What’s in That Prayer? The Collect for Tenth Sunday after Pentecost

Here is the oration that the Church prays in the Mass and Office for the tenth Sunday after Pentecost:

Deus, qui omnipoténtiam tuam parcéndo máxime et miserándo maniféstas: multíplica super nos misericórdiam tuam; ut, ad tua promíssa curréntes, cœléstium bonórum fácias esse consórtes.

Here is my translation:

O God, who dost manifest Thy omnipotence chiefly by sparing and having mercy: multiply over us Thy mercy; that, with us hastening to Thy promises, Thou mayest make us to be partakers of heavenly goods.

Here is the translation from the Divinum Officium site:

O God, You manifest Your power, particularly in forbearance and pity, show us Your mercy again and again, so that hastening toward Your promises we may become partakers of the blessings of heaven.

Humility is the big lesson of today’s Holy Mass. Saint Paul instructs the Corinthians and us (1 Cor. 12:2-11) that we cannot even say “Jesus is Lord” without the help of the Holy Ghost. To profess the faith, or to act by any supernatural virtue, is impossible without the actual grace of God prompting us so to do.

Saint Luke’s Gospel reading (Luke 18:9-14) is the parable of the Pharisee and the publican. The former uttered a prayer of hubristic self-congratulation in the Temple, while the latter humbly confessed his misery to God. Jesus was categorical in His judgment: The latter went home justified (in the state of grace); the former not so.

The help of the Holy Ghost is given to us so that we may recognize our misery and thus cry out for and receive God’s mercy. It bears repeating: The word “mercy” comes from “misery,” with the word “heart” making its way into the etymology, too. In Latin, misery (or wretchedness) is miseria. To that we add the word for heart, cor, and we get misericordia, mercy. Mercy is having a heart for someone else’s misery. 

But what if we fail to recognize our wretchedness, our misery? Christ’s first Vicar explains what happens in that scenario: “God resisteth the proud, but to the humble he giveth grace” (I Pet. 5:5; cf. James 4:6). This part of the divine economy would explain why it is that the proud Pharisee was dead in his soul while the publican was spiritually alive. 

Against this backdrop, our collect encourages us to hasten (or “run”) to God’s promises — including that promise to give grace to the humble — so that we may receive mercy, for truly God’s omnipotence is most clearly shown in forbearing and having mercy. This last assertion is no pious exaggeration, by the way. According to Saint Thomas, who cites Saint Augustine as his authority, “for a just man to be made from a sinner, is greater than to create heaven and earth.” (I IIae, Q113, A 9).