Daily Devotional for December 15-21
1 Corinthians 4:1 Let a man so consider us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. 2 Moreover it is required in stewards that one be found faithful. 3 But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by a human [a]court. In fact, I do not even judge myself. 4 For I know of nothing against myself, yet I am not justified by this; but He who judges me is the Lord. 5 Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord comes, who will both bring to light the hidden things of darkness and reveal the [b]counsels of the hearts. Then each one’s praise will come from God.
Thought: “A man obtains the fear of God if he has the remembrance of his unavoidable death and of the eternal torments that await sinners; if he tests himself every evening as to how he has spent the day, and every morning as to how he has spent the night, and if is not sharp in his relations with others.”
(St. Abba Dorotheos, Teachings, 4)
Prayer: O Most Holy Trinity, have mercy on us. O Lord, blot out our sins. O Master, pardon our iniquities. O Holy One, visit and heal our infirmities for Thy name’s sake.
*Practical Commentary this week: Jonah
AFTER the death of Eliseus, the Lord wishing to show mercy to the Gentiles, raised up the prophet Jonas that he might go to Ninive, and preach penance to the inhabitants of that city. The wickedness of the pagan Ninivites had provoked the anger of God, and He had said to Jonas: “Arise, and go to Ninive and preach in it, for the wickedness thereof is come up before Me.”
Jonas, however, knew that the Lord easily forgives; hence he was afraid that if he preached to the people of Ninive they would do penance, and that consequently the Lord would spare them, while he himself would be looked upon as a false prophet. So Jonas rose up to flee from the face of the Lord, and he embarked on board a ship which sailed for Tharsis. But the Lord sent a great storm, and the sea heaved and swelled, and the ship threatened to sink.
Then the sailors, being frightened, threw into the sea all the merchandise that was on board, in order to lighten the vessel. And each one began praying to his own god for help. But Jonas was below, fast asleep, and the shipmaster went to him and said: “Why art thou asleep? Rise up, call upon thy God, if so be that God will think of us, that we may not perish!”
But the sailors, seeing that the violence of the storm continued to increase, proposed to cast lots that they might know why this evil had come upon them. And they cast lots, and the lot fell upon Jonas. Then Jonas confessed his sin and said: “Take me up, and cast me into the sea, and the sea shall be calm to you.”
The sailors, unwilling to throw Jonas overboard, rowed very hard to gain the shore, where they might leave him in safety. But they were not able; for the sea swelled and tossed higher than ever. At last they took Jonas and cast him into the sea, and immediately the storm ceased, and the sea was calm.
At the same moment the Lord sent a great fish, a whale, which opened its jaws and swallowed Jonas. And he remained three days and three nights in the belly of the whale, continually calling on God to save him, saying: “I am cast away, out of the sight of Thy eyes; but yet I shall see Thy holy temple again.” His prayer was heard, and on the third day the fish threw Jonas out of its mouth on the dry land.
Prayer: O come, let us worship God our King.
O come, let us worship and fall down before Christ our King and God.
O come, let us worship and fall down before Christ Himself, our King and God.
Commentary on Jonah part 1: God never changes. What! did He not change His intention towards Ninive? It may appear so; for first He made Jonas proclaim that the city would be destroyed in forty days, and yet after all He spared it. To this St. Jerome replies: “God did not change His purpose, but man changed his actions! From the first it was God’s intention to be merciful, and He proclaimed the punishment in order that He might be able to show mercy.” As God is ever ready to be merciful if only man will be converted, we must add to the words ‘Ninive shall be destroyed’ this reservation: ‘unless it do penance’. God threatened to punish the Ninivites for the express purpose of bringing them to repentance, so that, of His mercy, He might remit the punishment with which His justice had threatened them.
The Omnipotence of God stirred up the storm at sea, and instantly calmed it; made the lot to fall on Jonas, sent the fish to swallow him, kept him alive inside it, made it cast him up on dry land, and caused the rapid growth and as rapid decay of the plant which gave shelter to the prophet. Everything is in the hands of Almighty God; the elements obey Him, and the animals do His will.
Prayer: Soul of Christ, sanctify me, Body of Christ, save me Blood of Christ, inebriate me, Water from Christ’s side, wash me, Passion of Christ, strengthen me, O good Jesus, hear me, Within Thy wounds hide me, Suffer me not to be separated from Thee, From the malicious enemy defend me, In the hour of my death call me, And bid me come unto Thee, That I may praise Thee with Thy saints, and with Thy angels, Forever and ever, Amen.
And the Lord spoke a second time to Jonas and told him to go to Ninive, the great city, and preach penance. Jonas went without delay, and entering into the city, he walked a whole day through the streets, calling out as he went: “Yet forty days, and Ninive shall be destroyed.” The people of Ninive were struck with terror, knowing how guilty they were, and a general fast was proclaimed throughout the whole city, both for man and beast.
The king himself put on sackcloth and sat in ashes, and he and all his people, from the greatest to the least, fasted and did penance, in order to appease the anger of God. And because of their repentance God had mercy on the people of Ninive, and spared their city. Meanwhile, Jonas had gone out of the city, and sat down at some distance, towards the east, to see what would happen. And finding that God had spared Ninive, he was angry and much troubled lest he should pass for a false prophet.
God, however, wishing to show his prophet the unreasonableness of his anger, caused to spring up, during the night, a large vine, which sheltered him next day from the scorching rays of the sun. But on the following morning God sent a worm which ate up the root of the plant, and it withered away.
Now, when the sun had risen, God sent a hot and burning wind; and the sun struck full on the head of Jonas, and he broiled with the heat to such a degree that he desired to die. Then the Lord said to him: “Thou art grieved for the ivy for which thou hast not laboured, and shall not I spare Ninive, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand persons that know not how to distinguish between their right hand and their left, and many beasts?”
Prayer: Remember, O most gracious Virgin Mary, that never was it known that anyone who fled to thy protection, implored thy help, or sought thine intercession was left unaided. Inspired by this confidence, I fly unto thee, O Virgin of virgins, my mother; to thee do I come, before thee I stand, sinful and sorrowful. O Mother of the Word Incarnate, despise not my petitions, but in thy mercy hear and answer me.
Commentary on Jonah: The faith and repentance of the Ninivites was very edifying. In spite of the wonderful words and deeds of Elias, most of the Israelites had remained impenitent. Then God turned to the Gentiles, who showed more good-will and faith than the chosen people. The Ninivites believed the word of the Lord as soon as the prophet announced it to them; and they practised penance with prayer and fasting when he quoted his own miraculous deliverance as a sign that God had sent him (Luke 11:30). Our Lord Himself held up the Ninivites as an example to the hard-hearted Israelites, when He said: “The men of Ninive shall rise in judgment with this generation and shall condemn it, because they did penance at the preaching of Jonas; and behold a greater than Jonas is here” (New Test. XXVII). How disgraceful would it be for Christians if they allowed themselves to be outdone in faith and penance by the Ninivites!
God showed mercy to the Gentiles and manifested Himself to them. The sojourn of Jacob and his descendants in Egypt, as also Moses’ great miracles in the desert, had served to make God more or less known among the Gentiles. Elias was sent to Sarepta, and there worked miracles in God’s name among the heathen. Eliseus cured the Syrian Naaman, and thereby made known God’s almighty power to the pagan Syrians. Jonas was sent by God to the greatest city of the pagan world, to preach penance to its inhabitants, and make known to them the Omnipotence, Justice, and Mercy of the true God.
Two hundred years after, when the Ninivites had returned to their former state of wickedness and, this time, remained impenitent, God’s threatened judgment fell on them. The abominable city was entirely destroyed and levelled to the ground, 606 B. C. This shows us how dangerous it is to fall back into sin.
Prayer: Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created. And You shall renew the face of the earth. O, God, who taught the hearts of the faithful by the light of the Holy Spirit, grant that by the same Holy Spirit we may be truly wise and ever rejoice in His consolations, Through Christ Our Lord, Amen.
4 Kings: THE Lord ceased not to send to the Israelites holy prophets who preached penance to them both by word and example. But the Israelites would not be converted, and their wickedness increased to such an extent that the Almighty resolved to punish them in His wrath, and utterly to destroy them. He therefore caused Salmanazar, king of Assyria, to come against them with a mighty army. He laid siege to the strong city of Samaria, and after three years took it and carried off most of its inhabitants captives; and thus the kingdom of Israel ceased to exist. Thus the prophecy of Amos (9:8) was fulfilled: “Behold, the eyes of the Lord God [are] upon the sinful kingdom, and I will destroy it from the face of the earth: but yet I will not utterly destroy the house of Jacob.”
The Israelites having been slain or carried off into captivity, their land had become almost a wilderness, and the Assyrian king, in order to people it again, sent thither thousands of his pagan subjects who, settling amongst the scattered remains of the ten tribes, were soon so mixed up with them that they became, as it were, a new nation, and scarcely a trace remained of the people of Israel.
The religion of the Samaritans was a mixture of Judaism and Paganism; hence they hated the two tribes of Juda and Benjamin, who had remained true to the old religion.
Prayer: We fly to thy patronage, O holy Mother of God; despise not our petitions in our necessities, but deliver us always from all dangers, O glorious and blessed Virgin. Amen.
*Sub Tuum Praesidium
Those who were taken captive to Assyria never returned to their own country. Still God did not fail to give numerous proofs of His watchful care over those unhappy exiles. One of the most remarkable of these instances is found in the history of the good Tobias. When he was in his own country and in his earliest years, Tobias never associated with the wicked; never went to adore the golden calf, but kept the law of the Lord exactly.
Hence God protected him in the land of captivity, and caused him to find favour in the sight of Salmanazar, who allowed him to go wherever he wished. He went accordingly to all his fellow-captives, consoling and encouraging them. He shared with them all he possessed, fed them when they were hungry, and clothed them when naked. His life was spent in such works of charity.
King Salmanazar being dead, Sennacherib (Fig. 52), his son, who succeeded him on the throne, was not so favourable to Tobias and put many of the Israelites to death. But Tobias, fearing God more than the king, hid the bodies of his brethren in his house, and buried them by night. The king, having heard this, sentenced Tobias to death, and took away all his property.
Tobias fled with his wife and son, and remained concealed in a place of safety, till the death of the wicked king, who forty days later was killed by his own sons. Then Tobias returned, and all his property was restored to him. But the persecution against the Israelites was still raging, so Tobias resumed his former works of charity, relieving the distressed, and burying the dead.
Coming home one day very much fatigued, he lay down near the wall and fell asleep. While he was sleeping the droppings from a swallow’s nest fell on his eyes and made him blind. This was a great affliction, but it did not prevent Tobias from fearing and blessing God and thanking Him for all his mercies, even for this new trial. Now Anna, his wife, was his only support. She went out every day to work, and by her hard earnings kept her husband from want.
Prayer: Lord, I have cried to Thee, hearken unto me. Hearken unto me, O Lord. Lord, I have cried to Thee, hearken unto me. Attend to the voice of my prayer, when I cry unto Thee. Hearken unto me, O Lord. Let my prayer be set forth as incense before Thee, the lifting up of my hands as an evening sacrifice. Hearken unto me, O Lord.
*Psalm 140 (141)