Thank you for joining me as we Lectio the Liturgy with the Collect for the 16th Sunday in Ordinary Time.
Show favor, O Lord, to your servants and mercifully increase the gifts of your grace, that, made fervent in hope, faith and charity, they may be ever watchful in keeping your commands. 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.
Let’s look first at “mercifully increase.” Here you can think indulgent, over and above, a more-than-we-can-imagine increase of the gifts of God’s grace: hope, faith and charity.
Now, about the three theological virtues of faith, hope, and charity. The Catechism of the Catholic Church (#1812-1813) teaches us that these virtues relate directly to God. They dispose Christians to live in a relationship with the Holy Trinity. God is their origin, motive, and object. The virtues are infused by God into the souls of the faithful to make them capable of acting as his children and of meriting eternal life. <br> Interestingly, this week I came across an unexpected benefit to an increase of hope, faith, and charity, and that is consolation. Consolation and desolation are the basis of the Rules of Discernment, written by St. Ignatius of Loyola.
In his Rules of Discernment, St. Ignatius teaches that desolation is any movement toward our lower nature, an inclination towards doubt, despair, and narcissism, caused by a bad spirit.
Consolation, St. Ignatius writes, is every increase of hope, faith and charity, which is what we pray for in the Collect this week. One might actually feel an interior joy that calls and attracts them to heavenly things, leads them to trust, a sense of God’s presence, and a desire to love their neighbor, to love God and his commands.
However, the benefits of this increase of hope, faith, and charity must be put to use. With our increase in virtue, we must be watchful in keeping God’s commands.
What does watchful mean? It doesn’t mean to sit back and observe something as it goes by. Used in the prayer, means vigilant. When used in scripture it means to guard or to protect. Perhaps 1 Cor. 16:13 has a good definition, Be on your guard, stand firm in the faith, be courageous, be strong.
We must put effort into being watchful. We have a lot to protect, not only the consolation from God, but our eternal salvation as well. The consolation that God promises is like no other, it can’t be found anywhere else, it is only a gift from Him.
In the prayer, does the order of the virtues start with hope? There’s not really an answer, but here’s what I’ve found: St. Ignatius mentions hope first because hope permeates the entire Rules. As I thought about it, it occurred to me that vigilant people are people of hope. Without the desire of the Kingdom of heaven, without the hope of eternal life, we would have nothing left to guard or to fight for.
This week as we Lectio the Liturgy, spend some time with this prayer to prepare your heart for a deeper indwelling of hope, faith, and charity, because those are the gifts of grace we are asking God for. As you read or listen to the Scripture readings this week, listen for a phrase that stands out to you. Spend some time meditating on it and invite the Holy Spirit to lead you. Do not be surprised if you feel God’s presence or warmth. That is consolation.
In his book, Spiritual Warfare and the Discernment of Spirits, Dan Burke writes that no matter how it surfaces within us, if it is authentic, consolation will always draw us to God’s will and ways.
Thank you for praying with me,