Daily Devotional for June 7 – 13
Sunday – Feast of Pentecost
|In those days: When the day of Pentecost was fully come, they
were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there
|them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven. Now when this was noised abroad, the multitude came together, and were confounded, because that every man heard them speak in his own language. And they were all amazed and marvelled, saying one to another, Behold, are not all these which speak Galilaeans ? And how hear we every man in our own tongue, wherein we were born? Parthians, and Medes, and Elamites, and the dwellers in Mesopotamia, and in Judaea, and Cappadocia, in Pontus, and Asia, Phrygia, and Pamphylia, in Egypt, and in the parts of Libya about Cyrene, and strangers of Rome, Jews and proselytes, Cretes and Arabians, we do hear them speak in our tongues the wonderful works of God.|
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 on the Babylonian Captivity around 588BC
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.
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.”
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.
The captive Jews were treated with kindness by the king of Babylon, but they longed for the land of their fathers and for the city of Jerusalem. This longing of their hearts is beautifully expressed in one of the Psalms: “Upon the rivers of Babylon, there we sat and wept, when we remembered Sion. On the willows in the midst thereof we hung up our instruments, for there they that led us into captivity required of us the words of songs. How shall we sing the song of the Lord in a strange land? If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand be forgotten. Let my tongue cleave to my jaws, if I do not remember thee, if I make not Jerusalem the beginning of my joys.”
During the captivity God did not abandon His people, but sent the prophet Ezechiel, who admonished and instructed them. He also consoled them by telling them of a divine vision which foreshadowed the deliverance of the people from their captivity. The spirit of the Lord brought Ezechiel to a plain filled with bones of dead men. Being told by God, he commanded the bones to come together, which was done, and they were covered with flesh and skin, but there was no spirit in them. And the Lord told Ezechiel to say to the spirit: “Come, spirit, and let them live again.” The spirit entered into them, and they lived; they stood upon their feet, an exceeding great army. Then the Lord said: “These bones are the house of Israel; they say that our bones are dried up and our hope is lost, but say to them: Thus saith the Lord God: Behold, I will open your graves, and bring you into the land of Israel, and you shall know that I am the Lord, O my people.”
Amongst the captives were several young men of high rank, belonging to the first families. The king ordered the most distinguished of these to be brought up in his own palace, clothed in kingly apparel, and fed with meats from his own table. Amongst these young men were Daniel, Ananias, Misael and Azarias.
They resolved not to eat the meats from the king’s table, because the Jewish law forbade the use of certain meats, and they begged the chief steward to allow them to eat only vegetables, and to drink only water. The steward was disposed to comply with their request, but he told them that if they lived on such diet, they would become so lean that the king would blame him, and perhaps punish him severely.
Daniel besought the steward to try them for ten days with the food and drink they desired to have. The steward consented, and at the end of ten days the faces of these young men were fresher and more comely than those of the other young men of the court.
After this the steward gave them only vegetables and water; but God gave them wisdom and science. When the time came for them to be presented to the king, he was so charmed with their beauty and wisdom that he retained them in his service.
Prayer: Holy angel of the Lord by guardian, pray to God for me.
Commentary on the Captivity:
Up to the very moment of its overthrow He held out, through Jeremias, hope of pardon and the averting of punishment, if only the people would be converted. And was not the fate of the kingdom of Israel itself an impressive warning? However, neither king nor people would give heed to this, or to the warnings of the prophets sent by God, but listened rather to false prophets, resisted grace, and persisted in their impenitence. At last the measure of their sins was full, the justice of God manifested itself, and the long threatened punishment overtook Juda.
The Lord did not leave His miserable people without comfort, but gave them through Jeremias the assurance that He had not finally rejected them, but would restore them to His favour, and institute a new and higher covenant with them.
Their captivity served for the salvation of many of the Jews. They turned to God with their whole hearts, for they felt that all their hopes of liberty rested in Him. At last they abhorred idolatry, and were so completely cured of their inclination towards it, that they never relapsed into it, even after their return to the Promised Land.
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.
Daniel 13: the story of Susannah
AMONG the captive Jews in Babylon there was a man named Joakim, whose wife, Susanna, was very beautiful, and feared God. Now Joakim being very rich and influential, it happened that many of his countrymen resorted to his house. Among these were two of the ancients who had been appointed judges for that year. The two old men were considered by the people as wise and virtuous, but in reality they were very wicked.
Now the visitors that came to Joakim generally left at noon, and then Susanna would walk forth into the orchard near by to refresh herself in the shade. The two old men knew this, and one day they went into the orchard and hid themselves behind the trees. A little later Susanna came in and fastened the gate, believing herself alone. Then the wicked old men came forth from their hiding-place and tried to make her commit sin.
Susanna was horrified at their proposal; but they said that if she did not consent to their wishes, they would publicly accuse her of a great crime. Then Susanna raised her pure and beautiful eyes to heaven, sighed and said: “I am straitened on every side, for if I do this thing it is death to me, and if I do it not I shall not escape your hands. But it is better for me to fall into your hands, without doing it, than to sin in the sight of the Lord.”
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.
She then cried out with a loud voice; but the elders cried out against her. One of them ran to the orchard-gate, and opened it that the people might enter.
Then he and his companion falsely accused Susanna of the very crime they had proposed to her. Next day, accompanied by her parents and children, and other relatives, Susanna was brought before the tribunal of justice, where she was condemned and sentenced to death. But she, weeping, looked up to heaven, for her heart had confidence in God.
And the Lord heard her prayer. As she was led out to death, Daniel, inspired from above, exclaimed: “I am clean from the blood of this woman.” Then all the people began to ask him: “What meaneth this word that thou hast spoken?” He told them to return to judgment, because the elders had borne false witness against Susanna. Then the people went back in haste. But Daniel ordered the two accusers to be brought in separately.
This being done, he said to the first that came: “O thou that art grown old in evil days, now are thy sins come out. Tell me, under what tree thou sawest them conversing together?” He said: “Under a mastic-tree.” Daniel replied: “Thou hast lied against thy own head.” Then he sent him away, and had the other brought in, whom he asked: “Tell me, under what tree didst thou take them conversing together?” He answered: “Under a holm-tree.” Daniel replied: “Thou hast lied against thy own head.”
The people saw by the contrary statements of the old men that their testimony was false, and rising up against them, they put them both to death. Susanna was restored to her joyful husband and children, and they and all the people blessed God, who always saves and protects those who place their hopes in Him. Whereupon Daniel became great in the sight of the people.
Prayer: Holy God, Holy Mighty, Holy Immortal, have mercy on us. (3X)
Commentary on Susannah:
Susanna was a valiant woman, a very heroine of virtue. She preferred to die rather than sin. St. Chrysostom says of her: “Susanna stood as a lamb between two wolves. She was left alone between these two beasts, with no one to help her but God alone. He looked down from heaven, and suffered the dispute to make clear both the chastity of Susanna, and the wickedness of the elders; so that she might become a glorious example to women of all times. Susanna endured a severe fight, more severe than that of Joseph. He, a man, contended with one woman; but Susanna, a weak woman, had to contend with two men, and was a spectacle to men and to angels. The slander against her fidelity to her marriage-vow, the fear of death, her condemnation by all the people, the abhorrence of her husband and relations, the tears of her servants, the grief of all her household, she foresaw all this, and yet nothing could shake her fortitude.”
Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, both now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.