WEDNESDAY OF THE TWENTY–FIFTH WEEK OF THE YEAR II
MEMORIAL OF SAINT VINCENT DE PAUL, PRIEST
Psalm 118:29, 72, 89, 101, 104, 163 (R. 105a)
The Book of Proverbs that we began reading on Monday is a practical guide to wise living. The wise person is one who orders his whole life — both the little things and the great — to the pursuit of the Good, the True, and the Beautiful.
In today’s passage we are told that “ every word of God proves true,” and that God “is a shield to those who take refuge in Him” (Pr 30:5). What are the implications of these sayings? The first assures us that one can rely on the Word of God, that one can depend on it, anchor one’s hope in it, and stake one’s life on it. The second tell us that in the midst of life’s tribulations and temptations the only safe place is in God. In both sayings we find the wisdom of Saint Vincent de Paul whom we remember today, and of all the saints.
Toward the Lord’s Prayer
The last few lines of today’s passage are addressed not to us, but to God. We are given a prayer of petition. It asks for two things: “Remove far from me falsehood and lying; give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the food that is needful for me, lest I be full, and deny thee, and say, ‘Who is the Lord’ or lest I be poor and steal, and profane the name of my God” (Pr 30:8–9). The Lord Jesus brings this prayer to perfection in His own prayer, teaching us to say: “Give us this day our daily bread” (Mt 6:11) and “Deliver us from evil” (Mt 6:13). Here again we are at the wellspring of the wisdom of the saints.
Coming Together and Going Forth
In the Gospel Saint Luke relates the sending forth of the Twelve: “At that time Jesus called the Twelve together” (Lk 9:1). Mission — or apostleship — begins not with being sent forth but with being called together. Mission springs from having remained together in the company of Jesus. He who calls us together in His company is He who sends us forth.
We touch here on one of the meanings of the word Mass. In the West we call the Eucharistic Sacrifice Missa, Mass: a form of the Latin word for sending. In every Mass, the Father sends us Christ, the Victim, the Lamb of the Sacrifice. Through the same Christ, also our Priest, we send our thanksgiving and our supplications to God. Out of this two–fold sending, from heaven to earth, and from earth to heaven, emerges a third: our being sent forth into the world. All of this is implicit in the word Mass.
To Preach the Kingdom and to Heal
In sending forth the Twelve, Our Lord instructs them to do two things. “He sent them out to preach the kingdom of God and to heal” (Lk 9:2). In that one line we are given a summary of what every mission is and of what every missionary does. With time, these two simple mandates: to preach the Kingdom, and to heal, found expression in the Seven Spiritual and Corporal Works of Mercy, so wonderfully illustrated for us in the life of Saint Vincent de Paul.
The Spiritual Works of Mercy
The Spiritual Works of Mercy present us with seven ways of preaching the Kingdom of God. What are they?
1. Counsel the doubtful.
2. Instruct the ignorant.
3. Admonish sinners.
4. Comfort the afflicted.
5. Forgive offenses.
6. Bear wrongs patiently.
7. Pray for the living and the dead.
Each of these seven works is a way of preaching the Kingdom of God.
The Corporal Works of Mercy
The Corporal Works of Mercy present us with seven ways of healing. To heal is to restore wholeness; it is to redress the fallen, to set right what is wrong, and release the power of life where death is at work. What are the Seven Corporal Works of Mercy?
1. Feed the hungry.
2. Give drink to the thirsty.
3. Clothe the naked.
4. Shelter the homeless.
5. Visit the sick.
6. Visit the imprisoned.
7. Bury the dead.
Each of these seven works is directed to some form of healing.
Saint Vincent de Paul
Saint Vincent de Paul’s particular gift was to inspire and motivate men and women for the work of the mission. He called his community of priests the Congregation of the Mission. Here again is a reflection of today’s Gospel; the many must be gathered together (Congregation) before being sent forth (Mission).
The accomplishments of Saint Vincent de Paul were phenomenal: the Ladies of Charity, the Congregation of the Mission, the Daughters of Charity, the reform of the clergy, the work of foundlings, the spiritual direction of the Visitation Nuns after the death of his friend, Saint Francis de Sales, and the organization of relief programs. All Saint Vincent’s works were a direct response to the mandate of Our Lord in today’s Gospel “to preach the Kingdom of God and to heal” (Lk 9:2). At the saint’s funeral Mass, the preacher declared that Monsieur Vincent had “changed the face of the Church in France.”
The Face of the Church
We do well to seek his intercession today that, in our own day, the face of the Church may be changed to reflect more faithfully the Face of Christ, and to reveal his Holy Face to the world.