Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost
The lessons of this Sunday's office are often taken from Ecclesiasticus or Job, according as the Sunday falls in August (4th or 5th Sunday) or September (1st or 2nd Sunday).
Commenting on the former, St. Gregory says: "There are men all athirst for passing joys who are ignorant or indifferent where eternal blessings are concerned. Poor wretches! They congratulate themselves on possessing the good things of this life without regretting those of the world above, which they have lost. Fashioned for light and truth, they never lift up the eyes of the soul; never betray the smallest desire or longing for the contemplation of their eternal home. Giving themselves over to the pleasures among which they are thrown, they bestow their affection upon a dreary place of exile as if it were their fatherland; and surrounded by darkness, they are full of rejoicing as if they were illumined by a brilliant light. On the other hand the elect, in whose eyes fleeting goods are of no value, seek after those for which their souls were made. Kept in this world by the bonds of the flesh, each, none the less, is carried in spirit beyond it while making the wholesome resolve to despise the passing things of time and to desire the things which endure for eternity."
As for Job, he is set before us in Holy Scripture as the very type of a man detached from the goods of this world. " If," said he, "we have received good things at the hands of God, why should we not receive evil?... The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away ... Blessed be the name of the Lord."
The proper of to-day's Mass is inspired by the same thoughts The Holy Ghost, whom the Church received at Pentecost, has formed a new man in us who resists the outward manifestations of the old man, namely covetousness and the search for riches, in order to satisfy it. The Spirit of God is a spirit of liberty, who by making us children of God, our Father, and brethren of Jesus our Lord, frees us from the slavery of sin and the tyranny of concupiscence. " They that are Christ's, " says St. Paul, " have crucified their flesh with the vices and concupiscences." " Walk in the spirit, and you shall not fulfil the lusts of the flesh : for the flesh lusteth against the spirit and the spirit against the flesh; for these are contrary one to another" (Epistle). And our Lord says: "No man can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will sustain the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and Mammon."
St. Augustine, in expounding this passage, says: "Whoever is the slave of riches (and we know that only too often they are the source of pride, avarice, injustice and lust)1 is subject to a hard and wicked master. Entirely at the mercy of his passions, he is under the tyranny of the devil. Certainly he does not love him, for who can love the devil? But all the same he endures him. On the other hand he does not hate God, for this, no man's conscience will let him do, but he despises Him, that is, he does not fear Him, as if he were sure of His goodness.
"The Holy Ghost puts us on our guard against this negligence and pernicious sense of security, when He says by the Prophet: 'Say not: The mercy of the Lord is great.' (Ecclesiasticus, 5:6), but know that 'the benignity of God leadeth thee to penance' (Romans 2:4). For who is more merciful than He who pardons the sins of all who turn to Him, and who gives the fertility of the olive to the wild branch? And who is more severe than He who has not spared the natural branches but because of their infidelity has cut them off? If anyone wishes to love God and to contrive never to offend Him, let him not think that he can serve two masters; let him have a single intention free from duplicity. Thus must you think about the Lord's goodness, and seek Him in simplicity of heart. Therefore," he goes on, "I tell you not to have any superfluous anxiety as to what you will eat and what you will put on, lest perhaps, without seeking superfluities, the heart may become double, and in pursuing what is necessary, your intention may be turned aside to seek your own interests rather than the advantage of your neighbour." (3rd Nocturn).
Before all, then, let us seek the kingdom of God, and His justice and glory (Gospel, Communion); let us put all our hope in the Lord for He is our protector (Introit); it is He who sends His angels to deliver those who serve Him (Offertory), and who upholds our weak human nature, for without this divine assistance it would surely fail (Gospel). It is the Eucharist which wins for us the favour of Almighty God (Secret) which by strengthening us makes our salvation sure (Postcommunion).
Let us love, above all things, to pray in the courts of the Lord (verse of the Introit), and to go there to sing the praises of God our Saviour (Alleluia). Then let us look after our temporal affairs but without being unduly anxious about them. Such solicitude would be an outrage to our heavenly Father who loves His children, and who lets them want for nothing provided they seek His glory before all else.
1. "Do not," asks St. John Chrysostom, "these daily feasts, these orgies, these theatres, these riches, bear witness to the insatiable greed of your evil passions?" (2nd Nocturn of the fifth Sunday of August, which sometimes coincides with this Sunday).
2. These words are taken from the 1st Nocturn of the fifth Sunday of August: "Say not: The mercy of the Lord is great; He will have mercy on the multitude of my sins, for mercy and wrath quickly come from Him: and His wrath looketh upon sinners. Delay not to be converted to the Lord: and defer it not from day to day. For His wrath shall come on a sudden: and in the time of vengeance He will destroy thee. Be not anxious for goods unjustly gotten: for they shall not profit thee in the day of calamity and revenge." (See 2nd Nocturn.)
Protector noster, aspice, Deus, et respice in faciem Christi tui: quia melior est dies una in atriis tuis super millia. * Quam dilecta tabernacula tua, Domine virtutum! concupiscit et deficit anima mea in atria Domini.
Behold, O God, our protector, and look on the face of Thy Christ: for better is one day in Thy courts above thousands. * How lovely are Thy tabernacles, O Lord of hosts! my soul longeth and fainteth for the courts of the Lord.
(Psalm 83:1-3, from the Introit of Mass)
Custodi, Domine, quaesumus, Ecclesiam tuam propitiatione perpetua: et quia sine te labitur humana mortalitas; tuis semper auxlliis et abstrahatur a noxiis, et ad salutaria dirigatur.
Keep, we beseech Thee, O Lord, Thy Church with perpetual peace; and because the frailty of man without Thee cannot but fall, keep us ever by Thy help from all things hurtful, and lead us to all things profitable to our salvation.
Sequentia sancti Evangelii secundum Matthaeum.
In illo tempore: Dixit Jesus discipulis suis: Nemo potest duobus dominis servire: aut enim unum odio habebit, et alterum diliget: aut unum sustinebit, et alterum contemnet. Non potestis Deo servire, et mammonae. Ideo dico vobis, ne solliciti sitis animae vestrae quid manducetis, neque corpori vestro quid induamini. Nonne anima plus est quam esca: et corpus plus quam vestimentum? Respicite volatilia caeli, quoniam non serunt, neque metunt, neque congregant in horrea: et Pater vester caelestis pascit illa. Nonne vos magis pluris estis illis? Quis autem vestrum cogitans potest adjicere ad staturam suam cubitum unum? Et de vestimento quid solliciti estis? Considerate lilia agri quomodo crescunt: non laborant, neque nent. Dico autem vobis, quoniam nec Salomon in omni gloria sua coopertus est sicut unum ex istis. Si autem foenum agri, quod hodie est, et eras in clibanum mittitur, Deus sic vestit: quanto magis vos modicae fidei? Nolite ergo solliciti esse, dicentes: Quid manducabimus aut quid bibemus, aut quo operiemur? Haec enim omnia gentes inquirunt. Scit enim Pater vester, quia his omnibus indigetis. Quaerite ergo primum regnum Dei, et justitiam ejus: et haec omnia adjicientur vobis.
Continuation of the holy Gospel according to St. Matthew.
At that time Jesus said to His disciples: No man can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will sustain the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon. Therefore I say to you, be not solicitous for your life, what you shall eat, nor for your body, what you shall put on. Is not the life more than the meat, and the body more than the raiment? Behold the birds of the air; for they neither sow nor do they reap, nor gather into barns, and your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are you not of much more value than they? And which of you, by taking thought, can add to his stature one cubit? And for raiment why are you solicitous? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they labour not, neither do they spin; but I say to you, that not even Solomon in all his glory was arrayed as one of these. Now if God so clothe the grass of the field, which is to-day, and tomorrow is cast into the oven, how much more you, O ye of little faith! Be not solicitous therefore saying, what shall we eat, or what shall we drink, or wherewith shall we be clothed, for after all these things do the heathens seek, For your Father knoweth that you have need of all these things. Seek ye therefore first the Kingdom of God, and His justice; and all these things shall be added unto you.
(St Matthew 6:24-33)
Quaerite primum regnum Dei, et justitiam ejus, et haec omnia adjicientur vobis, alleluia.
Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and His justice, and all these things shall be added unto you, alleluia.
(Antiphon at the Magnificat: Matt. 6)