Regína sacratíssimi Rosárii, ora pro nobis!


Ave Maria!
Septuagesima Sunday—24 January AD 2016

Route of the Exodus

Ordinary of the Mass
Mass Text - Latin
Mass Text - English
Lenten Observance

    {Explain the Epistle before reading it.  The reference is to the journey out of Egypt during which many of the people were ungrateful and many engaged in idolatry.}

“With the most of them God was not well pleased.”

    Today is Septuagesima Sunday, the Latin way of saying that we are approximately seventy days before Easter.  The vestments today are purple, and the joyful prayers like the Glória and the Allelúia are missing from the Mass and Office even though Lent won’t begin for another three weeks.  They do remind us of the need to prepare in advance for the beneficial observance of Lent.  It is time to be getting your schedule in order to avoid social events during the holy season, and to attend Mass and the Stations of the Cross—time to be looking around for some good spiritual reading—time to be taking stock of what you would like to do to re-order your life.

    If the story in today's Gospel seems to have the property owner behaving unfairly with his hired laborers, we must remember that this is a description of the kingdom of heaven—and we should be glad indeed that God does not reward us on a strict standard of justice.[1]  We could expect very little if God were to compare us to Saint Peter or Saint Paul, with their heroic missionary enterprises, or to the hermits of the desert who spend their lives in isolation, prayer, and fasting, or to those who nurse the sick and feed the poor.  Rather, God is generous, and wants all of His people to share the happiness of heaven.  It is only when we disobey His Commandments and fail to repent that His justice begins to outweigh His mercy.

    But disobedience and non-repentance seem to be part of the human condition.  Not that we are all murderers and thieves, but we tend to look for the easy way out and to do what pleases us more than what we should do.  It is for this reason that the Church urges us to reflect on our lives, to strengthen our wills, and to do penance for our transgressions.  This should be a year around thing—really something we do day in and day out—but, again, we often take the easy way out.  So the Church insists on the observance of Fridays and Ember days, the short season of Advent, and now the longer observance of Lent.  While the emphasis on these things is greatly diminished in the modern Church, we who understand the realities of heaven, hell, judgment, and death need to retain the traditional disciplines out of enlightened self-interest.

    Saint Paul urges an almost athletic discipline in today's Epistle.[2]  He concludes with that mention of God's displeasure during the Exodus to remind us that even though God is merciful, He can be angered by disobedience.  When they left Egypt, the Israelites numbered “about six hundred thousand men on foot, besides women and children,” but of those not born on the way, only Joshua and Caleb endured all forty years to the final reward of the Promised Land in Israel. [3]  Even Moses was dead.[4]  And Aaron, his brother.[5]

    God doesn't expect the impossible of anyone.  But He does expect our loyalty to Him.  Apart from the sins you might usually expect, in the desert, the disloyalty of the Israelites ranged from bitter complaint about the food and the travel conditions, on to worshipping false gods, and even offering their children as human sacrifices.  That may sound extreme, but if you look around you will find many modern people committing much the same sins.

    So, if we are going to spend the coming Lent in training like Saint Paul, we might think of it as our own journey through the desert.  Our trip will take us a mere forty days and not the forty years of the Exodus, so it will be much easier to keep up the enthusiasm that we see in Saint Paul.  Even though we have only recently arrived on the scene we know from the Gospel that if our trip is successful, we will be rewarded on par with those who have made a much longer journey.

    Let’s keep firmly in mind that the thing that kept most of the people from reaching the Promised Land was disloyalty to God—whether that disloyalty be in something seemingly trivial like complaining about the conditions or something as serious as worshipping a false god.  So we must strive to be strictly loyal to God in all we do—in thought, word, and deed.

    Loyalty to God should be the touchstone of Lent, and of our lives.  If we make it so, we can be sure that we will be in the company of Joshua and Caleb, making all of the way into the Promised Land to be rewarded in heaven, rejoicing with God and His angels and His saints.

    Let no one be able to say about us that “With the most of them God was not well pleased.”


[2]   Epistle:  I. Cor. ix 24-27., to x. 1-5

[3]   Exodus xii:37–38  
     Cf.  Numbers xxxii:11-12


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