A Letter from Fr. Tom - October 31st

News November 8, 2021

As did the Collect (Opening Prayer) for last week, the Collect for this week, the Thirty-first Week in Ordinary Time, comes from a liturgical book from the sixth century.  That means the Church has been praying this prayer for at least 1400 years, if not more:   

Almighty and merciful God,
by whose gift your faithful offer you
         right and praiseworthy service,

grant, we pray,
that we may hasten without stumbling 
         to receive the things you have promised.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you
        in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
God, for ever and ever. Amen.

The attributes with which we address God in this prayer are his might and his mercy.  It is interesting to meditate on the correlation of these two attributes, which are one in the same in God, since there is no contradiction in God.  This tells us that mercy is a strength; like God, we exercise strength when we show mercy. 

Read the second phrase carefully: “…by whose gift your faithful offer you right and praiseworthy service…”  Our service is not our gift to God, but God’s gift to us.  The right and praiseworthy service that we offer is itself a gift from God.  This notion is also beautifully expressed in Common Preface IV, often used in Mass on weekdays: “…although you have no need of our praise, yet our thanksgiving is itself your gift, since our praises add nothing to your greatness, but profit us for salvation…” 

God does not need our praise; God does not need anything.  The simple fact is that we neither add to—nor subtract from—God’s  greatness by anything that we do.  God is not changed by our praise; rather, we are changed when we praise God worthily.  Our service profits us, not God.  So, is God pleased when we praise him worthily?  Absolutely, but not because our right and praiseworthy service benefits God, but because our right and praiseworthy service benefits us.  That’s why our right and praiseworthy service is not a gift to God, but from God.

The “ask” of the Collect is that we may hasten—i.e., run—to receive God’s promise without stumbling along the way.  The Christian life is an active life, not a passive life.  We should be running at all times toward God and his promise of eternal life.  Chew on this prayer this week, and ask the almighty and merciful God, whose praise is itself his gift to us, to give you the energy you need to run to him.

God bless you,

Fr. Tom