Dominica Vigesima Post Pentecosten [Twentieth Sunday after Pentecost]: October 2, 2016 [Holy Guardian Angels]
Delivered by Most Reverend Roger LaRade, O.F.A.
Beloved Disciple Eucharistic Catholic Church, Toronto
Ephesians 5, 15-21; John 4, 46-53
“God desires to heal us”
“Go your way, your son lives.” Powerful words.
We could well reword them as “Go your way, and live.”
Live how, we might ask.
Above all, live in belief and expectation of God’s healing in our lives. “Go your way, your son lives. The man believed the word which Jesus said to him.”
Saint Paul tells the Ephesians how they are to live as believers. Christian believers are to be “filled with the Holy Spirit…singing and making melodies in your hearts to the Lord: giving thanks always for all things, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ…being subject one to another”.
These lessons in Christian belief are paired in this Mass of the Twentieth Sunday after Pentecost with antiphons and prayers focused on our need for God’s mercy and pardon. The Introit antiphon: “we have sinned against You, and we have not obeyed Your commandments: but give glory to Your name, and deal with us according to the multitude of Your mercy.” In the Collect, or Opening Prayer, we pray: “Generously grant, we entreat You, Lord, pardon and peace to Your faithful people, that they may be cleansed from their offences and serve You with a quiet mind.”
How interesting. What is the connection between the Word we hear in the readings and the petitions of the Mass?
It seems to me that most of us Christians don’t live our lives in the way Saint Paul describes it. And, more than that, we who call ourselves Christians more likely than not would shy away from people or groups who lived their lives in that way.
Certainly, this way of living is not that of the societies in which we live; most people don’t live this way. And so, the force of the majority, of the common understanding, pulls us into living in mostly the same way as most others around us. This certainly is one reason.
But, we might object that we are nevertheless believers, and that we strive to live out our Christian faith in many ways. We would say that this is a struggle, that we have to constantly be discerning of how our own sinfulness interferes with living out our Christian faith to its fullest. This too is true.
But what of this pairing of belief in the Word of Jesus, living “filled with the Holy Spirit” and the petition for pardon and mercy?
Are the petitions of the Mass asking for pardon and mercy because we don’t fully believe in the Word of Jesus, don’t fully live our lives “filled with the Holy Spirit”? On one level, yes. But, I think the petitions of the Mass today go deeper than that. I think the pairing of the readings and the petitions in today’s Mass point to our need to believe that God’s mercy and pardon are freely offered those humble enough – needy enough – to first, ask for it, and second, to believe in its reality. And, that it is precisely this lack of humility before God which stands in the way of our living “filled with the Holy Spirit”.
The faith of the ruler of Capharnaum is not a complicated faith. It is the faith born of humble need. It is the faith born of total surrender and confidence in God rather than in one’s own merit.
God’s mercy and pardon is freely offered. God desires to heal us. God desires for us to be “filled with the Holy Spirit”. Like for the ruler of Caphernaum, our humble prayer of total dependence will birth in us healing and faith.
On October 2 when we commemorate the Holy Guardian Angels, let us pray that our Holy Guardian Angels may guard us against evil and assist us to live lives “filled with the Holy Spirit”.
In the name of the Father, and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
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