Daily Devotional for February 16 – 22
Sunday (Septuagesima Sunday or 70 days until Pascha/Easter)
1 Corinthians 9:16
For if I preach the gospel, I have nothing to boast of, for necessity is laid upon me; yes, woe is me if I do not preach the gospel! 17 For if I do this willingly, I have a reward; but if against my will, I have been entrusted with a stewardship. 18 What is my reward then? That when I preach the gospel, I may present the gospel of Christ without charge, that I may not abuse my authority in the gospel.
Serving All Men
19 For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win the more; 20 and to the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might win Jews; to those who are under the law, as under the law, that I might win those who are under the law; 21 to those who are without law, as without law (not being without [f]law toward God, but under law toward Christ), that I might win those who are without law; 22 to the weak I became ]as weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some. 23 Now this I do for the gospel’s sake, that I may be partaker of it with you.
Striving for a Crown
24 Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. 25 And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown. 26 Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air. 27 But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.
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
+Practical Commentary this week
AFTER a brief season of repentance and of penance, the people of Juda again forgot the Lord. Then God, in His anger, sent them a new and terrible punishment, which would have ended in the total destruction of their nation, had it not been for the heroic courage of a certain holy woman. At that time Holofernes, general-in-chief of the Assyrian forces, came at the head of a mighty army to overthrow the kingdom of Juda, as he had overthrown many other kingdoms.
Having taken all the cities and strongholds of the country, and treated their inhabitants with savage cruelty, he came to lay siege to Bethulia (Fig. 53). He cut off the aqueducts which supplied the city with water, and thereby reduced the citizens to such an extremity that the elders resolved to give up the city in five days, unless they were relieved before that time. Meanwhile they prayed fervently to God, humbled themselves before Him, and strewed ashes on their heads.
Now there was in the city a woman named Judith, of rare beauty and of great wealth, who, being a widow, lived retired in her own house, and spent her days in prayer and good works. Being touched with compassion for the sad condition of her people, she presented herself before the ancients of the city and said: “What is this word by which you have consented to give up the city within five days? You have set a time for the mercy of the Lord according to your pleasure. This is not a word that may draw down mercy, but rather indignation. Let us therefore be penitent for this same thing, and remember that all the Saints were tempted and remained faithful; but that those who rejected the trials of the Lord were destroyed. And let us believe that these scourges have happened for our amendment and not for our destruction.”
Prayer: O Heavenly King, Comforter, Spirit of Truth, Who art everywhere present and fillest all things, Treasury of good things and Giver of life: Come and dwell in us, and cleanse us of all impurity, and save our souls, O Good One.
Judith cont….The ancients, inspired by these noble words, begged her to pray for the people. She consented, and retiring to her oratory, clothed herself in hair-cloth, put ashes on her head, and falling prostrate before the Lord, she besought Him to humble the enemies of her nation. While she thus prayed, Almighty God inspired her with the thought that she should go into the camp of the enemy and cut off the head of the Assyrian general Holofernes.
Then, putting off the hair cloth, she immediately arrayed herself in her richest garments, perfumed herself with the best ointments, plaited her hair, and adorned herself with bracelets, earlets, and rings. And the Lord increased her beauty, because all her dressing up did not proceed from vanity. Then she took a servant-maid with her and set out for the camp of Holofernes.
Being brought before Holofernes, the tyrant was charmed with her majestic beauty, and supposing that she had fled from her own people, ordered her to receive every attention, and to be allowed to go and come as she pleased. On the fourth day Holofernes gave a grand banquet to the officers of his army. He and they overcharged themselves with wine, and when they lay down on their couches, they fell into a death-like sleep. Then Judith resolved to strike the decisive blow that was to save her country and her people.
Prayer: Holy angel of the Lord by guardian, pray to God for me.
She besought God, saying: “Strengthen me, O Lord God of Israel, and in this hour look upon the works of my hands, that I may bring to pass that which I have purposed, having a belief that it might be done by Thee.” Then she moved softly towards the tent of Holofernes. And taking his sword, which hung from a pillar near by, she drew it from its scabbard, raised it aloft, and, at the second stroke, cut off the head of the sleeping tyrant. She then gave the head to her maid, who waited without, and bade her put it into her wallet.
Departing from the camp, she returned with her servant to Bethulia, and having assembled the people, showed them the head of Holofernes, saying: “Praise ye the Lord our God, who hath killed the enemy of His people by my hand. His angel hath been my keeper and hath brought me back to you.” Then Ozias, the prince of the people of Israel, said to her: “Blessed art thou, O daughter of the Lord, the Most High God, above all the women upon the earth.” Then the people, praising God, rushed towards the camp of the Assyrians. The guards, terrified and confused, made a great noise at the door of their general’s tent in order to awaken him.
But finding their efforts useless they at length ventured to enter the tent, and seeing the headless body of their mighty general weltering in blood, they were seized with fear and fled in haste, crying out that Holofernes was slain. A great confusion ensued, and the people of Bethulia had only to complete the work commenced by Judith, and take possession of the Assyrian camp with its rich spoils.
Then the Jewish people, turning to Judith, sang with one accord: “Thou art the glory of Jerusalem; thou art the joy of Israel; thou art the honour of our people.” The rejoicings following on this splendid victory were kept up for three months. And udith became great throughout all Israel. She died at an advanced ige, and was mourned by all the people.
Prayer: Our Father, Who art in Heaven, hallowed by Thy Name. Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.
Commentary on Judith…
The people of Bethulia believed in the true God, and had not been led away to serve idols (Judith 8:18); still their faith was not sufficiently enlightened, and their wills not sufficiently resigned. They “tempted” God, or dictated to Him, by saying: “If Thou wilt help, help soon; if Thy help does not come in five days, we shall despair of Thine assistance and surrender.” Judith was right to blame them, for it is not for us, blind, wretched men, to dictate to the great God as to when and how He shall help us. Probably the Bethulians expected that by sending rain He would put an end to the want of water; but God had decided on saving them in another way, for His thoughts are not our thoughts. Let us beware of dictating to God as to what way He is to help us. We must leave the time and mode of help entirely to Him.
Even as the chaste Judith cut off the head of Holofernes, thereby saving her people from captivity and slavery, so did Mary, the Immaculate Mother, through her Divine Son, trample on the head of the infernal Holofernes, and free all mankind from his power. Even as Judith was lauded as “blessed above all women on earth”, so did St. Elizabeth and the angel Gabriel both say to our Lady: “Blessed art thou among women.” Judith gave all the glory to God, as did Mary in the Magnificat (New Test. IV). Judith was devout: Mary is the vessel of singular devotion. Judith was a holy woman: Mary is the Virgin Most Holy, and the Mirror of justice in which all virtues are reflected. Judith was heroic: Mary was the most heroic of women, and the Queen of martyrs. Judith was the glory of Jerusalem: Mary is the Queen of all Saints, the glory of the heavenly Jerusalem, the joy of the elect, and the honour of the whole Church.
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.
AT last the people of Juda became so hardened in sin that the divine chastisements had no longer any effect upon their hearts. They gave themselves wholly up to the vile practices of idolatry, and persecuted the prophets of God, several of whom they put to death. In vain did the great prophet, Jeremias, who lived at that time, endeavour to recall them to repentance. Finally, the patience of the merciful God was exhausted, and the ruin so often foretold by the prophet Isaias fell heavily on the people.
In the year 606 B. C., Nabuchodonozor (Fig. 54), king of Babylon, placed himself at the head of an immense army, marched against Jerusalem, and, having taken it, carried away the king and the principal inhabitants as captives. Sixteen years later, those who were left in Jerusalem revolted once more against Nabuchodonozor, and the latter returned with a still greater army, and after a siege of eighteen months, he took Jerusalem by storm (588 B. C.).
Then the whole city was given up to fire and pillage. The Temple itself was consumed by fire, and the sacred vessels were carried off. All the people that escaped the sword were led into captivity in Babylon, and the splendid city of Jerusalem was reduced to a heap of ruins.
Prayer: Holy God, Holy Mighty, Holy Immortal, have mercy on us. (3X)
Jeremias remained in Jerusalem (Fig. 55), and, sitting on the ruins of the desolate city, he lamented in the most pathetic manner the miseries of his people, and the destruction of Jerusalem. “How doth the city sit solitary that was full of people; how is the mistress of nations become as a widow; the princess of provinces made tributary. The ways of Sion mourn, because there are none that come to the solemn feast. O all ye that pass by the way, attend, and see if there be any sorrow like to my sorrow. To what shall I compare thee, or to what shall I liken thee? Great as the sea is thy destruction. Who shall heal thee? Convert us, O Lord, to Thee, and we shall be converted, renew our days, as from the beginning.”
Jeremias, however, was not without consolation. He knew that Israel would be restored, and that God would make a new covenant with His people. “The days shall come, saith the Lord, and I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Juda. Not according to the covenants which I made with their fathers, which they made void. But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days. I will give my law and will write it on their hearts, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. I will forgive their iniquity and I will remember their sin no more.”
Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, both now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.