This week we Lectio the Liturgy with the Collect for the 30th Sunday of Ordinary Time. Our prayer this week comes from ancient prayer books dating back to the sixth century. I always find it humbling, of sorts, to pray the same prayer and to have the same hopes as our brothers and sisters in Christ did so many years ago.
To: Almighty ever-living God,
Do: increase our faith, hope and charity, and make us love what you command,
Accrue: so that we may merit what you promise.
Through: 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.
In the two petitions of the prayer, we are asking big things of God: that we increase in faith, hope, and charity, and to make us love his commands.
Faith, hope, and charity are known as Theological Virtues because they come from God. They are above our nature, they are infused in us, along with sanctifying grace, when we are baptized. These virtues are gifts freely given by God. We do nothing to obtain them, we don’t earn them.
Next we ask that God would make us love what he commands and that always seems like a hard one. The word make here means to fashion us, to form us. I would imagine it’s something like being a piece of clay in God's hands as he forms us into a beautiful piece of pottery.
In next phrase, the Accure of the prayer, we pray, “so that we may merit what you promise.” This phrase is a dependent phrase, indicated by the “so that.” This means that deserving God’s promises doesn’t come on its own. To merit what God promises depends on our faith, hope, and charity, and loving God’s commands. Merit, (mereamur in Latin) means to deserve well. Deserving or meriting God’s promises begins with desiring them.
I have to place a value on those promises. How much do I value God's life bearing fruit in me? How much do I value the promise of eternal life with Him? The biggest question is, “How much do I want God's promises?”
I need to value His promises enough do to what it takes to live a virtuous life and love his commands. As I thought about this lifestyle, a few saints came to mind. Peter, who had the virtues of faith, hope, and charity, is one example. Peter had to step out of the boat and that step helped him grow in faith. To grow in the virtues of faith, hope, and charity, we have to step out of the boat, too. Strength doesn’t come without exercise.
Living this virtuous life and loving God’s commands is creating a legacy. St. Teresa of Calcutta, St. John Paul II, Padre Pio, saint after saint, their names came to mind. Their examples, given to us in the lives they led, all show a life of faith, stepping out of the boat, strengthening the Virtues, and loving what God had for them, trusting in his promises.
The great Saints received the same graces and virtues we did. Perhaps this Collect is our call to the path to holiness and saintliness, too.