in Ordinary Time
Ursulines, Willow Drive, N.R.
Nov. 4, 2012
“Grant that we may hasten without stumbling to receive the things you have promised” (Collect).
Like many collects of the Roman liturgy, our opening prayer this morning begins by addressing God as “almighty and merciful.” We pray to and we worship him who has made everything, including us, who thru his Son has vanquished all the powers of evil, chaos, and death. We pray to and we worship him who has freely offered us forgiveness, redemption, and restoration to a healthy relationship with himself, not because we deserve it but because is all-merciful.
How has he displayed his power and his mercy toward us? He redeemed and restored our Hebrew ancestors by leading them out of slavery into “a land flowing with milk and honey” (Deut 6:3). He redeems and restores us by eradicating our sins and incorporating us into Jesus Christ, so that we might arrive at a different kind of Promised Land. Today’s collect 1st highlights what God has done mightily and then prays that he’ll continue to act mercifully for our benefit.
What he has done is make us a gift: “God, by whose gift your faithful offer….” We come together as his faithful to make the offering of our worship. But what we have available to offer, the very fact of our gathering, the fact of our having been chosen to be among his faithful—all these are his gifts to us, not our own doing, not our own deserving. St. Paul writes to the Romans: “Now to one who works, his wages are not reckoned as a gift but as his due. And to one who does not work but trusts him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is reckoned as righteousness” (4:4-5).
The gift that we have to offer as God’s faithful people is that “right and praiseworthy service 1st offered by Jesus, God’s holy One, God’s righteous One. We offer Jesus in his whole self—body and blood, soul and divinity, as the old catechism said concerning the Eucharistic sacrament; but more: we offer Jesus’ life, ministry, passion, death, resurrection, and heavenly glory; his total self-gift to the Father. All this we offer to God as we unite our intentions and our lives with Jesus. We can do so because we have been gifted—“elected” or chosen by the Father to be among his people, as our fathers Abraham and Jacob were chosen, not on their merits but by God’s sheer goodness, and were justified by their faith in God’s promises.
Our petition follows: may we hasten without stumbling to receive what he has promised. One commentary points to the connection between our “haste” and the running of Peter and John to the empty tomb on Easter Sunday (John 20:3-4); both the Collect and John’s gospel text use the Latin verb curro, “to run, to hasten.”* We run, we hasten to the glory of the resurrection, which is what God has promised to his faithful people.
As we all know, haste can lead to a stumble—take it from a veteran hiker! So can weariness, even when you’re trying to be careful. So can walking, not to mention running, in poor light, as you may have found out in recent days. So we need divine assistance, divine light, to be careful and sure where we set our feet in our pursuit of the good, the true, and the beautiful—all that God has promised us in Christ; and to keep our feet in a world where there’s much uneven ground, many snares and false paths.
And that’s our prayer this morning, and every day.