The Collect for the 31st Sunday of Ordinary Time dates way back. It is first found in the Verona Sacramentary, which is the oldest surviving liturgical book of the Roman rite of the Catholic Church. This prayer may have been composed by Pope Vigilius for Mass on November 22, 534. (Not a typo.)
Almighty and merciful God, by whose gift your faithful offer you right and praiseworthy service, grant, we pray, that we may hasten without stumbling to receive the things you have promised. 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.
The word “gift” seemed to be an odd choice of words: by God’s gift we offer service. As I wondered what kind of gift would that be, the first things that came to mind were faith, hope and charity, which are gifts from God. However, in the Latin form of this prayer, the word used is “munere.”
Munere is defined as office, position of authority. Look what happens when we replace “gift” with “office” in this line of the prayer:
Almighty and merciful God, by whose office we offer you right and praiseworthy service…
The prayer changes. When we know in our heart who God is and the authority he has as God, giving him right and praiseworthy service should be our priority.
Munere, means gift since it is given because of the service of one in office. Now, let’s put “gift” back in the prayer:
Almighty and merciful God, by whose gift we offer you right and praiseworthy service…
After meditating on God’s office, our gift becomes more clear. In his authority as God, he has chosen us, he has redeemed us, he gives us his unfailing love and everlasting life. Because of the magnificence of his gift, our greatest desire should be to give him praiseworthy service.
The prayer asks God that we hasten without stumbling to receive his promises. “Without stumbling” is translated from the Latin prayer as “no offense.”
We learn about having no offense in Paul’s letter to the Philippians 1:10, “That you may approve the better things: that you may be sincere and without offense unto the day of Christ…” (DRB)
To be without offense is to not be led into sin or troubled by a consciousness of sin. Sin can blind us and keep us from what God has on his heart for us.
There’s one common denominator between “right and praiseworthy service” and “hasten without stumbling,” and that is keeping focused on Christ. We may do a project or a kind deed and hope that our priest, or a friend or family member notices, but what if we begin serve with the intention to please only God? Imagine hearing God tell you, “Well done. Thank you.” It should be God alone who we seek to serve.
When we focus on Christ and we are intent to please Him, the things that Satan puts in our way, will be just little things that we will leap right over and not stumble because we’re not meandering to God’s promises, we’re running.
This week as we Lectio the Liturgy, ask the Holy Spirit to shed light on areas in your life where you may be stumbling. Don’t be afraid to give those areas to God as they may be keeping you from obtaining all the gifts that God has for you. Ask for forgiveness, celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation, and keep your eyes on Christ. Ask him for the desire to do nothing other than to honor him with praiseworthy service.
Thanks for praying with me,