Semi-Double Observance of the Nineteenth Sunday After Pentecost
Missa "Salus pópuli Ego sum"
The Mass of this Sunday reminds us that all men are called
to Heavenly reward and happiness. This Sunday, called on account of its Gospel, Sunday of the marriage guests reminds us that all men are called to heavenly bliss, but few are chosen. The Jews have refused to take part in the feast. Therefore the Apostles and the Church, filled with the Holy Ghost at Pentecost, have turned towards the Gentiles. But the beatific union is announced, prepared for, and in a certain manner begun, by sacramental communion.
To take part in a marriage feast among the Jews, it was necessary to wear a ceremonial garment called a wedding garment. Similarly, to receive the body of Jesus at the holy table and to be in communion with His Divinity in Heaven, one must wear the nuptial robe of baptism and of the state of grace. Therefore the Apostle exhorts us to put on the new man.
The story of Esther is read in the divine office. In order, therefore, that with the Church, we may every year review these Old Testament types, and also continue our study of the Sundays after Pentecost in the light of the breviary, we may usefully make Esther the subject of our exposition today.
Assuerus, king of Susa in Persia (482-472, B.C.), had chosen Esther, niece of Mardochai as his queen. Aman, the major-domo of the palace, noticing that Mardochai refused to bow the knee before him, flew into a great rage, and knowing Mardochai to be a Jew, swore to exterminate at one blow all the members of his race. To this end, he laid a complaint before the king against these foreigners who were settled in all the towns of his kingdom, and obtained a decree authorizing their wholesale massacre.
Upon learning of this decree, Mardochai indulged in great lamentations, the Jewish community, as a whole, being, naturally, plunged into extreme mourning, while Mardochai took the further step of telling Esther that, if the opportunity presented itself, she ought, even at the peril of her life, to inform the king of Aman's plot. "Who knoweth whether thou art not come to the kingdom that thou mightest be ready for such a time as this?"
Whereupon Esther, after fasting three days with her servants, presented herself the third day, royally dressed before the king with the request that he would join her in a feast, together with Aman. This the king promised to do. In the course of the banquet the queen began her complaint to the king: "We are given up, I and my people, to be destroyed, to be slain and to perish."
And Assuerus learning that Esther was a Jewess and that Mardochai was her uncle, "answered and said: 'Who is this, and of what power that he should do these things'. And Esther said: "It is this Aman that is our adversary and most wicked enemy." Upon this, the king enraged against his minister rose up and commanded that Aman should be hanged on the gibet that he had prepared for Mardochai, this sentence being carried out immediately, while the edict against the Jews was revoked. Esther had saved her people and on the same day Mardochai became the king's favourite minister and "going forth from the palace, and from the king's presence, shone in royal apparel: to wit of violet and sky colour, wearing a golden crown on his head, and clothed with a cloak of silk and purple", and with the king's ring on his finger.
This bible narrative shows how God watched over His people and preserved them, for the sake of the promised Messias. "I am the salvation of the people", saith the Lord, "in whatever tribulation they shall cry to me, I will hear them; and I will be their Lord forever" (Introit). "If I walk in the midst of tribulation, Thou wilt quicken me, O Lord; and Thou wilt stretch forth Thy hand against the wrath of my enemies; and Thy right hand shall save me" (Offertory). The Communion psalm speaks of the just man weighed down by misfortune whom God forsakes not, while that of the Gradual shows, how in answer to the cry of those who hope in Him God causes the sinner to fall into his own net and again, that of the Alleluia sings of all the marvels which God has wrought for the deliverance of His people.
All this is a type of what God is constantly doing for His Church and of what He will do in a special way at the end of time. Aman, whom the king condemned at Esther's banquet, is like the man spoken of in the Gospel who came to the wedding feast and was cast by the king's command into exterior darkness because he had not on a wedding garment, that is because he had not "put on the new man who according to God is created in justice and holiness and truth", and for not having put away lying and those feelings of anger against his neighbour which he cherished in his heart (Epistle).
Thus will almighty God treat all those who, while belonging to the body of the Church by their faith, are found within the wedding-chamber without being clothed, as St. Augustine puts it, with the robe of charity. Since they are not quickened by sanctifying grace they have no share in the soul of the mystical body of Christ. "Wherefore," says St. Paul, "putting away lying speak the truth every one with his neighbour, for we are members one of another... Let not the sun go down upon your anger" (Epistle). Those who do not fulfil this command will be cast by the supreme judge into the torments of hell, like the Jews who refused the invitation to the wedding feast of the king's son, that is of Jesus Christ with the Church, His bride (2nd Nocturn), and who slew the prophets and apostles who were sent to bear the invitation.
Assuerus, in his anger, caused Aman to be hanged, so also the king in the Gospel "was angry; and sending he destroyed those murderers and burnt their city". More than a million Jews perished at the time of the siege of Jerusalem by Titus, the Roman general when the city was destroyed, and the Temple burned.
The faithless Aman was replaced by Mardochai; the wedding guests by those whom the king's servants found in the highways; the Jews by the Gentiles. To these last, at Pentecost, the apostles turned, filled with the Holy Ghost. And at the last Judgment, foretold on these last Sundays of the cycle, these rewards and punishments will be final. The elect will take part in the eternal marriage feast, while the damned will be cast into exterior darkness, into the avenging flames, where there will be weeping and gnashing o teeth.
We want to thank the Friends of Our Lady of Fatima for expediting these resources of the Propers. Sources: Saint Andrew Daily Missal and the Marian Missal , 1945
Missa "Salus pópuli Ego sum"
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INTROIT: Eccles. 38: 18