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INSTRUCTION ON THE FIFTH SUNDAY AFTER EASTER
Taken from Fr. Leonard Goffine's Explanations of the Epistles and Gospels for the Sundays, Holydays, and Festivals throughout the Ecclesiastical Year
36th edition, 1880

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IN thanks for the redemption the Church sings at the Introit: Declare the voice of joy, and let it be heard, allel.: declare it even to the ends of the earth: the Lord hath delivered his people. (Isai. xlviii. 20.) Allel. allel. Shout with joy to God, all the earth: sing ye a psalm to his name, give glory to his praise. (Ps. lxv.) Glory, &c.

PRAYER OF THE CHURCH. O God, from whom all good things proceed: grant to Thy suppliants, that by Thy inspiration we may think those things that are right, and by Thy guidance may perform the same. Through.

EPISTLE. (James i. 22 — 27.) Dearly beloved, Be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. For if a man be a hearer of the word and not a doer, he shall be compared to a man beholding his own countenance in a glass: for he beheld himself and went his way, and presently forgot what manner of man he was. But he that hath looked into the perfect law of liberty, and hath continued therein, not becoming a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed. And if any man think himself to be religious, not bridling his tongue, but deceiving his own heart, this man's religion is vain. Religion clean and undefiled before God and the Father is this: to visit the fatherless, and widows in their tribulation, and to keep one's self unspotted from the world.

Quote:EXPLANATION. True piety, as St. James here says, consists not only in knowing and recognizing the word of God, but in living according to its precepts and teachings: in subduing the tongue, the most dangerous and injurious of all our members; in being charitable to the poor and destitute, and in contemning the world, its false principles, foolish customs and scandalous example, against which we should guard, that we may not become infected and polluted by them. Test thyself, whether thy life be of this kind.

ASPIRATION. O Jesus! Director of the soul! Give me the grace of true piety as defined by St. James.


GOSPEL. (John xvi. 23 — 30.) At that time, Jesus saith to his disciples: Amen, amen, I say to you, if you ask the Father anything in my name, he will give it you. Hitherto, you have not asked anything in my name. Ask, and you shall receive, that your joy may be full. These things I have spoken to you in proverbs. The hour cometh when I will no more speak to you in proverbs, but will show you plainly of the Father. In that day, you shall ask in my name: and I say not to you that I will ask the Father for you, for the Father himself loveth you, because you have loved me, and have believed that I came out from God. I came forth from the Father, and am come into the world: again I leave the world, and go to the Father. His disciples say to him: Behold, now thou speakest plainly, and speakest no proverb. Now we know that thou knowest all things, and thou needest not that any man should ask thee: by this we believe that thou comest forth from God.


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Why does God wish us to ask of Him?

That we may know and confess, that all good comes from Him; that we may acknowledge our poverty and weakness which in all things need the help of God; that we may thus glorify Him and render ourselves less unworthy of the gifts which He has promised us.


What is meant by asking in the name of Jesus?

By this is meant praying with confidence in the merits of Jesus, "who," as St. Cyril says, "being God with the Father, gives us all good, and as mediator carries our petitions to His Father." The Church therefore ends all her prayers with the words: "Through our Lord, Jesus Christ." It means also that we should ask that which is in accordance with the will of Christ, namely all things necessary for the salvation of our soul; to pray for temporal things merely in order to live happily in this world, is not pleasing to Christ and avails us nothing. "He who prays for what hinders salvation," says St. Augustine, "does not pray in the name of Jesus." Thus Jesus said to His disciples: Hitherto you have asked nothing in my name, "because," as St. Gregory says, "they did not ask for that which conduces to eternal salvation."


Why is it that God sometimes does not grant our petitions?

Because we often pray for things that are injurious, and like a good father, God denies them to us, in order to give us something better; because He wishes to prove our patience and perseverance in prayer; because we generally do not pray as we ought; to be pleasing to God, prayer should be made when in a state of grace and with confidence in Christ's merits, for the prayer of a just man availeth much; (James v. 16.) we must pray with humility and submission to the will of God, with attention, fervor, sincerity, and with perseverance.


At what special times should we pray?

We should pray every morning and evening, before and after meals, in time of temptation, when commencing any important undertaking, and particularly in the hour of death. God is mindful of us every moment, and gives His grace. It is therefore but just that we think often of Him during the day, and thank Him for His blessings.


How can we, in accordance with Christ's teachings, (Luke xviii. 1.) pray at all times?

By making the good intention when commencing our work, to do all for the love of God, and according to His most holy will; by raising our hearts to God at different times during the day; frequently making acts of faith, hope, love, and humility, and by repeating short ejaculations, such as: O Jesus! grant me grace to love Thee! Thee only do I desire to love! O be merciful to me! Lord hasten to help me.


What is the signification of the different ceremonies that Catholics use at their prayers?

The general signification is that God must be served, honored, and adored, not only with the soul but with the body; when we pray aloud we praise God, not only with the mind but also with our lips; when we pray with bowed and uncovered head, with folded, uplifted, or outstretched hands, on bended knees, with bowed and prostrated body, we show our reverence and subjection to the majesty of God, before whom we, who are but dust and ashes, cannot humble ourselves enough. These different ceremonies during prayer are frequently mentioned in both the Old and the New Testaments, and Christ and His apostles have made use of them, as for instance, the bending of the knees, falling on the face, &c.


Which is the best of all prayers?

The Lord's Prayer which Christ Himself taught us and commands us to repeat. When said with devotion, it is the most powerful of all prayers. (Matt. vi. 9—13; Luke xi. 2 — 4.)



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SHORT EXPLANATION OF THE LORD'S PRAYER.


Of what does the Lord's Prayer consist?

IT consists of an address, as an introduction to the prayer, and of seven petitions which contain all that we should ask for the honor of God, and for our own salvation. The address is thus: Our Father who art
in heaven.


What does the word “Our" signify?

In the communion of saints we should pray for and with all the children of God; we should be humble and preserve brotherly love towards all men.



Who is it that is here called our “Father”?

Our Father is God who has made us His children and heirs of His kingdom through His Son.



Why do we say "Who art in heaven," since God is everywhere?

To remind us that our true home is heaven, for which we should ardently long, because our Father is there, and there He has prepared our inheritance.



For what do we ask in the first petition: “Hallowed by Thy name?”

That we and all men may truly know, love, and serve God.



For what do we pray in the second petition: “Thy kingdom come?”

That the Church of God. the kingdom of Christ, may extend over the whole earth, and the kingdom of sin and the devil be destroyed; that Christ may reign in our hearts and in the hearts of all; and that God will deign to receive us into the kingdom of heaven, when our earthly pilgrimage is ended.



For what do we ask in the third petition: “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven?"

We beg that God would enable us, by His grace, to do His will in all things, as the blessed do it in heaven. In these three petitions we seek, as taught by Christ, first the kingdom of God, that all the rest may be added unto us. (Luke xii. 31.)



For what do we ask in the fourth petition: "Give us this day our daily bread?"

We beg for all necessaries for body and soul.


Why does it say, “this day?"

The words "this day" signify that we should not be over anxious for the future, but place all our confidence in God who will provide the        necessaries of life.



What do we ask for in the fifth petition: “Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us?"

We beg that God will forgive us our sins, as we forgive others their offenses against us. Those who make this petition, and still bear enmity towards their neighbor, lie in the face of God, and will not receive forgiveness. (Mark xi. 25, 26.)



What is asked for in the sixth petition: "Lead us not into temptation?"

We ask that God avert all temptations or at least not abandon us when we are tempted. We cannot, indeed, be entirely free from them in this world , they are even necessary and useful for our salvation: for without temptation there is no combat, without combat no victory, and without victory no crown.



What do we ask for in the seventh petition: “Deliver us from evil?"

We beg that God would free us from all evil of soul and body.
Fifth Sunday after Easter
Taken from The Liturgical Year by Dom Prosper Gueranger (1841-1875)

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In the Greek Church, the fifth Sunday after Easter is called the Sunday of the Man born blind, because her Gospel for the day contains the history of that miracle of our divine Lord. She also calls it Episozomene, which is one of the names given by the Greeks to the mystery of the Ascension, the Feast of which is kept, with them, as with us, during the course of this week.


Mass

The Introit is taken from Isaias, the sublimest of the Prophets. It sweetly invites all the earth to celebrate the victory won by Jesus—a victory which has purchased our deliverance.

Introit
Vocem jucunditatis annuntiate, et audiatur, alleluia: annuntiate usque ad extremum terræ: Liberavit Dominus populum suum. Alleluia, alleluia. 
With the voice of joy make this to be heard, alleluia: publish to the utmost bounds of the earth, that the Lord hath redeemed his people. Alleluia, alleluia.

Ps. Jubilate Deo omnis terra: psalmum dicite Nomini ejus, date gloriam laudi ejus. ℣. Gloria Patri. Vocem jecunditatis. 
Ps. Shout with joy to God, all the earth: sing a psalm to his Name, give glory to his praise. ℣. Glory, &c. With the voice, &c.


In the Collect, holy Church teaches us that our thoughts and actions, to be made deserving of eternal life, stand in need of grace; the former that we may have the inspiration, the latter that we may have the will to do them.

Collect
Deus, a quo bona cuncta procedunt, largire supplicibus tuis: ut cogitemus, te inspirante, quæ recta sunt, et, te gubernante, eadem faciamus. Per Dominum. 
O God, from whom all that is good proceeds, grant that thy people, by thy inspiration, may resolve on what is right, and by thy direction, put it in practice. Through, &c.

Of the Blessed Virgin
Concede nos famulos tuos, quæsumus Domine Deus, perpetua mentis et corporis sanitate gaudere:et gloriosa beatæ Mariæ semper Virginis intercessione, a præsenti liberari tristitia, et æterna perfrui lætitia. 
Grant, O Lord, we beseech thee, that we thy servants may enjoy constant health of body and mind; and by the glorious intercession of Blessed Mary, ever a Virgin, be delivered from all present sorrow, and come to that joy which is eternal.

Against the Persecutors of the Church
Ecclesiæ tuæ, quæsumus Domine, preces placatus admitte, ut, destructis adversitatibus et erroribus universis, secura tibi serviat libertate. Per Dominum. 
Mercifully hear, we beseech thee, O Lord, the prayers of thy Church: that, all oppositions and errors being removed, she may serve thee with a secure liberty. Through, &c.

For the Pope
Deus omnium fidelium Pastor et rector, famulum tuum N. quem Pastorem Ecclesiæ tuæ præsse voluisti, propitius respice: da ei, quæsumus, verbo et exemplo, quibus præest proficere; ut ad vitam una cum grege sibi credito perveniat sempiternam. Per Dominum. 
O God, the Pastor and Ruler of all the faithful, look down, in thy mercy, on thy servant N., whom thou hast appointed Pastor over thy Church; and grant, we beseech thee, that both by word and example, he may edify all those that are under his charge; and, with the flock entrusted to him, arrive at length at eternal happiness. Through, &c.


Epistle
Lesson of the Epistle of Saint James the Apostle. Ch. I.

Dearly beloved: Be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. For if a man be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he shall be compared to a man beholding his own countenance in a glass. For he beheld himself, and went his way, and presently forgot what manner of man he was. But he that hath looked into the perfect law of liberty, and hath continued therein, not becoming a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work; this man shall be blessed in his deed. And if any man think himself to be religious, not bridling his tongue, but deceiving his own heart, this man’s religion is vain. Religion clean and undefiled before God and the Father, is this: to visit the fatherless and widows in their tribulation: and to keep one’s self unspotted from this world.

Quote:The holy Apostle, who instructions these are, had received them from our Risen Jesus: hence the authoritative tone wherewith he speaks. Our Savior, as we have already seen, honored him with a special visit: it proves that he was particularly dear to his divine Master, to whom he was related by the tie of consanguinity on his Mother’s side whose name was Mary. This holy woman went, on Easter morning, to the Sepulcher, in company with her sister, Salome, and Magdalene. St. James the Less is indeed the Apostle of Paschal Time, wherein everything speaks to us of the New Life we should lead with our Risen Lord. He is the apostle of good works, for it is from him that we have received this fundamental maxim of Christianity—that though Faith be the first essential of a Christian, yet without works, it is a dead Faith, and will not save us.

He also lays great stress on our being attentive to the truths we have been taught, and on our guarding against that culpable forgetfulness, which plays such havoc with thoughtless souls. Many of those who have, this year, received the grace of the Easter mystery, will not persevere; and the reason is that they will allow the world to take up all their time and thoughts, whereas they should use the world as though they did not use it. Let us never forget that we must now walk in newness of life, in imitation of our Risen Jesus, who dieth now no more.

The two Alleluia-Versicles celebrate the glory of the Resurrection; but they also contain an allusion to the approaching Ascension. Jesus was born eternally from the Father; he came down to us; but now, in a few days, he is to return to his Father.

Alleluia, alleluia. 
Alleluia, alleluia.

℣. Surrexit Christus, et illuxit nobis, quod redemit sanguine suo. 
℣. Christ is risen, and hath shone upon us, whom he redeemed with his blood.

Alleluia
Alleluia.

℣. Exivi a Patre, et veni in mundum; iterum relinquo mundum et vado ad Patrem, alleluia. 
℣. I came forth from the Father, and I came into the world; I leave the world again, and go to the Father, alleluia.


Gospel
Sequel of the holy Gospel according to John. Ch. XVI.

At that time: Jesus said to his disciples: Amen, amen I say to you: if you ask the Father any thing in my name, he will give it you. Hitherto you have not asked any thing in my name. Ask, and you shall receive; that your joy may be full. These things I have spoken to you in proverbs. The hour cometh, when I will no more speak to you in proverbs, but will shew you plainly of the Father. In that day you shall ask in my name; and I say not to you, that I will ask the Father for you: For the Father himself loveth you, because you have loved me, and have believed that I came out from God. I came forth from the Father, and am come into the world: again I leave the world, and I go to the Father. His disciples say to him: Behold, now thou speakest plainly, and speakest no proverb. Now we know that thou knowest all things, and thou needest not that any man should ask thee. By this we believe that thou camest forth from God.

Quote:When, at his Last Supper, our Savior thus warned his Apostles of his having soon to leave then, they were far from knowing him thoroughly. True, they knew that he came forth from God; but their faith was weak, and they soon lost it. Now that they are enjoying his company after his Resurrection—now that they have received such light from his instructions—they know him better. He no longer speaks to them in proverbs; he teaches them everything they required to know in order to their becoming the teachers of the whole world. It is now they might truly say to him: We believe that thou camest forth from God! So much the more, then, do they understand that they are going to lose by his leaving them.

Our Lord begins now to reap the fruit of the word he has sown in their hearts: oh! how patiently has he not waited for it! If he praised them for their faith, when they were with him on the night of the Last Supper; he may surely do so now that they have seen him in the splendor of his Resurrection, and have been receiving such teaching from his lips. He said to them, at the Last Supper: The Father loveth you, because ye have loved Me;—how much more must not the Father love them now, when their love for Jesus is so much increased? Let us be consoled by these words. Before Easter, our love of Jesus was weak, and we were tepid in his service; but now that we have been enlightened and nourished by his Mysteries, we may well hope that the Father loves us, for we love Jesus better, far better, than we did before. This dear Redeemer urges us to ask the Father, in his name, for everything we need. Our first want is perseverance in the spirit of Eastertide; let it be our most earnest prayer; let it be our intention now that we are assisting at the holy Sacrifice, which is soon to bring Jesus upon our Altar.

The Offertory is taken from the Psalms; it is an act of thanksgiving which the Christian, united with his Risen Jesus, offers to God for his having brought him to the New Life, and made him the object of his choicest graces.

Offertory
Benedicite, gentes, Dominum Deum nostrum, et obaudite vocem laudis ejus: qui posuit animam meam ad vitam, et non dedit commoveri pedes meos. Benedictus Dominus, qui non amovit deprecationem meam, et misericordiam suam a me, alleluia. 
Bless the Lord our God, ye Gentiles, and make the voice of his praise be heard, who hath set my soul to live, and hath not suffered my feet to be moved. Blessed be the Lord, who hath not turned away my prayer, nor his mercy from me, alleluia.


In the Secret, the Church prays that this our earthly Pasch may introduce us to the feast of heavenly glory. The end of all the Mysteries achieved by God in this world is that we may be sanctified by them, and fitted for the eternal vision and possession of our Creator: it is this that the Church, adopting the style of the Sacred Scripture, calls Glory.

Secret
Suscipe, Domine, fidelium preces cum oblationibus hostiarum: ut per hæc piæ devotionis officia, ad cœlestem gloriam transeamus. Per Dominum. 
Receive, O Lord, we beseech thee, the prayers of the Faithful, together with these oblations; that by these devout celebration we may be admitted into heavenly glory. Through, &c.

Of the Blessed Virgin
Tua, Domine, propitiatione, et beatæ Mariæ semper virginis intercessione, ad perpetuam atque præsentem hæ oblatio nobis proficiat prosperitatem et pacem. 
By thine own mercy, O Lord, and the intercession of Blessed Mary, ever a Virgin, may this oblation procure us peace and happiness, both in this life, and in that which is to come.

Against the Persecutors of the Church
Protege nos, Domine, tuis mysteriis servientes: ut divinis rebus inhærentes, et corpore tibi famulemur et mente. Per Dominum. 
Protect us, O Lord, while we assist at thy sacred mysteries: that, being employed in acts of religion, we may serve thee, both in body and mind. Through, &c.

For the Pope
Oblatis, quæsumus Domine, placare muneribus: et famulum tuum N. quem pastorem Ecclesiæ tuæ præcesse voluisti, assidua protectione guberna. Per Dominum. 
Be appeased, O Lord, with the offering we have made: and cease not to protect thy servant N., whom thou hast been pleased to appoint Pastor over thy Church. Through, &c.


The Communion-Anthem, composed of the words of the Royal Prophet, is a canticle of gladness, expressive of the ceaseless joy of our Easter.

Communion
Cantate Domino, alleluia: cantate Domino, et benedicite nomen ejus: bene nuntiate de die in diem salutare ejus. Alleluia, alleluia. 
Sing to the Lord, alleluia: sing to the Lord, and bless his Name: publish aloud, from day to day, that he hath saved us. Alleluia, alleluia.


Holy Church teaches us, in her Postcommunion, how we should pray to God. We must desire the right thing; let us pray to have this desire, and then continue our prayer till the right thing is granted. Grace will then be given us; it will be our own fault if it be unproductive.

Postcommunion
Tribue nobis, Domine, cœlestis mensæ virtute satiatis, et desiderare quæ recta sunt, et desiderata percipere. Per Dominum. 
Grant, O Lord, by the power of the heavenly nourishment we have received, that we desire what is right, and obtain our desire. Through, &c.

Of the Blessed Virgin
Sumptis, Domine, salutis nostræ nubsidiis: da, quæsumus, beatæ Mariæ semper virginis patrociniis nos ubique protegi, in cujus veneratione hæc tuæ obtulimus majestati. 
Having received, O Lord, what is to advance our salvation; grant we may always be protected by the patronage of Blessed Mary, ever a Virgin, in whose honor we have offered this Sacrifice to thy Majesty.

Against the Persecutors of the Church
Quæsumus, Domine Deus noster, ut quos divina tribuis participatione gaudere, humanis non sinas subjacere periculis. Per Dominum. 
We beseech thee, O Lord our God, not to leave exposed to the dangers of human life, those whom thou hast permitted to partake of these divine mysteries. Through, &c.

For the Pope
Hæc nos, quæsumus, Domine, divini sacramenti perceptio protegat: et famulum tuum N. quem Pastorem Ecclesiæ tuæ præsse voluisti, una cum commisso sibi grege, salvet semper et muniat. Per Dominum. 
May the participation of this divine Sacrament protect us, we beseech thee, O Lord; and always procure safety and defense to thy servant N., whom thou hast appointed Pastor over thy Church, together with the flock committed to his charge. Through, &c.


We will close our Sunday with the admonition wherewith the Gothic Church of Spain warned the Faithful during Paschal Time.
It is a season of joy; and yet we need to be cautious, for our enemy is sure to lay snares for us in the New Life we have received.

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Missa

(Feria V. post Pascha.)

Habeant, dilectissimi fratres, vota cautelam, festa diligentiam, gaudia disciplinam. Exsultare decet quod resurrexerimus: sed timere convenit ne cadamus. Inter novam vitam veteremque mortem oportet scire quid evasimus, oportet scire quid evasimus, oportet eligere quid amemus. Non enim error, sed contemptus est peccare commonitum. Major post veniam pœna sequitur contumaces: gravius est captivos fieri jam redemptos. Habet ista pietas potestatem, habet potestas ista terrorem, habet terror iste vindictam. Non enim fuisset pius in homine, nisi prius iratus fuisset in dæmone. Confortamur gratia doni, si non corrumpamur lege peccati. Ratio parcendi est præviso corrigendi. Non mutamur indulgentia, si non renovetur offensa. Qui nobis quod oeccavimus indusit, et ne ultra peccaremus admonuit. Profuit clementia, si profecit disciplina. Jam quidem hominem gratia adoptavit, sed necdum dæmonem gehenna sucepit. Violentia peccatum perdidit, non naturam. Domicandi est facultas, non securitas otiandi. Spoliatus est adversarius, non exstincus. Gravius necesse est ut frendeat in amissis, quibus præerat dominando subjectis. Accepimus castra per fidem, arma per crucem, signa per carnem, vexilla per sanguinem: restat causa certaminis. Qui enim afferre necessitatem voluit pugnæ, spem voluit probare victoriæ. Præcessit quidem in adoptione donum, sed adhuc restat in conversatione judicium. Hic promissio est de munere, illic vicissitudo futura est post laborem. Sit itaque ille ante oculos nostros Domini miserantis affectus quod in taxatione nostra non argenti pondus non auri talentum dedit, non gratiarum fudit ornatum, sed convitio subdidit patibulo, sepulchro sustinens carneam injuriam sepulturam, nihil majus potuit dare, nihil melius. Ut utique sit probandum quod diligentius nos sibi servire voluit, qui pretiosius nos redemit. Ergo ut in nobis redemptionis suæ beneficia dignetur perficere, constanter nos convenit ac perseveranter orare. 


Dearly beloved brethren! let there be caution in your devotion, watchfulness in your festivity, modesty in your gladness. We should rejoice in that we have risen; but we should fear lest we may fall. We have been rescued from the death of old, and it behoves us to know how evil it was; we have been gifted with the new life, and we must cling to it as worthy of our love. To commit the sin we have been admonished to shun is not an error, but contempt. They that have been pardoned and relapsed, deserve the greater punishment; nor is there excuse for them that have been once ransomed if they again become slaves. The mercy of God implies power; and power, fear; and fear, chastisement. He would not have been merciful to man, unless he had first been angry with the devil. He strengthens us with his gratuitous gifts, that we may not be corrupted by our evil inclinations. No one spares another but with a hope of correction. Forgiveness can do no harm, when the offense is not repeated. He that pardoned us our sins, thereby admonished us to sin no more. Mercy has not been lost on us, if our conduct is what it should be. Grace has, indeed, made man the adopted child of God; but the devil is not yet shut up in hell. Sin, not nature, has been defeated. What we have gained is the power of fighting, not the privilege of inaction. Our enemy has been despoiled, not slain. His anger must be greatest against those who were once subject to his tyranny, but now are disenthralled. Faith has given us bulwarks; the Cross, armor; the Flesh (assumed by Christ), a standard: and his Blood, a banner: the battle then is to be fought. The God who willed us to have the battle, willed us to have the hope of victory. We have already received the gift of adoption; our conduct is to decide what sentence is to be passed upon us in judgment. In this world we have the promise of reward; in the next, our lot will be decided according to our works. Let us, therefore, be mindful of the tender mercy of our Lord, who, as the price of our ransom, gave not sums of silver or gold, nor granted princely favors, but subjected himself to the infamy of the Cross, and suffered his Body to be humbled even to being buried in a Tomb. He could give nothing greater or better. So that the more it cost him to redeem us, the more diligently should we serve him; and it is this he demands of us. Therefore, in order that the work of his Redemption be perfected in us, it behoves us to pray with constancy and perseverance.
SERMON XXVI. FIFTH SUNDAY AFTER EASTER. – ON THE CONDITIONS OF PRAYER

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Ask, and ye shall receive.” JOHN xvi. 24.


IN the thirty-ninth Sermon I shall show the strict necessity of prayer, and its infallible efficacy to obtain for us all the graces which can be conducive to our eternal salvation. “Prayer,” says St. Cyprian, “is omnipotent; it is one; it can do all things.” We read in Ecclesiasticus that God has never refused to hear any one who invoked his aid. “Who hath called upon him, and he hath despised him?” (Eccl. ii. 12.) This he never can do; for he has promised to hear all who pray to him. “Ask, and ye shall receive.” But this promise extends only to prayer which has the necessary conditions. Many pray; but because they pray negligently, they do not obtain the graces they deserve. “You ask, and receive not, because you ask amiss.” (St. James iv. 3.) To pray as we ought, we must pray, first, with humility; secondly, with confidence; and  thirdly, with perseverance.


First Point. We must pray with humility.

1. St. James tells us, that God rejects the prayers of the proud: “God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble” (iv. 6). He cannot bear the proud; he rejects their petitions, and refuses to hear them. Let those proud Christians who trust in their own strength, and think themselves better than others, attend to this, and let them remember that their prayers shall be rejected by the Lord.

2. But He always hears the prayers of the humble: “The prayer of him that humbleth himself pierceth the clouds; and he will not depart till the Most High behold.” (Eccl. xxxv. 21.) David says, that “The Lord hath had regard to the prayer of the humble.” (Ps. ci. 18.) The cry of the humble man penetrates the heavens, and he will not depart till God hears his prayer. “You humble yourself,” says St. Augustine, “and God comes to you; you exalt yourself, and he flies from you.” If you humble yourself, God himself comes, of his own accord, to embrace you; but, if you exalt yourself, and boast of your wisdom and of your actions, he withdraws from you, and abandons you to your own nothingness.

3. The Lord cannot despise even the most obdurate sinners, when they repent from their hearts, and humble themselves before him, acknowledging that they are unworthy to receive any favour from him. “A contrite and humble heart, God, thou wilt not despise.” (Ps. l, 19.) Let us pass to the other points, in which there is a great deal to be said.


Second Point. We must pray with confidence.

4. “No one hath hoped in the Lord, and hath been confounded.” (Eccl. ii. 11.) Oh! how encouraging to sinners are these words! Though they may have committed the most enormous crimes, they are told by the Holy Ghost, that”no man hath hoped in the Lord, and hath been confounded.” No man hath ever placed his trust in God, and has been abandoned. He that prays with confidence obtains whatever he asks. “All things whatsoever you ask when you pray, believe that you shall receive, and they shall come unto you.” (Mark xi. 24.) When we pray for spiritual favours, let us have a secure confidence of receiving them, and we shall infallibly obtain them. Hence the Saviour has taught us to call God, in our petitions for his graces, by no other name than that of Father ( Our Father), that we may have recourse to him with the confidence with which a child seeks assistance from an affectionate parent.

5. Who, says St. Augustine, can fear that Jesus Christ, who is truth itself, can violate his promise to all who pray to him? “Who shall fear deception when truth promises?” Is God like men, who promise, and do not afterwards fulfil their promise, either because in making it they intend to deceive, or because, after having made it, they change their intention? “God is not as a man, that he should lie, nor as the son of man, that he should be changed. Hath he told, then, and will he not do?” (Num. xxiii. 19.) Our God cannot tell a lie; because he is truth itself: he is not liable to change; because all his arrangements are just and holy.

6. And because he ardently desires our welfare, he earnestly exhausts and commands us to ask the graces we stand in need of. “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and you shall find; knock, and it shall be opened to you.” (Matt. vii. 7.) Why, says St. Augustine, should the Lord exhort us so strongly to ask his graces, if he did not wish to give them to us? “Non nos hortaretur, ut peteremus, nisi dare vellet” (de Verb. Dom., ser. v.) He has even bound himself by his promise to hear our prayers, and to bestow upon us all the graces which we ask with a confidence of obtaining them. “By his promises he has made himself a debtor.” (S. Augus., ibid., ser. ii.)

7. But some will say: I have but little confidence in God, because I am a sinner. I have been too ungrateful to him, and therefore I see that I do not deserve to be heard. But St. Thomas tells us, that the efficacy of our prayers in obtaining graces from God, does not depend on our merits, but on the divine mercy. “Oratio in impetrando non innititur nostris mentis, sed soli divinæ misericordiæ” (2, 2, qu. 178, a. 2, ad. 1.) As often as we ask with confidence favours which are conducive to our eternal salvation, God hears our prayer. I have said, “favours conducive to our salvation ;” for, if what we seek be injurious to the soul, God does not, and cannot hear us. For example: if a person asked help from God to be revenged of an enemy, or to accomplish what would be offensive to God, the Lord will not hear his prayers; because, says St. Chrysostom, such a person offends God in the very act of prayer; he does not pray, but, in a certain manner mocks God. “Qui orat et peccat, non rogat Deum, sed eludit.” (Hom, xi., in Matt, vi.)

8. Moreover, if you wish to receive from God the aid which you ask, you must remove every obstacle which may render you unworthy of being heard. For example: if you ask of God strength to preserve you from relapsing into a certain sin, but will not avoid the occasions of the sin, nor keep at a distance from the house, from the object, or the bad company, which led to your fall, God will not hear your prayer. And why? Because “thou hast set a cloud before thee, that prayer may not pass through. “ (Thren. iii. 44.) Should you relapse, do not complain of God, nor say: I have besought the Lord to preserve me from falling into sin, but he has not heard me. Do you not see that, by not taking away the occasions of sin, you have interposed a thick cloud, which has prevented your prayers from passing to the throne of divine mercy.

9. It is also necessary to remark that the promise of Jesus Christ to hear those who pray to him does not extend to all the temporal favours which we ask such as a plentiful harvest, a victory in a law-suit, or a deliverance from sickness, or from certain persecutions. These favours God grants to those who pray for them; but only when they are conducive to their spiritual welfare. Otherwise he refuses them; and he refuses them because he loves us, and because he knows that they would be injurious to our souls. “A physician,” says St. Augustine, “knows better than his patient what is useful for him” (tom. 3, cap. ccxii). The saint adds that God refuses to some, through mercy, what he grants to others as a chastisement. “Deus negat propitius, quæ concedit iratus.” Hence St. John Damascene says that sometimes, when we do not obtain the graces which we ask, we receive, by not receiving them; because it is better for us not to receive than to receive them. “Etiam si non accipias, non accipendo accepisti, interdum enim non accipere quam accipendo satius est.” (Paral, lib.3, cap. xv.) We often ask poison which would cause our death. How many are there who, had they died in the sickness or poverty with which they had been afflicted, should be saved? But because they recovered their health, or because they were raised to wealth and honours, they became proud and forgot God, and thus have heen damned. Hence St. Chrysostom exhorts us to ask in our prayers what he knows to be expedient for us. “Orantes in ejus potestate ponamus, ut nos illud petentes exaudiat, quod ipse nobis expendire cognoscit.” (Hom. xv. in Matt.) We should, then, always ask from God temporal favours on the condition that they will be useful to the soul.

10. But spiritual favours, such as the pardon of our sins, perseverance in virtue, the gift of divine love, and resignation to the divine will, ought to be asked of God absolutely, and with a firm confidence of obtaining them. “If you, then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father from Heaven give the good Spirit to them that ask him?” (Luke xi. 13.) If you, says Jesus Christ, who are so much attached to earthly goods, cannot refuse your children the blessings which you have received from God, how much more will your Heavenly Father (who is in himself infinitely good, and who desires to give you his graces more ardently than you desire to receive them) give the good spirit that is, a sincere contrition for their sins, the gift of divine love, and resignation to the will of God to those who ask them? “Quando Deus negabit,” says St. Bernard, “potentibus qui etiam non potentes hortatur ut petant?” (Ser. ii. de S. Andr.) How can God refuse graces conducive to salvation to those who seek them, when he exhorts even those who do not pray to ask them?

11. Nor does God inquire whether the person who prays to him is a just man or a sinner; for he has declared that“every one that asketh, receiveth.” (Luke xi. 10.)”Every one,” says the author of the Imperfect Work, “whether he be a just man or a sinner.” (Hom, xviii.) And, to encourage us to pray and to ask with confidence for spiritual favours, he has said: “Amen, amen, I say to you: If you ask the Father anything in my name, he will give it you.” (John xvi. 23.) As if he said: Sinners, though you do not deserve to receive the divine graces, I have merited them for you from my Father: ask, then, in my name that is, through my merits and I promise that you shall obtain whatsoever you demand.


Third Point. We must pray with perseverance.

12. It is, above all, necessary to persevere in prayer till death, and never to cease to pray. This is what is inculcated by the following passages of Scripture: “We ought always to pray.” (Luke xviii. 1.) “Watch ye, therefore, praying at all times”(xxi. 36). “Pray without ceasing. ” (I Thess. v. 17.) Hence the Holy Ghost says: “Let nothing hinder thee from praying always.” (Eccl. xviii. 22.) These words imply, not only that we should pray always, but also that we should endeavour to remove every occasion which may prevent us from praying; for, if we cease to pray, we shall be deprived of the divine aid, and shall be overcome by temptations. Perseverance in grace is a gratuitous gift, which, as the Council of Trent has declared, we cannot merit (Ses. 6, cap. xiii.); but St. Augustine says, that we may obtain it by prayer. “Hoc donum Dei suppliciter emereri, potest id est supplicando impetrari.” (de Dono. Per., cap. vi.) Hence Cardinal Bellarmine teaches that “we must ask it daily, in order to obtain it everyday.” If we neglect to ask it on any day, we may fall into sin on that day.

13. If, then, we wish to persevere and to be saved for no one can be saved without perseverance we must pray continually. Our perseverance depends, not on one grace, but on a thousand helps which we hope to obtain from God during our whole lives, that we may be preserved in his grace. Now, to this chain of graces a chain of prayers on our part must correspond; without these prayers, God ordinarily does not grant his graces. If we neglect to pray, and thus break the chain of prayers, the chain of graces shall also be broken, and we shall lose the grace of perseverance. If, says Jesus Christ to his disciples, one of you go during the night to a friend, and say to him: Lend me three loaves; an acquaintance has come to my house, and I have no refreshment for him. The friend will answer: I am in bed; the door is locked; I cannot get up. But, if the other continue to knock at the door, and will not depart, the friend will rise, and give him as many loaves as he wishes, not through friendship, but to be freed from his importunity. “Although he will not rise and give him because he is his friend; yet, because of his importunity, he will rise, and give him as many as he needeth.” (Luke xi. 8.) Now, if a man will give his loaves to a friend because of his importunity, “how much more,” says St. Augustine, “will God give, who exhorts us to ask, and is displeased if we do not ask ?” How much more will the Lord bestow on us his graces, if we persevere in praying for them, when he exhorts us to ask them, and is offended if we do not ask them?

14. Men feel annoyed at being frequently and importunately asked for a favour. But God exhorts us to pray frequently; and, instead of being dissatisfied, he is pleased with those who repeatedly ask his graces. Cornelius à Lapide says, that “God wishes us to persevere in prayer, even to importunity.” (in Luc., cap. xi.) St. Jerome says: “This importunity with the Lord is seasonable.” (in Luc. xi.) That God is pleased with frequent and persevering prayer, may be inferred from the words of Jesus Christ: “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and you shall find; knock, and it shall be opened to you.” (Luke xi. 9.) It was not enough to have said ask but he added, seek, knock; in order to show, that, during our whole lives, we should be as importunate in supplicating the divine graces as beggars are in asking alms. Though they should be refused, they do not cease to cry out, or to knock at the door; they persist in asking relief till they obtain it.

15. If, then, we wish to obtain from God the gift of perseverance, we must ask it from him continually and with importunity. We must ask it when we rise in the morning, in our meditations, in hearing Mass, in our visits to the blessed sacrament, in going to bed at night, and particularly when we are tempted by the devil to commit any sin. Thus, we must always have our mouths open praying to God, and saying: Lord, assist me; give me light; give me strength; keep thy hand upon me, and do not abandon me. We must do violence to the Lord. “Such violence,” says Tertullian, “is agreeable to God.” The violence which we offer to God by repeated prayers does not offend him: on the contrary, it is pleasing and acceptable in his sight. “Prayer,” according to St. John Climacus, “piously offers violence to God.” Our supplications compel him, but in a manner grateful to him. He takes great complacency in seeing his mother honoured, and therefore wishes, as St. Bernard says, that all the graces we receive should pass through her hands. Hence the holy doctor exhorts us “to seek grace, and to seek it through Mary, because she is a mother, and her prayer cannot be fruitless.” (de Aquæd.) When we ask her to obtain any grace for us, she graciously hears our petitions and prays for us: and the prayers of Mary are never rejected.


Fr. Hewko's Sermons for the Fifth Sunday after Easter



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