21st Sunday After Pentecost

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San Giobbe.jpg

The image is a detail of Bellini's famous altarpiece of Saint Job. It depicts, left to right, Saint Francis of Assisi showing the wound in his side, Saint John the Baptist, and Saint Job. All three saints are linked, in some way, to the Passion of Our Lord. In Job, the innocent who suffers, we see a foreshadowing of Christ in His bitter sufferings. Saint John the Baptist, by his passion and death, prefigures the passion and death of Jesus, the Lamb of God. Saint Francis of Assisi, for his part, bears in his own flesh the marks of the wounds of the Crucified, thereby becoming, for all time, an icon of the suffering Christ in the Church.

Introit
Esther 13: 9, 10, 11

All things are in Thy will, O Lord;
and there is none that can resist Thy will:
for Thou hast made all things, heaven and earth,
and all things that are under the cope of heaven:
Thou art Lord of all.
V. Blessed are the undefiled in the way;
who walk in the law of the Lord. (Ps. 118. 1)

The Introit is a prayer of submission to the adorable Will of God. It acknowledges that God alone, the Creator of all things in heaven and on earth, orders the universe. Jesus tells us in Luke 12:6-7 that the very hairs of our head are numbered, and that the Father, who watches over the plight of common sparrows, watches over us and is attentive to every detail of our lives. The secret of holiness is a childlike abandonment to the wisdom and providence of God.

One who lives in loving submission to the Father's Will, walks undefiled in the way of holiness, that is, in the law of the Lord. This is the imitation of Christ: to say with Him, "The Father has not left me alone, for I always do what is pleasing to Him (John 8:29) and again, "My food is to do the will of Him who sent me, and to accomplish His work" (John 4:34).

Collect

O Lord, we beseech Thee,
with steady kindness keep Thy household safe:
that, through Thy protection,
it may be free from all adversities,
and devoutly given to good works for the glory of Thy Name.
Through our Lord.

For many Catholics, and even for some of the most devout, the great forgotten truth is the Fatherhood of God. We are the family of God, His household, and He is our Father and our Protector. Protector, derived from the Latin tectum for roof or covering, means the one who provides us with a roof over our heads, the one who shields us from the elements.

Much of the neurosis and scrupulosity of pious souls stems from a lack of confidence in the Fatherhood of God. One can give a notional assent to God's Fatherhood without giving a real assent to it in the concrete circumstances of everyday life. It is one thing to know about the Fatherhood of God; it is quite another to stake one's very life upon it.

Today, more than ever before, in a culture where fatherhood is belittled, mocked, and, often, invisible, it is necessary for priests to preach the Fatherhood of God. This was the message of great saints given to the Church in the first half of the last century: among them are Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus and of the Holy Face, Blessed Charles de Foucauld, and Blessed Columba Marmion.

Another apostle of the Fatherhood of God, practically unknown outside of her native French Canada and, even there, forgotten by many, was Soeur Jean-Baptiste, F.C.S.P. (1896-1950), a little soul formed by the writings of Saint Thérèse. Among her books are Dieu est notre père: confiance et abandon; La foi en l'amour de Dieu; L'abandon filial; and L'Apostolat de l'élite cachée selon l'esprit de sainte Thérèse de l'Enfant-Jésus. I was introduced to the writings of Soeur Jean-Baptiste, over thirty years ago, by Père M-Thomas Nadeau, a little Cistercian monk with mischievous blue eyes and a vast knowedge of 19th and 20th century French Catholic literature.

The Collect also asks God to keep us safe, continua pietate, by His steady lovingkindness. The pietas of God the Father, His utter devotedness to us, is not subject to variations or fluctations, like a bad internet connection. His paternal care for us is, at every moment, fully in operation. The pietas of the Father is inexhaustible, dependable, and always close at hand.

Epistle: Ephesians 6:10-17

The Father sends His children into the world, just as He sent His First-Born into the world: to engage in a stupendous combat with the powers of darkness and the forces of evil. The Son emerged from His combat wounded, but gloriously triumphant. Those who would follow Him must be prepared to engage in combat, "not against flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers, against the rulers of the world of this darkness, against the spirits of wickedness in the high places" (Ephesians 6:12). The same God who provides His children with shelter, provides them with a divine armour: breastplate and shoes, shield, helmet, and sword. Thus prepared for battle, one can venture forth without presumption, confident in the strength of the Lord and in the might of His power.

Gradual
Psalm 89:1-2

Lord, Thou hast been our refuge from generation to generation.
V. Before the mountains were made,
or the earth and the world was formed;
from eternity and to eternity Thou art God.

Today's Gradual is a song of confidence and trust. God is the refuge of His children, not intermittently, but always and forever. What joy there is to sing to Him: "From eternity and to eternity Thou art God"!

Alleluia
Psalm 113:1

When Israel went out of Egypt,
the house of Jacob from a barbarous people.

The Alleluia verse is the opening line of the great psalm of the Exodus, sung every Monday at Vespers in the Benedictine rite. When Israel went out of Egypt, it was to conquer the Promised Land by waging war against the idolatrous peoples who stood in their way. The motif of spiritual combat, found in the Epistle, recurs again here.

Gospel: Matthew 18:23-35

The same God who sends His children out to wage war against the devil and his vast network of evil, would have us oppose evil with good, hatred with love, tyranny with gentleness, domination with humility, retribution with forgiveness.

Offertory
Job 1

There was a man in the land of Hus, whose name was Job, simple, upright, and fearing God: whom Satan besought that he might tempt: and power was given him from the Lord over his possessions of his flesh; and he destroyed all his substance and his children; and wounded his flesh also with a grievous ulcer.

The Offertory Antiphon, a summary of the drama that unfolds in the first chapter of the Book of Job, comes as something of a surprise today. The Holy Job, however, a figure of the Suffering Christ, is also a forerunner of those saints who, like Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus and of the Holy Face, practiced abandonment to the merciful love of God to an heroic degree, saying, "Even though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him" (Job 13:15).

Communion Antiphon
Psalm 118: 81, 84, 86

My soul is in Thy salvation, and in Thy word have I hoped:
when wilt Thou execute judgment on them that persecute me?
the wicked have persecuted me: help me, O Lord my God.

The Communion Antiphon tells us how we are to pray in the fray of spiritual combat. With Christ living in us, we can say to the Father, "My soul is in Thy salvation, and in Thy word have I hoped."

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About Dom Mark

Dom Mark Daniel Kirby is Conventual Prior of Silverstream Priory in Stamullen, County Meath, Ireland. The ecclesial mandate of his Benedictine community is the adoration of the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar in a spirit of reparation, and in intercession for the sanctification of priests.

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