After Pentecost.
As it was last Sunday, so again today the Communion-Anthem evidently alludes to harvest time and vintage. Bread, wine, and oil are not only the supports of our material lofe; they are also the matter of the most august of our Sacraments. No moment is so fitting for man’s speaking their praise as that of his having been made a sharer in the sacred banquet.
The life imparted to us by the sacred Mysteries finds in them its perfection also, and its protection—for they are continually removing from us, gradually more and more, those remnants of the evil which had first brought death upon us. Such is the teaching expressed in the Postcommunion.
The other Postcommunions, as in the Fourth Sunday After Pentecost.
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