Blessed Columba Marmion, abbot (see below).
1st Reading: Baruch 4:5-12, 27-29
Grieving for the Jews in exile, he begs them to turn again and seek God
Take courage, my people, who perpetuate Israel’s name! It was not for destruction that you were sold to the nations, but you were handed over to your enemies because you angered God. For you provoked the one who made you by sacrificing to demons and not to God. You forgot the everlasting God, who brought you up, and you grieved Jerusalem, who reared you. For she saw the wrath that came upon you from God, and she said:
Listen, you neighbours of Zion, God has brought great sorrow upon me; for I have seen the exile of my sons and daughters, which the Everlasting brought upon them. With joy I nurtured them, but I sent them away with weeping and sorrow. Let no one rejoice over me, a widow and bereaved of many; I was left desolate because of the sins of my children, because they turned away from the law of God.
Take courage, my children, and cry to God, for you will be remembered by the one who brought this upon you. For just as you were disposed to go astray from God, return with tenfold zeal to seek him. For the one who brought these calamities upon you will bring you everlasting joy with your salvation.
Gospel: Luke 10:17-24
Jesus rejoices in the graces reserved for the humble of heart
The seventy returned with joy, saying, “Lord, in your name even the demons submit to us!”; He said to them, “I watched Satan fall from heaven like a flash of lightning. See, I have given you authority to tread on snakes and scorpions and over all the power of the enemy; and nothing will hurt you. Nevertheless, do not rejoice at this, that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”
At that same hour Jesus rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and said, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. All things have been handed over to me by my Father; and no one knows who the Son is except the Father, or who the Father is except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.”
Then turning to the disciples, Jesus said to them privately, “Blessed are the eyes that see what you see! For I tell you that many prophets and kings desired to see what you see, but did not see it, and to hear what you hear, but did not hear it.”
Blessed Columba Marmion, abbot.
Joseph Marmion (1858-1923) from Clane, Count Kildare, was for four years a priest in Dublin diocese and later (1886) became a Benedictine monk in Maredsous abbey, Belgium, taking the religious name Columba at his profession. Though his French was far from perfect, he was valued as a preacher in the local parishes, and became assistant Novice Master to the monks. He gave retreats in Belgium and England, and for his last 14 years was Abbot of Maredsous (1909–1923). His Christ-centred books were widely admired, notably his classic “Christ, the Life of the Soul.”
What’s to be glad about?
It baffles us when a person as good as Job must “repent in dust and ashes”. But he was humbled by the mystery of God’s overpowering presence. He had presumed to question God, as though he, Job, were a divine colleague, but now he disowns his words and repents in dust and ashes. The conclusion to the Book of Job is a strong call to just this kind of humility before God. If we follow Job’s example, we will be blessed like him.
Our gospel allows us a rare glimpse into the deepest of all mysteries, the prayer of Jesus himself. The Evangelists, especially Luke, frequently enough speak of Jesus at prayer, but seldom offer more than a reverent silence around such moments. Here he speaks his prayer aloud, overcome by a hidden power. Rejoicing in the Holy Spirit, he thanks the Father that “what you have hidden from the learned and the clever, you have revealed to merest children.” We can only hope to remain so grateful in the midst of any success we may achieve, even in our teaching of religion.
Pride on our work
It is natural to take pride in our work, especially if we feel that we have done it well. That is what we find the disciples doing in today’s gospel. They return to Jesus from a period of successful mission. In their excitement they say to Jesus, “even the devils submit to us when we use your name.” Jesus acknowledges the success of their work, yet he focuses on something more fundamental. He tells them to rejoice not so much in the success of their work but in the fact that their names are written in heaven. It is their relationship with God which is to be the real source of their joy. It is that relationship which makes their work fruitful. That is why Jesus goes on to say to them, “Happy the eyes that see what you see.” The disciples had come to see and hear the presence of God in the person of Jesus; they had received Jesus’ revelation of his own relationship with God his Father and had allowed themselves to be drawn into that relationship. That is why they can rejoice. The gospel reading reminds us that our own sharing in Jesus’ relationship with God is our real treasure, not so much the success or otherwise of what we do. It is that gift of sharing in Jesus’ relationship with God his Father that allows us to see and hear what many prophets and kings longed to see and hear, and is the real cause for joy and thanksgiving. Even when our work ceases, for whatever reason, be it age or poor health or lack of opportunity, that gift of sharing in Jesus’ own relationship with God endures.