21st Sunday After Pentecost
18 October 2015
“... Wicked servant! I forgave thee all the debt, because thou didst entreat me.”
Don Prosper Gueranger in his book, The Liturgical Year, Vol. 11, tells us of the importance of today’s liturgy in these remaining or lingering weeks after Pentecost: “Durandus, Bishop of Mende, in his Rational, tells us that this and the following Sundays till Advent bear closely on the Gospel of the marriage-feast, of which they are really but a further development. ‘Whereas,’ says he, speaking of this twenty-first Sunday, ‘this marriage has no more powerful opponent than the envy of satan, the Church speaks to us today of our combat with him and on the armour wherewith we must be clad in order to go through this terrible battle, as we shall see by the Epistle (Ephesians 6:10-17).’” Gueranger, p. 438. The combat with Satan is even more dramatic in these last Sundays after Pentecost because the Church reminds us of the approach of the final days of this world and the impending general judgment. Dom Gueranger comments on how the person of Job in today’s Offertory Antiphon reveals the “ruling idea” of today’s Mass: “Reduced, like Job on the dung-hill, to the extremity of wretchedness, the world has nothing to trust to but God’s mercy. The holy men who are living in it, imitating in the name of all mankind the sentiments of the just man of Idumea (Job) honour God by patience and resignation which do but add power to and intensity to their supplications.” Gueranger, p. 439. Only those men who are just and patient, like Job, will be able to forgive their enemies. This is the lesson of the parable of The Unmerciful Servant in today’s Gospel (Mt. 18:23-35). If we wish God to forgive us our sins, then we also need to forgive those who have offended us.
Spousal Union with God
The early stages of man’s union with God here on are earth are usually filled with consolation, but then the spiritual combat ensues. However, Dom Gueranger reminds us that Jesus is always available to help His spouses: “There is no name so frequently applied to Him by the prophets as that of God of hosts. His divine Son, who is the Spouse, shows Himself here on earth as the Lord who is mighty in battle. In the mysterious nuptial canticle of the forty-fourth Psalm, He lets us see Him as a powerful prince, girding on His grand sword, and making His way, with His sharp arrows, through the very heart of His enemies, in order to reach, in the fair valiance and beautiful victory, the bride He has chosen as His own. She, too, the bride, whose beauty He has vouchsafed to love, and whom He wills to share in all His own glories (cf. Ps. 45) advances towards Him in the glittering armour of a warrior (cf. Cant. 4:4), surrounded by choirs (cf. Cant. 7:10) singing the magnificent exploits of the Spouse, while she herself is terrible as an army set in array (cf. Cant. 6:9). The armour of the brave is on her arms and breast; her noble bearing reminds one of the tower of David, with its thousand bucklers (cf. Cant. 4:4).” Gueranger, p. 441-2
“... the rulers of this world of darkness....”
In today’s Epistle, St. Paul reminds us that our enemies are the rulers of this world of darkness: “For our wrestling is not against flesh and blood, but against the Principalities and the Powers, against the world-rulers of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness on high.” Eph. 6: 12 The soul, the bride of Christ, has to prove herself by overcoming the forces of evil especially until the evil day of judgment: “Therefore take up the armour of God, that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and stand in all things perfect.” Eph. 6:13 Dom Gueranger reminds us that the Church (i.e. all the faithful souls) is strengthened by the Lord: “The faithful soul is out of herself with love, when she remembers that the armour she wears is the armour of God, that is, the very armour of her Spouse. It is thrilling to hear the prophets describing Jesus, our Leader, accoutred for battle, with all the pieces we, too, are to wear: He girds himself with the girdle of faith (cf. Is. 11:5); then He puts the helmet of salvation on His beautiful head (cf. Is. 59:17); then the breast-plate of justice (cf. Wis. 5:19); then, the shield of invincible equity (cf. 5:20); and finally a magnificently tempered sword, the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God (cf. Apoc. 2:16)....The victory which overcometh the world, is our faith, says St. John (cf. I Jn. 5:4). When St. Paul, at the close of his career, reviews the combats he had fought through life, he sums up all in this telling word: ‘I have kept the faith’ II Tim. 4:7. The life of Paul, in that, should be the life of every Christian, for he says to us: ‘Fight the good fight of faith!’ I Tim 6:12. It is faith, which, in spite of those fearful odds enumerated in today’s Epistle as being against us, ensures the victory to men of good will...Better than breast-plate or helmet, the shield of faith protects us from every sort of injury; it blunts the fiery darts of the world, it repels the fury of our own passions, it makes us far-seeing enough to escape the most artful snares of the most wicked ones. Is not the word of God good for every emergency? And it is never wanting to us.” Gueranger, p. 443-5
“O thou just Judge of vengeance, grant us the gift of forgiveness before the day of reckoning cometh!” Dies irae
Today’s Gospel parable, The Unmerciful Servant has its main object lesson to teach us how to forgive so that we can be ready for general judgement, that “day of days.” Dom Gueranger comments on the meaning of the parable: “We are all of us, in fact, that negligent servant, that insolvent debtor, whose master might, in all justice, sell him with all he has, and hand him over to the torturers. The debt contracted with God by the sins we have committed is of such a nature as to deserve endless tortures; it supposes an eternal hell, in which the guilty one will ever be paying, yet never cancelling his debt. Infinite praise, then, and thanks to the divine Creditor, who, being moved to pity by the entreaties of the unhappy man who asks for time and he will pay all, grants him far beyond what he prays for, by immediately forgiving him the debt. He attaches but one condition to the pardon, as is evident from the sequel. He insists, and most justly, that he should go and do in like manner towards his fellow-servants, who may perhaps, owe something to him. After being generously forgiven by His Lord and King, after having his infinite debt so gratuitously cancelled, how can he possibly turn a deaf ear to the very same prayer which won pardon for himself? Is it to be believed that he will refuse all pity towards one whose only offense is that he asks him for time, and he will pay all.
“‘It is quite true,’ says St. Augustine, ‘that every man has his fellow-man for a debtor; for who is the man that has had no one to offend him? But, at the same time, who is the man that is not debtor to God? For all of us have sinned. Man, therefore, is both debtor to God and creditor to his fellow man. It is for this reason that God has laid down this rule for thy conduct, that thou must treat thy debtor, as He (God) treats His...” Gueranger, p. 449-50
Forgetfulness of our sins
Dom Gueranger reminds us how we all want God to forgive and forget our sins, so we should do the same for our neighbour: “But, if we thus feel it a happy necessity, to find in the heart of our heavenly Father (cf. Mt. 6:9) forgetfulness of our day’s faults, and an infinitely tender love for us, how can we, at that very same time, dare to be storing up in our minds any bitterness against our neighbours, our brethren, who are also His children. Even supposing that we had been treated by them with outrageous injustice or insult, could their faults bear any comparison with our offences against that good God, whose born enemies we were, and whom we have cause to be put to an ignominious death? Whatsoever may be the circumstances attending the unkindness shown us, we may and should invariably practise the rule given us by the apostle: ‘Be ye kind one to another, merciful, forgiving one another, even as God has forgiven you, in Christ! Be ye imitators of God as most dear children.’” Eph. 4:32 Gueranger, p. 451 Only those are true spouses of Jesus Christ and worthy of heaven who are merciful and forgiving to those who have offended them.
“The Little Number of Those Who Are Saved” Part V
by St. Leonard of Port Maurice
Salvation in the Various States of Life
But oh, I see that by speaking in this manner of all in general, I am missing my point. So let us apply this truth to various states, and you will understand that you must either throw away reason, experience and the common sense of the faithful, or confess that the greater number of Catholics is damned. Is there any state in the world more favorable to innocence in which salvation seems easier and of which people have a higher idea than that of priests, the lieutenants of God? At first glance, who would not think that most of them are not only good but even perfect; yet I am horror-struck when I hear Saint Jerome declaring that although the world is full of priests, barely one in a hundred is living in a manner in conformity with state; when I hear a servant of God attesting that he has learned by revelation that the number of priests who fall into hell each day is so great that it seemed impossible to him that there be any left on earth; when I hear Saint Chrysostom exclaiming with tears in his eyes, "I do not believe that many priests are saved; I believe the contrary, that the number of those who are damned is greater."
Look higher still, and see the prelates of the Holy Church, pastors who have the charge of souls. Is the number of those who are saved among them greater than the number of those who are damned? Listen to Cantimpre; he will relate an event to you, and you may draw the conclusions. There was a synod being held in Paris, and a great number of prelates and pastors who had the charge of souls were in attendance; the king and princes also came to add luster to that assembly by their presence. A famous preacher was invited to preach. While he was preparing his sermon, a horrible demon appeared to him and said, "Lay your books aside. If you want to give a sermon that will be useful to these princes and prelates, content yourself with telling them on our part, 'We the princes of darkness thank you, princes, prelates, and pastors of souls, that due to your negligence, the greater number of the faithful are damned; also, we are saving a reward for you for this favor, when you shall be with us in Hell.'"
Woe to you who command others! If so many are damned by your fault, what will happen to you? If few out of those who are first in the Church of God are saved, what will happen to you? Take all states, both sexes, every condition: husbands, wives, widows, young women, young men, soldiers, merchants, craftsmen, rich and poor, noble and plebian. What are we to say about all these people who are living so badly? The following narrative from Saint Vincent Ferrer will show you what you may think about it. He relates that an archdeacon in Lyons gave up his charge and retreated into a desert place to do penance, and that he died the same day and hour as Saint Bernard. After his death, he appeared to his bishop and said to him, "Know, Monsignor, that at the very hour I passed away, thirty-three thousand people also died. Out of this number, Bernard and myself went up to heaven without delay, three went to purgatory, and all the others fell into Hell." (to be continued)