treasure in earthly vessels:
wisdom from the catholic tradition v
God said to saint Catherine: The just soul, for who finishes life in the affection of charity and the bonds of love, cannot increase in virtue, her time having come to an end, but she can always love with the affection with which she comes to me, and the measure that is measured to her (Lk 6:38). She always desires me, and loves me, and her desire is not in vain—being hungry, she is satisfied, and being satisfied, she is still hungry, but the tediousness of satiety and the pain of hunger are far from her. In love, the blessed souls rejoice in my eternal vision, participating in that good that I have in myself, everyone according to their measure, that is, so say, the measure of love with which they have come to me is measured out to them.
Because they have lived in love of me and of their neighbor, they are united together in love… They rejoice and exult, participating in each other’s good with the affection of love, besides the universal good that they enjoy all together. And the saints rejoice and exult with the angels with whom they are placed… They have a special participation with those whom they closely loved with particular affection in the world. With this affection they grew in grace and increased virtue; each one was the occasion for the other to manifest the glory and praise of my name… In everlasting life, they have not lost their love, but keep it still. The joy they have at the happiness of others increases their own happiness with more abundance.
If each of us could clearly see the truth of our condition in God’s sight, it would be our duty to depart neither upwards nor downwards from that level, but to conform to the truth in all things. God’s judgment, however, is now in darkness and his word is hidden from us… So, it is certainly the better thing, the safer thing, to follow the advice of him who is truth, and choose for ourselves the last place. Afterwards we may be promoted from there with honor… If you pass through a low doorway you suffer no hurt however much you bend, but if you raise your head higher than the doorway, even by a finger’s breadth, you will dash it against the lintel and injure yourself. So also a man has no need to fear any humiliation, but he should quake with fear before rashly yielding to even the least degree of self-exaltation.
So then, beware of comparing yourself with your betters or your inferiors, with a particular few or with even one. For how do you know but that this one person, whom you perhaps regard as the vilest and most wretched of all, whose life you recoil from and spurn as more befouled and wicked, not merely than yours, for you trust you are a sober-living man and just and religious, but even than all other wicked men; how do you know, I say, but that in time to come, with the aid of the right hand of the Most High, he will not surpass both you and them if he has not done so already in God’s sight? That is why God wished us to choose neither a middle seat nor the second to the last, nor even one of the lowest rank; but he said, “Sit down in the lowest place,” Thus you will not dare to compare yourself, still less to prefer yourself, to anyone.
Christ’s cross supports the human race: upon this column is his house built. When I speak of the cross I’m not thinking about its wood but about the Passion. This cross is to be found as much in Britain as in India, and in the entire world… Happy are they who bear the cross and resurrection in their hearts and the place of Christ’s birth and place of ascension too. Happy are they who possess Bethlehem in their hearts and in whose heart Christ is born each day… Happy are they in whose heart Christ rises to life each day because each day they do penance for their sins, even the lightest. Happy are they who ascend each day from the Mount of Olives to the Kingdom of heaven where the olives are fat ones and the light of Christ is born… It is not because we have been to Jerusalem but because we have lived a good life in Jerusalem that we should pride ourselves. The city we are to seek is not that which killed the prophets and shed the blood of Christ but that which a stream gladdens in its flood (Ps 45,5), which, built on a mountain top, cannot be hidden (Mt 5,12), which the apostle Paul declares to be mother of the saints and in which he rejoices to dwell with the just (cf. Gal 4,26-27).
Our Lord Jesus Christ established guides and teachers for the whole world as well as “administrators of the mysteries of God.” (1 Cor 4:1) He commanded them to shine and to give light like torches not only in the land of the Jews…, but everywhere under the sun, for people living on the whole earth. Thus the word of Saint Paul is true: “One does not take this honor on his own initiative, but only when called by God.” (Heb 5:4)…
If he believed that he had to send his disciples just as the Father had sent him (Jn 20:21), it was necessary for those who were called to imitate him to discover for what task the Father had sent his Son. Thus he explained to us in various ways the nature of his own mission. On one occasion he said: “I have not come to invite the self-righteous to a change of heart, but sinners.” (Lk 5:32) And again: “it is not to do my own will that I have come down from heaven, but to do the will of him who sent me.” (Jn 6:38) And another time: “God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him.” (Jn 3:17)
He summed up the apostles’ function in a few words when he said that he sent them just as the Father had sent him. By this they would know that they had the responsibility to call the sinners to conversion, to care for the sick, both physically and spiritually; in their function as administrators, never to seek to do their own will, but the will of him who sent them; and finally, to save the world to the extent to which it would accept the Lord’s teachings.
With regard to the Gospel’s words: “A man took it and sowed it in his garden”, who do you think is this man who sowed the seed he had received like a mustard seed in his garden plot? I myself think it is he of whom the Gospel says: “Now there was a man named Joseph, a member of the council, from Arimathea”… He went to Pilate. He asked permission to take down the Lord’s body and bury it. When permission was granted he placed it in the tomb he had prepared in his garden (cf. Lk 23,50-53). That is why Scripture says: “A man took it and buried it in his garden”. In Joseph’s garden there mingled the scent of many different flowers but such a seed as this had never yet been placed there. The spiritual garden of his soul was embalmed with the scent of his virtue but Christ’s embalmed body had not yet occupied its place. When he buried the Savior in the memorial place of his garden, he received him even more deeply into the crevice of his heart.
It is obvious that a week comprises seven days: God gave us six of them on which to work and one on which to pray, take our rest and be freed from our sins… I am going to expound to you the reasons for which our tradition of keeping Sundays and abstaining from work has been transmitted to us. When the Lord entrusted the sacrament to his disciples: “He took bread, said the blessing, broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying: ‘Take, eat: this is my body, broken for you for the remission of sins.’ In the same way, he gave them the cup, saying: ‘Drink from it all of you: this is my blood, the blood of the New Covenant, shed for you and for many for the remission of sins. Do this in remembrance of me’” (Mt 26,26f.; 1Cor 11,24).
Thus the holy day of Sunday is that on which we make a memorial of the Lord. That is why it is called “the Lord’s day”. And it is, as it were, the lord of days. In fact, before the Passion of the Lord, it was not called “the Lord’s day” but “the first day”. It was on this day that the Lord established a foundation for the resurrection, that is to say he carried out the work of creation; on this day he gave the world the firstfruits of the resurrection; on this day, as we have said, he ordained the celebration of the holy mysteries. Thus this day has become a beginning for us of every grace: the beginning of the creation of the world, the beginning of the resurrection, the beginning of the week. This day, which encloses within itself three beginnings, prefigures the primacy of the Holy Trinity.
But when the Lord who spoke to Moses came to fulfill his own law, he likewise gave a clear explanation to his disciples, laying bare the meaning of what had previously been said in a figure when he said: “If anyone wants to be a follower of mine “ (Lk 9,23) and not “If any man will go before me.” And to the one asking about eternal life he proposes the same thing, for he says: “Come, follow me” (Lk 18,22). Now, he who follows sees the back. So Moses, who eagerly seeks to behold God, is now taught how he can behold Him: to follow God wherever he might lead is to behold God… Someone who does not know the way cannot complete his journey safely in any other way than by following behind his guide. He who leads, then, by his guidance shows the way to the one following. He who follows will not turn aside from the right way if he always keeps the back of his leader in view. For he who moves to one side or brings himself to face his guide assumes another direction for himself than the one his guide shows him. Therefore God says to the one who is led: “My face is not to be seen”, that is, “Do not face your guide”. If he does so, his course will certainly be in the opposite direction… You see how it is so great a thing to learn how to follow God… No longer does any offense which comes about through evil withstand the one who thus follows him.
Alas for me! My conscience accuses me, and Truth does not excuse me so that he can say: “For he knew not what he did.” By virtue of the price of your precious blood, therefore, forgive me all my sins, O Lord, whether committed knowingly or not… Lord, truly I have sinned by my own will and much, after I had received the knowledge of the truth, and I have offered an affront to the Spirit of grace. After receiving from him the free remission of my sins in baptism, after receiving the knowledge of the truth, I have returned to those sins “like a dog to his vomit” (2Pt 2,22; Prv 26,11).
But have I spurned you also, Son of God? I have spurned you, if I have denied you, although I should not think that Peter trod you underfoot, for all that he came to deny you. He loved you most ardently even while declaring once, twice, and even thrice that he did not know you… Satan has sought out my faith sometimes, to sift it as wheat; but your prayer has reached even to me, so that my faith in you should never fail (Lk 22, 31-32)… You know that my mind has always wanted to abide in your faith; preserve it in me unto the end.
I have always believed in you… I have always loved you, even when I sinned against you. I shall be sorry for my sin until I die; but I shall never repent of having loved you unless it be because I did not love you as I ought.
We give you thanks, Father, Faithful and full of compassion, For giving us Jesus your Son, Our Lord and brother. His love has been made known To the poor and the sick, to little ones and to sinners. He has not turned aside from any distress. His life and message are our proof That you are a God who cares for us As a father cares for his children. And so we praise and glorify you, We celebrate your goodness and faithfulness And in the company of all the angels and saints We sing the hymn of your glory… May we who are about to receive his body and blood be strengthened and renewed in his image… Grant to all the members of your Church That they may know how to read the signs of the times And grow in fidelity to the Gospel. Make us attentive to all That, in charity, we may share Their sorrows and sufferings, Their hopes and their joys And may show them the way of salvation.
Do you think that I have come to bring peace on earth? In other words: “Do not imagine that I have come to offer people a sensual, worldly, and unruly peace that will enable them to be united in their vices and achieve earthly prosperity. No, I tell you, I have not come to offer that kind of peace, but rather division – a good, healthy kind of division, physical as well as spiritual. Love for God and desire for inner peace will set those who believe in me at odds with wicked men and women, and make them part company with those who would turn them from their course of spiritual progress and from the purity of divine love, or who attempt to hinder them.”
Good, interior, spiritual peace consists in the repose of the mind in God, and in a rightly ordered harmony. To bestow this peace was the chief reason for Christ’s coming. This inner peace flows from love. It is an unassailable joy of the mind in God, and it is called peace of heart. It is the beginning and a kind of foretaste of the peace of the saints in heaven – the peace of eternity.
Keep away from every bad man, my son, and from all his kind. Never give way to anger, for anger leads to homicide. Likewise refrain from fanaticism, quarrelling, and hot-temperedness, for these too can breed homicide. Beware of lust, my son, for lust leads to fornication. Likewise refrain from unclean talk and the roving eye, for these too can breed adultery… Have nothing to do with witchcraft, astrology, or magic; do not even consent to be a witness of such practices, for they too can all breed idolatry. Tell no lies, my son, for lying leads to theft. Likewise do not be over-anxious to be rich or to be admired, for these too can breed thievishness. Do not be a grumbler, my son, for this leads to blasphemy. Likewise do not be too opinionated, and do not harbor thought of wickedness, for these too can breed blasphemy. Learn to be meek, for “the meek are to inherit the earth” (Mt 5,5). School yourself to forbearance, compassion, guilelessness, calmness, and goodness; and never forget to respect the teaching you have had (cf. Is 66,2). Do not parade your own merits, or allow yourself to behave presumptuously, and do not make a point of associating with persons of eminence, but choose the companionship of honest and humble folk. Accept as good whatever experience comes your way, in the knowledge that nothing can happen without God.
It is right and holy, brethren, to obey God rather than to follow those who, through pride and sedition, have become agitators… Let us cleave to those who cultivate peace with godliness, and not to those who hypocritically profess to desire it. For Scripture says in a certain place: “This people honors me with their lips alone though their hearts are far from me” (Is 29,13; Mk 7,6). And again: “They bless with their mouths but inwardly they curse” (Ps 61,5). And again it says: “They flattered him with their mouths and lied to him with their tongues though their hearts were not steadfast towards him, nor were they faithful to his covenant” (Ps 77,36)… For Christ belongs to those who are humble-minded, and not to those who exalt themselves over his flock. Our Lord Jesus Christ, the sceptre of the majesty of God, did not come in the pomp of pride or arrogance – although he might have done so – but in a lowly condition, as the Holy Spirit declared regarding him: “Lord, who has believed our report? To whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? We have declared our message in his presence. He is, as it were, a child, and like a shoot from the parched earth; There was in him no stately bearing to make us look at him, no appearance that would attract us to him” (Is 53,1-3)… Now you see, beloved, what is the example given to us; for if the Lord thus humbled himself, what shall we do who have, through him, come under the yoke of His grace?
Saint Thomas Aquinas from On the Apostles' Creed (Collationes in Symbolum apostolorum, art. 4 § 64.70.72-76)
What need was there that the Son of God should suffer for us? There was great need: and indeed it can be assigned to two reasons. The first is that it was a remedy against sin, and the second is for an example of what we should do… For the Passion of Christ can bring about a complete reformation of our lives… If you seek an example of charity, then “no one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (Jn 15,13)… If you seek an example of patience, you will find it in its highest degree on the cross… Christ suffered greatly upon the cross and with all patience, because “when he was insulted, he returned no insult” (1Pt 2,23), “like a lamb led to the slaughter, he opened not his mouth” (Is 53,7)… “Let us persevere in running the race that lies before us while keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus, the leader and perfecter of faith. For the sake of the joy that lay before him he endured the cross, despising its shame” (Heb 12,1-2).
If you seek an example of humility, look upon him who is crucified; although he was God, he chose to be judged by Pontius Pilate and put to death… If you seek an example of obedience, imitate him who was obedient to the Father “even to death” (Phil 2,8). “For just as through the disobedience of one person, Adam, the many were made sinners, so through the obedience of one the many will be made righteous” (Rom 5,19)… If you seek an example of contempt for earthly things, imitate him who is “King of kings and Lord of lords” (1Tm 6,15), “in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Col 2,3). On the cross he was stripped naked, ridiculed, spat upon, bruised, crowned with thorns, given to drink of vinegar and gall.
“What shall I do?” There was a ready response to this: “I will satisfy hungry souls, open up my barns, call in everyone in need… I will speak out words of generosity: all you who are short of bread, come to me; each according to your needs, take your share of God’s gifts flowing like a public fountain”. Yet you, you foolish rich man, are very far from doing this! And why? Jealous of seeing others enjoy their wealth you give yourself up to wretched calculations: you are not anxious about how to distribute to each according to their need but how to take everything and deprive everyone else of the profit they might have drawn from it…
So then, my brethren, take care you don’t experience the same fate as that man! If Scripture gives us this example it is so that we can avoid behaving in the same way. Imitate the earth: bear fruit and don’t prove yourself worse than it, soulless as it is. It yields crops, not for its own pleasure but to serve you. To the contrary, all the fruit of the kindnesses you show will be gathered for yourself since the graces that arise from good works return to those who bestow them. You have given to the hungry and what you gave remains with you and even comes back to you with increase. As the grain of wheat that fell into the earth brings profit to the sower so the bread given to the hungry will bring you superabundant profit later on. May the end of all your labours be for you the commencement of your sowing in heaven.
Do you believe in Christ ? Do the works of Christ so that your faith may live; love will animate your faith, deed will reveal it… If you say you abide in Christ you ought to walk as he walked. But if you seek your own glory, envy the successful, slander the absent, take revenge on those who injure you, this Christ did not do. You profess to know God, yet reject him by your deeds… “Such a one honors me with his lips, but his heart is far from me” (Is 29,13; Mt 15,8)… You see then that right faith will not make a man righteous unless it is enlivened by love. Someone who has no love has no means of loving the Bride, Christ’s Church. But on the other hand, deeds, however righteous, cannot make the heart righteous without faith. Who would call a person righteous who does not please God? But “without faith it is impossible to please God” (Heb 11,6). And God cannot please the one who is not pleasing to him; for if God is pleasing to someone, that person cannot displease God. Furthermore, if God is not pleasing to that person, neither is his Bride, the Church. How then can he be righteous who loves neither God nor God’s Church, to whom is said: “The righteous love you”? (Sg 1,3 Vg.). If therefore neither faith without good works nor good works without faith suffice for a man’s righteousness, we, my brothers, who believe in Christ, should strive to ensure that our behavior and desires are righteous. Let us raise up both our hearts and hands to God, that our whole being may be righteous, our righteous faith being revealed in our righteous actions. So we shall be lovers of the Bride, the Church, and loved by the Bridegroom Jesus Christ our Lord, who is God, blessed for ever.
When the Lord tells us in the gospel that anyone who wants to be his follower must renounce himself, the injunction seems harsh; we think he is imposing a burden on us. But an order is no burden when it is given by one who helps in carrying it out. To what place are we to follow Christ if not where he has already gone? We know that he has risen and ascended into heaven: there, then, we must follow him. There is no cause for despair — by ourselves we can do nothing but we have Christ’s promise. Heaven was beyond our reach before our Head ascended there (Col 1,18), but now, if we are his members, why should we despair of arriving there ourselves? Is there any reason? True, many fears and afflictions confront us in this world; but if we follow Christ, we shall reach a place of perfect happiness, perfect peace, and everlasting freedom from fear. Yet let me warn anyone bent on following Christ to listen to Saint John the Apostle: “One who claims to abide in Christ ought to walk as he walked” (1Jn 2,6). Would you follow Christ? Then be humble as he was humble; do not scorn his lowliness if you want to reach his exaltation.
Our Lord Jesus Christ is on the Cross today and we are celebrating this so that you might realize that the cross is indeed a spiritual celebration. In former times the cross represented a sentence, now it has become an object of honor. Formerly a symbol of punishment, it is now the principle of our salvation. For it is the source of innumerable blessings for us: it has freed us from error so as to be illumined in the darkness and reconciled with God. We had become his enemies and foreigners from far away and it has given us his friendship and brought us close to him. It is for us the destruction of enmity, the promise of peace, the treasure house of a thousand blessings. Thanks to the Cross we will no longer go astray in the desert for we know the right path. We will no longer live outside the royal palace for we have found the door. We do not fear the flaming darts of the devil for we have found the spring. Thanks to it we are no longer living in widowhood since we have found our Spouse again. We have no fear of the wolf for we have the good shepherd. Thanks to the Cross we do not dread the usurper since we sit at the King’s side. This is why we rejoice as we celebrate the memory of the Cross. Saint Paul himself invites us to the feast in honor of the Cross: “let us celebrate the feast, then, he says, not with the old yeast, the yeast of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth” (1Cor 5,8). And he gave us the reason for this when he said: “For our paschal lamb, Christ, has been sacrificed” (1Cor 5,7).
The glorious Virgin paid our ransom as a courageous woman who loved with the compassionate love of Christ. In Saint John it is said: “When a woman is in labor she is sad that her time has come.” (Jn 16:21) The Blessed Virgin did not feel the pain that precedes childbirth because she did not conceive following the sin of Eve, against whom the curse was spoken. She felt her pain later: she gave birth under the cross. Other women know bodily pain, she felt that of the heart. Others suffer from physical change; she from compassion and love.
The Blessed Virgin paid our ransom as a courageous woman who loved the world and above all the christian people with merciful love. “Can a mother forget her infant or be without tenderness for the child of her womb?” (Isa 49:15) This can make us understand that the entire Christian people has come forth from the womb of the glorious Virgin. What a loving Mother we have! Let us take our Mother as our model and let us follow her in her love. She had compassion for souls to such an extent that she counted all material loss and every physical suffering as nothing. “(We) have been purchased … at a great price.” (1 Cor 6:20)
How long are we going to put off obeying Christ, who calls us into his heavenly Kingdom? Aren’t we going to purify ourselves? Won’t we resolve to forsake our customary way of life to follow the Gospel radically?… We claim to want the Kingdom of God yet without bothering to concern ourselves with the means of obtaining it.
What is more, in the conceitedness of our souls, without taking the least trouble to obey the Lord’s commandments, we think ourselves worthy to receive the same reward as those who have resisted sin to the death! But how could anyone sit and sleep at home at the time of sowing and then gather in sheaves by the armful at harvest? Who has ever brought in the grapes without having planted and tended the vine? Fruit is for those who have toiled; rewards and crowns for those who have conquered. Has anyone ever crowned an athlete who did not even strip to fight his opponent? And yet, not only must we win but we must also “fight according to the rules”, as the apostle Paul says, that is to say according to the commandments we have been given…
God is good; but he is also just…: “The Lord loves justice and right” (Ps 32,5); that is why “Of kindness and judgement I will sing” (Ps 100,1)… See how wisely the Lord exercises kindness. He is not gracious without consideration, nor does he judge without mercy, for “Gracious is the Lord and just” (Ps 115,5). So don’t underestimate God: his love for men should not become a pretext for negligence on our part.
The fact of being a man or a woman involves no limitation here, just as the salvific and sanctifying action of the Spirit in man is in no way limited by the fact that one is a Jew or a Greek, slave or free, according to the well-known words of Saint Paul: “For you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal 3:28).
This unity does not cancel out diversity. The Holy Spirit, who brings about this unity in the supernatural order of sanctifying grace, contributes in equal measure to the fact that “your sons will prophesy”(Jl 3,1) and that “your daughters will prophesy”. “To prophesy” means to express by one’s words and one’s life “the mighty works of God” (Acts 2: 11), preserving the truth and originality of each person, whether woman or man. Gospel “equality”, the “equality” of women and men in regard to the “mighty works of God” – manifested so clearly in the words and deeds of Jesus of Nazareth – constitutes the most obvious basis for the dignity and vocation of women in the Church and in the world. Every vocation has a profoundly personal and prophetic meaning. In “vocation” understood in this way, what is personally feminine reaches a new dimension: the dimension of the “mighty works of God”, of which the woman becomes the living subject and an irreplaceable witness.
“Put out into deep water,” that is to say, into the high seas of debate. Is there any depth that is comparable to the abyss of “the riches and the wisdom and the knowledge” of the Son God, (Rom 11:33), to the proclamation of his divine filiation? … The Church is led by Peter to the high seas of the testimony, so as to contemplate the risen Son of God and the Holy Spirit who is poured forth.
What are those nets of the apostles, which Christ orders them to lower? Are they not the linking of words, the twists in discourse, the depth of arguments, which don’t allow those whom they have caught to escape? This fishing tackle of the apostles doesn’t make the fish they have caught perish; rather, it preserves them, drawing them out of the abyss towards the light, leading them from the lowest depths to the heights…
“Master,” Peter said, “we have been hard at it all night long and have caught nothing; but if you say so, I will lower the nets.” I too, Lord, know that it is night for me when you do not command me. I have not yet converted anyone through my words; it is still night. I spoke on the day of Epiphany: I lowered the net, but I haven’t caught anything yet. I lowered the net during the day. I am waiting for you to give me the order. Upon your word, I will lower it again. Self-confidence is empty, but humility is fertile. Those who had not caught anything until then, have now, at the Lord’s voice, caught an enormous catch of fish.
‘Son of man, I have appointed you as watchman to the house of Israel.’ Note that Ezekiel, whom the Lord sent to preach his word, is described as a watchman. Now a watchman always takes up his position on the heights so that he can see from a distance whatever approaches. Likewise whoever is appointed watchman to a people should live a life on the heights so that he can help them by taking a wide survey.
Lead me away, meanwhile, my refuge and my strength, into the heart of the desert as once you led your servant Moses; lead me where the bush burns, yet is not burnt up, where the holy soul that… is all aflame with the I fullness of the fire of your Holy Spirit, and, burning like the seraphim, is not consumed but cleansed… The soul attains to the holy place where none may stand or take another step, except he be bare-footed—having loosed the shoe-strings of all fleshly hindrances… This is the place where He Who Is, who cannot be seen as he is, is notwithstanding heard to say, “I Am Who Am,” the place where, for the time, the soul must cover her face so that she does not see the face of God, and yet in humble obedience must use her ears to hear what the Lord God will say concerning her. Hide me then in the day of evil, O Lord, in the secret place of your tabernacle, in the hidden recesses of your face, “far from the strife of tongues” (Ps 26,5; 30,21); for your yoke is easy and the burden you have laid on me is light (Mt 11,30). And when you show me the difference between your service and the service of the world, gently and tenderly you ask me if it is not better to serve you, the living God, than to serve strange gods (Cf 2 Chron 12,8). And I, for my part, adore the hand that lays the load, I kiss the yoke, and I embrace the burden; and it is very sweet to me to sweat beneath its weight. For masters other than you have long possessed me… I acknowledge your yoke, and your light burden that lifts me up and does not crush me down.
“At Nazareth, on the Sabbath day, Jesus stood up to read. Unrolling the scroll he found the passage in Isaiah where it is written: ‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me; he has anointed me’” (Is 61,1). It was not simply by chance but by an intervention of Divine Providence that Jesus unrolled this particular book and found the text of the chapter prophesying about himself. If it is written: “Not a sparrow falls into the snare without your Father’s will, the hairs of your head… are all numbered” (cf. Mt 10,29-30), could it be the result of a chance that the choice of the book of Isaiah… expressed the mystery of Christ?… Indeed, this text reminds Christ… For Jesus says: He has sent me to bring Good News to the poor”. Now “the poor” refer to the pagans. These were indeed poor, possessing absolutely nothing: neither God, nor the Law, nor prophets, nor righteousness, nor any other virtue. It was for this reason that God sent him as a messenger to the poor, to bring glad tidings, proclaim liberty to captives”… Is there anyone more oppressed and more wounded than man before he has been set free and healed by Jesus?… …“Rolling up the scroll after he had read this, Jesus handed it to the attendant and sat down, and the eyes of all in the synagogue looked intently at him.” At this very moment, if you so desire… in our own congregation, you can gaze intently at the Lord. If you turn your gaze from the depths of your heart towards contemplation of Wisdom. Truth and the only-begotten Son of the God, then you are gazing intently at Jesus. Oh how blessed the gathering of which Scripture itself declares that “their eyes were fixed on him intently”! How I should love this congregation to receive a similar testimony! May everybody here, catechumens and faithful, women, men and children have… the eys of their hearts occupied in gazing at Jesus! When you gaze at him his light will make your faces more radiant and you will be able to say: “The light of your face, O Lord, has set its seal upon us” (Ps 4,7 LXX).
“God’s word is living and effective, sharper than any two-edged sword.” (Heb 4:12)… It acts in the creation of the world, in the world’s running and in its redemption. For what is more effective and stronger? “Who can tell the mighty deeds of the Lord, or proclaim all his praises?” (Ps 106:2)
The Word’s effectiveness manifests itself in its works; it also manifests itself in preaching. The Word does not return to God without having produced its effect, but all to whom it is sent benefit from it (Isa 55:11). It is “effective and sharper than any two-edged sword” when it is received with faith and love. What is impossible to the person who believes, what is difficult to the person who loves? When the words of God ring out, they pierce the believer’s heart like “sharp arrows of a warrior.” (Ps 120:4) They enter the heart like spears and settle in its most intimate depths. Yes, this Word is sharper than a two-edged sword, for it is more incisive than any other strength or power, more subtle than every subtlety of the human genius, sharper than every learned perception by the human word.
The Evangelist John tells us that when Jesus sees Nathaniel approaching, he exclaims: “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no guile!” (Jn 1,47). This is praise reminiscent of the text of a Psalm: “Blessed is the man… in whose spirit there is no deceit” (Ps 32,2), but provokes the curiosity of Nathaniel who answers in amazement: “How do you know me?”. Jesus’ reply cannot immediately be understood. He says: “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you”. We do not know what had happened under this fig tree. It is obvious that it had to do with a decisive moment in Nathaniel’s life. His heart is moved by Jesus’ words, he feels understood and he understands: “This man knows everything about me, he knows and is familiar with the road of life; I can truly trust this man”. And so he answers with a clear and beautiful confession of faith: “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!”
In this confession is conveyed a first important step in the journey of attachment to Jesus. Nathaniel’s words shed light on a twofold, complementary aspect of Jesus’ identity: he is recognized both in his special relationship with God the Father, of whom he is the Only-begotten Son, and in his relationship with the People of Israel, of whom he is the declared King, precisely the description of the awaited Messiah. We must never lose sight of either of these two elements because if we only proclaim Jesus’ heavenly dimension, we risk making him an ethereal and evanescent being; and if, on the contrary, we recognize only his concrete place in history, we end by neglecting the divine dimension that properly qualifies him.
O my God, how wonderful is your love for us! You are infinitely worthy of being loved, praised and glorified! We are without either heart or spirit sufficient to this but your wisdom and goodness have given us the means to do so. For you have given us your Son’s Spirit and heart to become our own spirit and heart as you promised us through your prophet: “I will give you a new heart and place a new spirit within you” (Ez 36,26). And that we might know what this new heart and new spirit are, you added: “I will put my spirit,” namely my heart, “within you” (v.27). Only the Spirit and heart of a God could be worthy of loving and praising God, able to bless and love him according to his measure. That is why you have given us your heart, the heart of Jesus, your Son, as well as the hearts of his divine mother and all the saints and angels who, together, make a single heart just as the head and members make a single body (Eph 4,16)… So, my brothers, set aside your own heart, your own spirit, your own will, your own self-esteem. Give yourselves to Jesus so that you can enter into the depths of his heart, containing that of his mother and all the saints, and lose yourselves in that abyss of love, humility and patience. If you love your neighbour and have an act of charity to perform, love him and act towards him as you ought to do from within the heart of Jesus. If it is a case of humbling yourselves, let it be with the humility of that heart. If you should praise, adore and give thanks to God, let it be in union with the adoration, praise and thanksgiving bestowed on us through that great heart… Whatever you do, do all things in the spirit of this heart, renouncing your own and giving yourselves to Jesus so that you may act in the Spirit that animates his heart.
There are two ways of teaching and of power, the one of light and the other of darkness; and there is a great difference between the two ways… But the way of the Black One is crooked and full of a curse. For it is a way of eternal death with punishment wherein are the things that destroy men’s souls–idolatry, boldness, exhalation of power, hypocrisy, doubleness of heart, adultery, murder, plundering, pride, transgression, treachery, malice…, covetousness, absence of the fear of God; persecutors of good men, hating the truth…, paying no heed to the widow and the orphan…, not pitying the poor man…, oppressing him that is afflicted…
It is good therefore to learn the ordinances of the Lord, as many as have been written above, and to walk in them. For he that does these things shall be glorified in the kingdom of God; whereas he that chooses their opposites shall perish together with his works. For this cause is the resurrection, for this the recompense. I entreat you: keep amongst you those to whom you may do good. Fail not.
After you are satisfied, give thanks thus: “We give you thanks, Holy Father, for your holy name, which you have made dwell in our hearts, and for knowledge and faith and immortality, which you have made known to us through Jesus your servant; glory to you forever. Amen!… Above all we thank you that you are mighty; glory to you forever. Amen! Remember, Lord, your church, to save it from all evil and to make it perfect in your love, and gather it together in its holiness from the four winds, into your kingdom which you have pre-pared for it. For the power and the glory are yours forever. Amen! Let your favour come and this world pass away. Hosanna to the God of David! If anyone is holy, let him come; if anyone is not, let him repent. “Lord, come quickly! Amen” (Rv 22,20)… “Be watchful” for your life; “your lamps must not go out,” and you must not be unprepared, but be ready, for “you do not know the hour when our Lord is coming” (Lk 12,35; Mt 24,42f.). Gather together often to seek the things that benefit your souls, for the whole time of your faith will not profit you unless you are found perfect at the last.
“The five foolish ones took no oil with them, but the wise ones took oil in their flasks with their lamps.” The brightness of glory is signified by the oil, and the small containers are our hearts, in which we carry all that we think. The wise virgins have oil in their flasks, because they keep the brightness of glory within their consciences. So Paul testified when he said: “Our glory is this, the witness of our conscience” (2Cor 1,12). But the five foolish virgins take no oil with them, because when they seek glory from the mouths of their neighbors they do not have it within their consciences… “At midnight a cry arose: ‘See, the bridegroom is coming; go forth to meet him’”… Then all the virgins arise… The lamps of the foolish virgins go out, because their works, which appeared outwardly evident to people at the judge’s coming, are hidden within; and they find no recompense from God, because they have received from men the praises which they loved.
The Jordan, filled with fear at thy coming in the flesh, was driven back trembling, and John, fulfilling the ministry of the Spirit, drew back in awe. The ranks of angels stood amazed, beholding thee in the streams baptized in the flesh. And all those in darkness were filled with light, singing the praise of thee who art made manifest and givest light to all.
The memory of the just is praised, but thou art well please, O Forerunner, with the testimony of the Lord. For thou hast verily been shown forth as more honoured than the prophets since thou wast counted worthy to baptize in the stream him whom they foretold. Therefore, having mightily contended and suffered for the truth, with joy thou hast preached also to those in hell the good tidings of God made manifest in the flesh, who takes away the sin of the world (Jn 1,29) and grants us great mercy.
The glorious martyrdom of the Forerunner has been a step in the work of salvation since even in the dwelling place of the dead he announced the coming of the Savior. Let Herodias now groan, she who is guilty of the impious murder, for it was neither God’s law nor life eternal that she loved but the illusions of a moment.
The interior life is primordial… The active life is the consequence of the interior life and has no value unless it depends upon it. We should like to do everything to the best of our ability, perfectly. But if it isn’t linked to our interior life it is to no purpose. All the value of our life and activity stems from our interior life, the life of love for God and the Virgin Mary, the Immaculate: not in theories or sweetness but in the practice of a love that consists in the union of our will with the will of the Immaculate Virgin. Above and over all we must deepen this interior life. If it is truly a case of spiritual life then supernatural means are required. Prayer, prayer, and prayer alone is what is needed to undertake the interior life and its flowering. Interior recollection is necessary. Let us not be anxious about unnecessary things but gently, peacefully, let us try to preserve recollection of spirit and be attentive to God’s grace. That is why silence helps us.
Saint John Chrysostom from Homily for Good Friday ``The Cross and the criminal`` (Migne 2000, p. 277)
What did that criminal do that he received a share in the paradise following the cross?… While Peter denied Christ, this criminal, high on the cross, bore witness to him. I’m not saying this to denigrate Peter but to draw attention to the criminal’s greatness of soul… While a whole rabble were standing around him, murmuring, yelling and heaping oaths and abuse on them both, this criminal paid no attention. He didn’t even consider the wretched condition of the crucifixion right before his eyes. All this he passed over with a glance full of faith… He turned towards our heavenly Lord and entrusted himself to him and said: “Lord, remember me when you come into your kingdom” (Lk 23,42). Let us not casually avoid this criminal’s example or be ashamed of taking as teacher the man whom our Lord was not ashamed to lead first into paradise…
He didn’t say to him, as he said to Peter: “Come after me, and I will make you a fisher of men” (Mt 4,19). Nor did he say to him as to the Twelve: “You will sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel” (Mt 19,28). He favored him with no title, showed him no miracle. This criminal did not see him raise a dead man nor cast out demons; he did not see the sea obeying him. Christ said nothing to him about the Kingdom nor yet about hell. And yet he bore witness to him before all and inherited the Kingdom.
We should live detached from our possessions and our own will if we would be followers of him who had “nowhere to rest his head” (Lk 9,58) and who came “not to do his own will but he will of the one who sent him” (Jn 6,38)… We already know by experience what the Truth promised to whoever forsakes everything and follows him: “he will receive a hundred times more now… and eternal life in the age to come” (Mk 10,30). Indeed, the gift of a hundred times more sustains us on the journey and possession of eternal life will be our joy for ever in our heavenly homeland.
But what does this hundred times more mean? Briefly, the consolations of the Spirit, sweet as honey, his visits and his firstfruits. It is the witness of our conscience, the happy and joyful expectation of the righteous; it is the remembrance of God’s overwhelming goodness and, in truth, the greatness of his sweetness. Those who have had experience of these gifts have no need for anyone to tell them about them. And as for those who do not have it, who could describe it in plain words?
No one should say to himself, even when he regards others who have left a great deal behind: “I want to imitate those who despise this world, but I have nothing to leave behind.” You leave a great deal behind, my friends, if you renounce your desires. Our external possessions, no matter how small, are enough for the Lord: he weighs the heart and not the substance, and does not measure the amount we sacrifice to him but the effort with which we bring it…. The kingdom of God has no assessment value put on it, but it is worth everything you have… To Peter and Andrew it was worth the nets and boat they gave up; to the widow it was worth two small coins (Lk 21,2); to another person it was worth a cup of cold water (Mt 10,42). The kingdom of God, as I said, is worth everything you have. Think about it, my friends, what has less value when you purchase it, what is more precious when you possess it? But perhaps a cup of cold water offered to someone who needs it is not enough; even then the Word of God gives us assurance…: “Peace on earth to men of good will!” (Lk 2,14). In the sight of God no hand is ever empty of a gift if the deep places of the heart are filled with good will… Although I have no gifts to offer outwardly, yet I find within myself something to place on the altar of your praise…: you are better pleased with an offering of our heart (cf. Ps 55,13).
The heavenly sacrifice that Christ instituted is indeed the inheritance bequeathed to us through his new covenant. He left it to us on the night he was delivered up to be crucified as a token of his presence. It is viaticum for our journey, food on our life’s path until we come to it on quitting this world. That is why our Lord said: “Unless you eat my flesh and drink my blood you do not have life within you.”
He wished his deeds of kindness to remain among us and the souls he redeemed by his precious blood always to be made holy in the image of his own Passion. This is why he commanded his faithful disciples, instituted as the first priests of his Church, to celebrate these mysteries of eternal life in perpetuity… Thus all the faithful would have before their eyes day by day a representation of Christ’s Passion. Taking him in our hands, receiving him in our mouths and hearts, we will hold fast to an indelible remembrance of our redemption.
The bread should be made with the flour of innumerable grains of wheat mixed with water and finished off in the fire. Thus we shall find a close likeness of the body of Christ in it for, as we know, he forms a single body with the multitude of humankind brought to completion by the fire of the Holy Spirit… In the same way, the wine of his blood is taken from many grapes – that is to say the fruit of vine he planted – is crushed beneath the press of his cross, poured into the hearts of the faithful and ferments within them by means of his own power.
This is the Passover sacrifice bringing salvation to all those set free from bondage of Egypt and Pharaoh, that is to say the devil. Receive it in union with us with all the eagerness of a pious heart.
Today, the holy and living ark of the living God, the one whose womb carried her own Creator, rests in the Lord’s temple, a temple not built by human hands. David, her ancestor and God’s relative, dances for joy (2 Sam 7:14); the angels dance in unison, the archangels applaud, and the powers of the heavens sing her glory…
She who enabled true life to spring forth for everyone, how could she fall into the power of death? Certainly, as a daughter of the old Adam, she submitted to the sentence that was pronounced against him, for her Son, who is Life itself, did not shy away from it. But as the mother of the living God, it is just that she be raised up to him… How could she who received in her womb Life itself, without beginning or end, not be alive for all eternity? In times past, the first parents of our mortal race, drunk with the wine of disobedience…, with a heavy spirit because of the intemperance of sin, fell asleep in the sleep of death. The Lord had chased and exiled them from the paradise of Eden. Now she who did not commit any sin and who bore the child of obedience to God and to the Father, how could paradise not welcome her, not joyfully open its doors to her? … Since Christ, who is Life and Truth, said: “Where I am, there will my servant be” (Jn 12:26), how could his mother, all the more so, not share in his dwelling place? …
So now «that the heavens are rejoicing», may all the angels acclaim her. “Let the earth rejoice,” (Ps 96:11), let human beings leap for joy. Let the air resound with songs of joy; let the night reject its darkness and its cloak of mourning… For the living city of the Lord, the God of powers is exalted. From the sanctuary of Zion, kings bring invaluable gifts (Ps 68:30). Those whom Christ established as princes over all the earth, the apostles, escort the Mother of God, ever a virgin, into the Jerusalem on high, which is free and our mother (Gal 4:26).
According to his plan from the beginning, God created man and woman in his image. Scripture says: “In the divine image he created him; male and female he created them.” (Gen 1:27) In the book of Genesis it is thus important to understand this great truth: the image of himself, which God placed in the human person, is also given in the complementarity of the sexes. The man and the woman who unite in marriage reflect the image of God and are in some way the “revelation” of his love. Not only of the love which God has for the human being, but also of the mysterious communion, which characterizes the intimate life of the three divine persons. Moreover, one can consider the act of begetting itself to be the image of God, who makes of the family a sanctuary of life. The apostle Paul said that all parenthood derives its name from God (Eph 3:15). He is the ultimate source of life. We can thus affirm that the genealogy of every person plunges its roots into the eternal. By begetting a child, the parents act as God’s collaborators. A truly sublime mission! It is thus not surprising that Jesus wanted to raise marriage to the dignity of a sacrament, and that Saint Paul spoke of it as a “great mystery”, seeing it in relation to Christ’s union with his Church (Eph 5:32).
Everyone is God’s debtor and has his brother as debtor. Indeed, who is there who owes nothing to God except the one in whom no sin could be found? And who has no brother as his debtor if not the one whom no one has offended? Do you think you can find a single person in all humankind who is not answerable to his brother for some fault or other? So each of us is a debtor and has debtors. That is why the righteous God gives you a rule of conduct regarding your debtor which he follows with regard to his. For there are two works of mercy able to set us free that the Lord himself teaches us in a few words in his Gospel: “Forgive and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given you” (Lk 6,37f.)… This refers to indulgence and kindness. This is what he teaches us about forgiveness: you want to be forgiven for your sins and you also have sins to forgive others. The same applies to charity: a beggar asks you an alms and you are God’s beggar, for we are all beggars of God when we pray to him. We stand – or rather, we prostrate ourselves – before our Father’s door, before his great bounty. Groaning, we implore him, anxious to receive something from him: now, this ‘something’ is God himself. But what is the beggar asking you? Bread? As for you, what are you asking God if not Christ, who said: “I am the living bread come down from heaven” (Jn 6,51). Do you wish to be forgiven? “Forgive and you will be forgiven.” Do you wish to receive? “Give, and it will be given you.”
Bridegroom and Bride, that is Christ and the Church, are as one, be it in receiving confession or in bestowing absolution. All this makes clear why Christ had to tell each of us: “Go, show yourself to the priest” (Mt 8,4)… It follows that apart from Christ the Church cannot grant forgiveness and that Christ has no will to forgive apart from the Church. The Church’s authority to forgive extends only to the repentant, to those, that is, whom Christ has already touched; Christ, on his part, has no intention of regarding as forgiven one who despises the Church. Doubtless, Christ need accept no restraints to his power of baptizing, consecrating the Eucharist, ordaining ministers, forgiving sins and the like, but the humble and faithful Bridegroom prefers to confer such blessings with the cooperation of his Bride. “What God,” then, “has joined, let no man put asunder” (Mt 19,6). “I say this is a great mystery and refers to Christ and the Church” (Eph 5,32)… To remove the Head from the Body (Col 1,18) were to ruin the whole Christ irreparably. Christ apart from the Church is no more the whole Christ than the Church is complete if separated from Christ. Head and Body go to make the whole and entire Christ.
We should live detached from our possessions and our own will if we would be followers of him who had “nowhere to rest his head” (Lk 9,58) and who came “not to do his own will but he will of the one who sent him” (Jn 6,38)… We already know by experience what the Truth promised to whoever forsakes everything and follows him: “he will receive a hundred times more now… and eternal life in the age to come” (Mk 10,30). Indeed, the gift of a hundred times more sustains us on the journey and possession of eternal life will be our joy for ever in our heavenly homeland.
But what does this hundred times more mean? Briefly, the consolations of the Spirit, sweet as honey, his visits and his firstfruits. It is the witness of our conscience, the happy and joyful expectation of the righteous; it is the remembrance of God’s overwhelming goodness and, in truth, the greatness of his sweetness. Those who have had experience of these gifts have no need for anyone to tell them about them. And as for those who do not have it, who could describe it in plain words?
“He shall rule the world with justice and the peoples with his truth.” (Ps 96:13) Which justice and which truth? He will gather to him his chosen ones (Mk 13:27); the others he will separate, for he will place the former at his right and the latter at his left (Mt 25:33). What will be more just, more true than that? Those who did not want to practice mercy before the judge came, will not expect mercy from the judge. Those who wanted to practice mercy, will be judged with mercy (Lk 6:37). For he will say to those whom he has placed at his right: “Come. You have my Father’s blessing! Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world.” And he will attribute acts of mercy to them: “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink” and all that follows (Mt 25:31ff.)…
Because you are unjust, will the judge not be just? Because you sometimes lie, will truth not be truthful? If you want to meet a merciful judge, be merciful before he comes. Forgive if someone has offended you; give away the possessions of which you have an abundance… Give what you have received from him: “Name something you have that you have not received.” (1 Cor 4:7) These are the sacrifices that are very pleasing to God: mercy, humility, gratitude, peace, charity. If that is what we bring in sacrifice, we will await with assurance the coming of the judge, of him who “shall rule the world with justice and the peoples with his truth.”
Blessed John Henry Newman from Sermon ``The Tears of Christ at the Grace of Lazarus`` PPS, vol. 3, no. 10
Christ went to raise Lazarus, and the fame of that miracle was the immediate cause of His seizure and crucifixion (Jn 11,46)… He felt that Lazarus was wakening to life at His own sacrifice; that He was descending into the grave which Lazarus left. He felt that Lazarus was to live and He to die; the appearance of things was to be reversed; the feast was to be kept in Martha’s house (Jn 12,1f.), but the last passover of sorrow remained for Him. And Jesus knew that this reverse was altogether voluntary with Him. He had come down from His Father’s bosom to be an Atonement of blood for all sin, and thereby to raise all believers from the grave, as He was then about to raise Lazarus; and to raise them, not for a time, but for eternity… Contemplating then the fulness of His purpose while now going about a single act of mercy, He said to Martha, “I am the Resurrection and the Life: he that believeth in Me, though he were dead, yet shall he live, and whosoever liveth and believeth in Me, shall never die.” Let us take to ourselves these comfortable thoughts, both in the contemplation of our own death, or upon the death of our friends. Wherever faith in Christ is, there is Christ Himself. He said to Martha, “Believest thou this?” Wherever there is a heart to answer, “Lord, I believe,” there Christ is present. There our Lord vouchsafes to stand, though unseen—whether over the bed of death or over the grave; whether we ourselves are sinking or those who are dear to us. Blessed be his name! nothing can rob us of this consolation: we will be as certain, through His grace, that He is standing over us in love, as though we saw Him. We will not, after our experience of Lazarus’s history, doubt an instant that He is thoughtful about us and that he stands at our side.
Just as there is a harvest for inanimate sheaves of wheat, so for the rational wheat which is the human race, there is a harvest that cuts people away from unbelief, and gathers into faith those who accept the proclamation of the Good News. The reapers of this harvest are the Lord’s apostles and their successors, and in the course of time the teachers of the Church Of them the Lord said: The reaper receives his wages, and gathers a crop for eternal life” (Jn 4,36)… But there is yet another harvest: the transfer of each one of us by death from this present life into that which is to come. The reapers of this harvest are not the apostles but the angels, who have a greater responsibility than the apostles, because after the harvesting they sort out the good and separate them from the wicked like wheat from darnel… As for us, who in this present age are God’s “” (1Pt 2,9), the Church of the living God separated from all the impious and ungodly, may we be found separated from the darnel in the age to come as well, and united to those who are saved in Christ our Lord, who is blessed for ever.
In the Gospel we read : « Unless the grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains but a single grain ; but if it dies it bears much fruit » (Jn 12,24). Our Lord Jesus is the grain of wheat but he is also the yeast… When he came, a man and alone, into the world, the Lord Jesus gave everyone the opportunity to become what he is himself. Anyone who is united to the yeast that is Christ also becomes yeast, useful to the self and of value to all. That person will be saved and will save others. Before it is mixed into a bowl of flour, the yeast is beaten, crushed, and crumbed; it is completely dissolved. But it is then that, in one and the same fermentation, it take on the same appearance as the numerous dispersed grains of flour. It brings together into a solid lump a substance that, of itself, used to be as inconsistent as dust. In fact it creates a serviceable dough out of what seemed to be nothing but a scattering of dust. Thus the Lord Jesus Christ, yeast of the whole world, has been crushed by much suffering, pierced and destroyed. And his sap – that is to say, his precious blood – was poured out for us so as to solidify all humankind that was scattered by becoming mingled with them,. We who used to be like a people of flour, see how we are now brought together as by yeast. We who were miserably lying all over the earth, scattered and crushed: see how we are reunited with Christ’s body thanks to the power of his Passion.
The miracles wrought by our Lord Jesus Christ are truly divine works, (which lead the human mind through visible things to a perception of the Godhead. God is not the kind of being that can be seen with the eyes, and small account is taken of the miracles by which he rules the entire universe and governs all creation because they recur so regularly. Scarcely anyone bothers to consider God’s marvelous, his amazing artistry in every tiny seed. And so certain works are excluded from the ordinary course of nature, works which God in his mercy has reserved for himself, so as to perform them at appropriate times. People who hold cheap what they see every day are dumbfounded at the sight of extraordinary works even though they are no more wonderful than the others. Governing the entire universe is a greater miracle than feeding five thousand people with five loaves of bread, yet no one marvels at it… Who is even now providing nourishment for the whole world if not the God who creates a field of wheat from a few seeds? Christ did what God does. Just as God multiplies a few seeds into a whole field of wheat so Christ multiplied the five loaves in his hands. For there was power in the hands of Christ Those five loaves were like seeds, not because they were cast on the earth but because they were multiplied by the one who made the earth.
The Word of God was born once for all according to the flesh. But, because of his great love for us, he desires to be born unceasingly according to the spirit for those who desire him. He makes himself a little child and forms himself within them along with the virtues. He makes himself known in the measure that he knows the one who receives him is capable. By acting in this way, it is not by demand that he reduces the splendour of his own greatness but because he judges and assesses the capacity of those who wish to see him. Thus God’s Word is always revealed to us in the way that best suits us and yet he remains invisible to all because of the immensity of his mystery. That is why the inimitable apostle, considering the power of this mystery, wisely says: “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and for ever” (Heb 13,8). He was contemplating that ever new mystery that the mind will never finish examining. Christ, who is God, becomes a child…, he who enabled everything that exists to come forth out of nothing… God become perfect man, without rejecting anything from human nature except sin, which in any case is not inherent to this nature…Yes, the incarnation of God is a great mystery and remains a mystery… Faith alone can grasp this mystery, which is at the bottom of everything surpassing our comprehension and is beyond anything we can express.
O man, be like the earth. Bear fruit like her and do not fall short of what mere inanimate matter can achieve. The earth bears crops not for her own benefit but for yours. You, on the other hand, when you give to the poor, are bearing fruit which you will gather in for yourself, since the reward for good deeds goes to those who perform them. Give to a hungry man, and what you give becomes yours, and indeed it returns to you with interest. Just as the wheat that falls on the ground falls there to the great profit of the one who sowed it, so the bread given to a hungry man will bring you great profit in the world to come. Let your husbandry be aimed at sowing this heavenly seed: as scripture says, Sow integrity for yourselves.
You are going to leave your money behind you here whether you want to or not. As for whatever share of glory you have received through your good works, that you can take with you to the Lord. All the people will stand round you in the presence of him who judges you all: they will acclaim you as one who feeds the hungry and gives to the poor, they will name you as a merciful benefactor.
Do you not see how people throw away their wealth for a moment’s glory, for the shouts and praise of the crowds in the theatre, at sporting events, at fights with wild beasts in the arena? Where can you get that sort of glory for yourself if you hold on to your money or spend it meanly? God will give his approbation; the angels will praise you; all people who have existed since the beginning of the world will call you blessed. You will receive eternal glory and the crown of righteousness as a prize for rightly disposing of your wealth – wealth that in any case cannot last and must decay.
Why do you think nothing of the future hopes that are stored up by those who despise the cares of the present time? Come, spread your wealth around, be generous, give splendidly to those who are in need. Then it will be said of you as it is in the psalms: He gave alms and helped the poor: his righteousness will endure for ever.
How grateful you should be to your own benefactor; how cheerful you should be at the honour he has conferred on you, that you do not have to make a nuisance of yourself at other people’s doors, but other people come and bother you at your own! But at the moment you are grumpy and no-one can get to you. You avoid meeting people in case you might be obliged to part with even a little of what you have. You can say only one thing: “I have nothing to give you. I am only a poor man.” Indeed you are poor and utterly destitute. Poor in love, poor in humanity, poor in faith in God, and destitute of any hope of eternal happiness.
The whole work contained in the holy books announces by word, reveals by deeds and sets forth by examples, the coming of Jesus Christ our Lord who, sent by the Father, became man by being born of a virgin through the action of the Holy Spirit. Indeed, throughout the whole course of creation, it is he who, by means of true and manifest prefigurations, begets, washes, sanctifies, chooses, sets apart or redeems the Church in the patriarchs: through Adam’s sleep, Noah’s flood, Abraham’s justification, Isaac’s birth, Jacob’s servitude. In a word, through the whole unfolding of time, all the prophecies, those demonstrations of God’s secret plan, were given to us in his kindness so that we might know his coming incarnation… In every person, every period, every deed, the prophecies in their entirety display as though in a mirror the image of his coming, his preaching, his Passion, his resurrection and our gathering together in one Church… Starting from Adam, the point of departure for our knowledge of humankind, from the beginning of the world we find announced in numerous prefigurations everything that has received its complete fulfilment in the Lord.
The Son of God himself, who is before all ages, the invisible, the incomprehensible, the bodiless, the beginning from the beginning, light from the light, source of life and immortality, image of the archetype, immovable seal, unchangeable image, the Father’s definition and Word, he it is who came to his own image (Gn 1,27) and took to himself flesh for the sake of our flesh. Then he united himself with an intelligent soul for my soul’s sake, purifying like by like. He took to himself all that is human, except sin… He who enriches others becomes poor. He took to himself the poverty of my flesh so that I might obtain the riches of his godhead (2 Cor 8,9). He who is full empties himself. He emptied himself of his godhead for a brief time so that I might share in his fulness. What is this wealth of goodness ? What is this mystery that touches me ? I received the divine image and I did not keep it. He receives my flesh to save the image and grant immortality to the flesh. This, his second communion with us, is far more marvellous than the first… It was necessary that holiness be conferred on man through the humanity God took to himself. In this way, conquering the tyrant by force, he freed us and led us back to himself through his Son, the mediator. The Son brought this about to the honour of the Father to whom, in all things, he is seen to defer.
Let us cry out with David; let us hear him weep and let us shed tears with him. Let us see how he rises up again and let us rejoice with him: “Have mercy on me, O God, in your goodness.” (Ps 51:3) Let us place before the eyes of our soul a man who is seriously injured, almost on the point of breathing his last breath, and who is lying naked in the dust. In his desire to see a doctor arrive, he is moaning and begging the person who understands his condition to have pity. Now sin is a wound to the soul. You who are this wounded person, learn that your doctor is within you, and show him the wounds of your sins. May he to whom every secret thought is known hear the moaning of your heart. May your tears move him, and if you have to seek him with some insistence, let deep sighs rise up to him from the bottom of your heart. May your pain come to him and may you also be told, like David: “The Lord… has forgiven your sin.” (2 Sam 12:13)…
“Have mercy on me, O God, in your goodness.” The people who belittle their fault because they do not know this great tenderness, only draw a little tenderness to themselves. As for me, I fell far, I sinned with full knowledge. But you, almighty doctor, correct those who scorn you; you teach those who do not know their fault, and you forgive those who admit it to you.
The Lord said: “Whoever welcomes this little child on my account welcomes me.” (Lk 9:48) The smaller our brother is, the more Christ is present. For when we welcome a great personality, we often do so out of vainglory; but the person who welcomes someone unimportant, does so with a pure intention and for Christ. He said: “I was a stranger and you welcomed me.” And again: “As often as you did it for one of my least brothers, you did it for me.” (Mt 25:35.40) Since he is talking about a believer and a brother, no matter how unimportant he is, Christ comes in with him. Open your house and welcome him.
“He who welcomes a prophet because he bears the name of prophet receives a prophet’s reward.” Thus, the person who welcomes Christ will receive the reward of Christ’s hospitality. Do not doubt his words, trust them. He himself told us: “In them, I am presenting myself.” And so that you do not doubt them, he decreed the punishment for those who do not welcome him and the honors for those who do welcome him (Mt 25:31ff.). He would not do this if he were not personally touched by honor or scorn. He says: “You welcomed me into your house; I will welcome you in the Kingdom of my Father. You freed me from hunger; I will free you from your sins. You saw me in chains; I will let you see your liberation. You saw me a stranger; I will make of you a citizen of heaven. You gave me bread; I will give you the Kingdom as your inheritance that is entirely yours. You helped me in secret; I will proclaim it publicly and I will say that you are my benefactor and that I am in your debt.”
You can be a witness to Christ every day. You were tempted by the spirit of impurity but… you considered that chastity of spirit and body should not be soiled: you are a martyr or, in other words, a witness to Christ… You were tempted by the spirit of pride but, seeing the poor and needy, you were seized by tender compassion and preferred humility to arrogance: you are a witness to Christ. Better still: you have not given your witness in word alone but in deed as well. What is the surest kind of witness? “Anyone who acknowledges that Jesus Christ came among us in the flesh” (cf. 1Jn 4,2) and who keeps the commands of the Gospel… How many there are each day of these hidden martyrs of Christ who confess the Lord Jesus! The apostle Paul knew that kind of martyrdom and witness of faith rendered to Christ, he who said: “Our boast is this, the testimony of our conscience” (2Cor 1,12). For how many people have made a confession of faith exteriorly but denied it interiorly!… So be faithful and courageous in interior persecutions so that you may also win the victory in exterior persecutions. There are “kings and rulers”, judges of formidable power, in the persecutions within, likewise. You have an example of these in the temptations undergone by our Lord (Mt 4,1ff.)
I have written to you, beloved, concerning Jesus who was persecuted, and the righteous [of the Old Testament] who were persecuted, in order that those who today are persecuted for the sake of the persecuted Jesus, may be comforted. For he wrote for us and himself gave us comfort when he said, “If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. And they will indeed persecute you because you do not belong to the world any more than I belong to it.” (Jn 15:19-20; 17:14). For he wrote beforehand for us: “Your fathers and your brothers and your family will deliver you up, and all men shall hate you for my name’s sake”. And again he taught us, “When they shall bring you before rulers and magistrates and kings that govern the world, do not worry beforehand what you shall say, and how you shall make defence. I will give you a mouth and wisdom such that your enemies will not be able to overcome you, because it is not you who will be speaking, but the Spirit of your Father who will be speaking in you.”
This is the spirit which spoke by the mouth of Jacob to Esau, his persecutor; and the spirit of wisdom which spoke before Pharaoh by the mouth of Joseph when he was persecuted; and the spirit which spoke by the mouth of Moses in all the wonders which he did in the land of Egypt…; and the spirit that uttered psalms by the mouth of David when he was persecuted, by which he used to sing psalms and soothe Saul his persecutor from the evil spirit; and the spirit which clothed Elijah, and through him reproved Jezebel and Ahab his persecutor…; and the spirit which strengthened Jeremiah, so that he stood boldly, and by it reproved Zedekiah; and the spirit that preserved Daniel and his brethren in the land of Babylon; and the spirit that delivered Mordecai and Esther in the place of their captivity…
Hear, beloved, these names of martyrs, of confessors, and of the persecuted: Abel, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Joshua, Jephthah, Samson, Gideon and Barak, David, Samuel, Hezekiah, Elijah, Elisha, Micah, Jeremiah, Daniel, Hananiah and his brothers, Judas Maccabeus and his brothers… But greater and more excellent is the martyrdom of Jesus. He surpassed in affliction and in confession all who were before or after.
There are plenty of people who, wanting to be well-ordered on the surface and filled with beautiful feelings about God within, stop there…; they are satisfied with the sweet colloquies they hold with God in prayer… Don’t let us deceive ourselves: our whole task consists in passing over into acts. And so true is this that the apostle, Saint John, tells us that our works are the only thing to accompany us into the next life (Rev 14,13). So let us think this over: never more than in our own day are there many who seem to be virtuous, and indeed are so, but who nevertheless tend towards a way that is easy and gentle rather than to hard-working, straightforward devotion.
The Church is like a great harvest in need of laborers – but laborers who work! Nothing is more in keeping with the Gospel than to draw light and strength for one’s soul in prayer, reading and solitude on the one hand, but then to go and distribute this spiritual nourishment to other people. This is to do what our Lord did and, after him, his apostles; it is to unite Martha’s task with that of Mary; it is to imitate the dove who digests half the food she has taken and then places the rest with her beak into that of her little ones to feed them. This is what we ought to do, too; this is how we ought to show God by our works how much we love him. Our whole task consists in passing over into act.
Like the woman suffering from a haemorrhage, I prostrate myself before you, Lord, so that you might deliver me from suffering and grant me the forgiveness of my faults, and that I might cry out with compunction of heart: “Savior, save me!” …
She went to you concealing herself, O Savior, for she thought you were a simple human being, but her healing taught her that you are at the same time God and man. Secretly, she touched your fringe, fearing in her soul…, and she said to herself: “How could I make myself be seen by him who observes everything, I who bear the shame of my faults? If the All-Pure sees the flow of blood, he will distance himself from me who am impure, and it will be more terrible for me than my wound if he turns away from me in spite of my cry: Savior, save me.
“When people see me, everyone pushes me: ‘Where are you going? Be aware of your shame, woman, know who you are and to whom you want to draw near now. You, the impure, drawing near to the All-Pure! Go and purify yourself, and when you have wiped away the stain that you bear, then you will go towards him crying out: Savior, save me.’
Do you want to give me greater pain than my own ill? I know he is pure, and that is why I shall go to him, that I may be freed from disgrace and infamy. Do not stop me… from crying out: Savior, save me.
The source pours forth its torrents for everyone. What right have you to stop it up? … You witness his healings… Every day he encourages us when he says: ‘Come to me, you who are overwhelmed with ills. I will be able to give you relief.’ (cf. Mt 11,28) He likes to give the gift of good health to everyone. And you, why do you treat me harshly by preventing me from crying out to him: Savior, save me?” …
He who knows everything … turns and says to his disciples: “Who touched my clothing?” (Mk 5:30)… Peter, why do you tell me that a large crowd is pressing in on me? They are not touching my divinity, but this woman grasped my divine nature when she touched my visible clothing, and she attained good health when she cried out to me: Lord, save me…
“For now, take courage, woman… From now on, be in good health… This is not the work of my hands, but the work of your faith. For many have touched my fringe, but they did not attain strength because they did not bring faith with them. You have touched me with great faith, you have received good health; that is why I have now placed you before everybody so that you might say: Savior, save me.”
Adam’s sin was passed on to all humankind, to all his descendants… Therefore it is necessary that Christ’s righteousness be passed on to all humankind. Just as Adam, through sin, caused life to be lost to his posterity, so Christ, through his righteousness, will give life to his children (cf. Rom 5, 18f.)…
At the conclusion of the ages Christ received a soul and our flesh from Mary. It was this flesh he came to save; he did not abandon it to the nether world (Ps 16,10); he united it to his own spirit and made it his own. Therein lies the marriage of the Lord, his union with one flesh so that, according to “that great mystery”, “the two might become one flesh: Christ and the Church” (Eph 5,31). The christian people, on whom the Spirit of the Lord descended, was born of this union. This sowing, come down from heaven, has been immediately assimilated into the substance of our souls and mixed into them. After this we develop in our Mother’s womb and, growing up within her breast, receive life in Christ. This is what made the apostle Paul say: “The first man, Adam, became a living being; the last Adam a life-giving spirit,” (1Cor 15,45).
Thus it is that Christ begets children in the Church through his priests, as the same apostle says: “I became your father in Christ,” (1Cor 4,15). And in this way Christ brings the new man to birth, formed in his Mother’s womb and sent into the world in the waters of baptism through the hands of the priest, with faith for witness… So we should believe that we can be brought to birth… and that it is Christ who gives life to us. As the apostle John says: “To those who did accept him he gave power to become children of God,” (Jn 1,12).
There was a wonderful providence behind these words of the Savior, and they can be of very great help to us. They show once again how much he cares for our souls, for he is good and| as Scripture says: “He wants everyone to be saved and to come to knowledge of the truth” (1Tm 2,4). Even so, this saying of his may surprise us. As always, Christ had to be patient with Thomas when he said he would not believe and with the other disciples too when they thought they were seeing a ghost. Because of his desire to convince the whole world, he most willingly showed them the marks of the nails and the wound in his side; because he wished those who sought this evidence as a support for their faith to have no possible reason for doubt, he even took food although he had no need for it (Lk 24,41)… But when anyone accepts what he has not seen, believing on the word of his teacher, the faith by which he honors the one his teacher proclaims to him is worthy of great praise. Blessed, therefore, is everyone who believes the message of the holy apostles who, as Saint Luke says, were eyewitnesses of Christ’s actions and “ministers of the word” (Lk 1,2). If we desire eternal life and long for a dwelling place in heaven, we must listen to them.
“And there people brought to him a paralytic.” Saint Matthew merely says that this paralytic was carried to Jesus. Other evangelists describe how he was let down through an opening in the roof and placed before the Lord without expressing any particular request, leaving it to him to assess the healing,,,
“When Jesus saw their faith”, the Gospel says, that is to say, the faith of those who had brought the man to him. Consider how sometimes Christ pays no attention to the faith of the sick person: perhaps because the latter is incapable of it, being unconscious or possessed with an evil spirit. However, in this case, this paralytic had great trust in Jesus; otherwise, would he have allowed them to let him down in front of him? Christ responds to this trust with an extraordinary miracle. With the power of God himself he forgives this man’s sins. Thus he showed that he is equal to the Father, a truth he had already shown when he said to the leper: “I will do it; be made clean” (Mt 8,3)… and when, with a word, he stilled the tempestuous sea (Mt 8,26), or when, as God, he had cast out the demons who recognized in him their ruler and their judge (Mt 8,32). So here, he shows his adversaries, to their great astonishment, that he is equal to the Father.
And once more the Savior shows here how he turns away from anything spectacular or a source of vainglory. On all sides the crowd is pressing him yet he is in no hurry to work a visible miracle by healing the external paralysis of this man… He begins with an invisible miracle by healing the man’s soul. This kind of healing is far more beneficial for him and, outwardly speaking, less glorious for Christ.
Many people never stop saying – I have heard them myself – “If only we had lived in the days of the apostles, and been counted worthy to gaze upon Christ as they did, we should have become holy like them.” Such people do not realize that the Christ who spoke then and the Christ who speaks now throughout the whole world is one and the same… The position now is not the same as it was then, but our situation now, in the present day, is very much better. It leads us more easily to a deeper faith and conviction than seeing and hearing him in the flesh would have done.
Then he appeared to the uncomprehending as a man of lowly station: now he is proclaimed to us as true God. Then in his body he associated with tax collectors and sinners and ate with them: now he is seated at the right hand of God the Father, and is never in any way separated from him… Then even those of lowliest condition held him in contempt. They said: “Is not this the son of Mary, and of Joseph the carpenter?” (Mk 6,3; Jn 6,42) Now kings and rulers worship him as Son of the true God, and himself true God… Then he was thought to be mortal and corruptible like the rest of humankind. He was no different in appearance from other men. The formless and invisible God, without change or alteration, assumed a human form and showed himself to be a normal human being. He ate, he drank, he slept, he sweated, and he grew weary. He did everything other people do, except that he did not sin. For anyone to recognize him in that human body, and to believe that he was the God who made heaven and earth and everything in them was very exceptional… It is certain, therefore, that anyone who now hears Christ cry out daily through the holy gospels and proclaim the will of his blessed Father, but does not obey him with fear and trembling and keep his commandments: it is certain that such a person would have refused to believe in him then.
The characteristic effect produced by God and His angels in their spiritual operations is a genuine lightness of heart and spiritual joy, eliminating all the disturbing sadness engendered by the enemy, whilst his characteristic activity is to resist such lightness of heart and spiritual comfort, alleging specious reasons, subtle suggestions and sophistries without end. Spiritual comfort with no previous occasion giving rise to it comes from our Lord God alone. It is the Creator’s prerogative to come into and leave the soul, to move it with inspirations of love for His Divine Majesty. “With no previous occasion” means without any preceding awareness or knowledge of anything which might induce such comfort in the soul… It is typical of the evil spirit to transform himself into an angel of light, to go in by the devout soul’s way but to come out his own way; I mean he introduces sound and pious thoughts, suited to the piety of that soul; but then, little by little, he tries to achieve his own purposes, by dragging the soul down to his secret designs and corrupt purposes. We should pay great attention to the entire train of thought. If beginning, middle and end are wholly sound, tending to what is completely innocent, this is a sign of the good angel; but the train of thought suggested sometimes leads to something that is bad or at least distracting, or less good than what the soul had originally proposed to do; sometimes it undermines our strength of mind or disturbs us by destroying our peace and tranquillity of mind and the unperturbed condition already obtaining: these are clear signs that the thoughts come from the evil spirit, the enemy of our progress and everlasting salvation… When souls are advancing from good to better, the touch of the good angel is soft, light and gentle, like a drop of water making its way into a sponge. The touch of the evil angel is rough, accompanied by noise and disturbance, like a drop of water falling on stone.
The mountain of the Transfiguration is the place of mysteries, the place of ineffable realities, the rock of hidden secrets, the summit of the heavens. Here the symbols of the future kingdom were revealed: the mystery of the crucifixion, the beauty of God’s reign, Christ’s descent at his second coming in glory. On this mountain, the luminous cloud covered the splendor of the righteous; the future good was already realized. The cloud enveloping this mountain prefigures the carrying away of the righteous on the clouds; it shows us already today what we will look like in the future, our configuration with Christ…
While he walked with his disciples, Jesus told them about his reign and his second coming in glory. But perhaps because they were not sure enough about what he had told them concerning his reign, he wanted them to end up being very firmly convinced in the depth of their heart, and he wanted present events to help them to believe in the future events. That is why he let them see that marvelous divine manifestation on Mount Tabor as a prefigurative image of the kingdom of heaven. It was as if he were telling them: “So that your gaze might not bring forth incredulity in you, soon, even now ‘I assure you, among those standing here’ and listening to me ‘there are some who will not experience death before they see the Son of Man come in his kingship.’” (Mt 16:28) “Six days later Jesus took Peter, James, and his brother John and led them up on a high mountain by themselves. He was transfigured before their eyes.” …
“How awesome is this place! This is nothing else but an abode of God, and this is the gateway to heaven!” (Gen 28:17) We must hasten to this gateway.
This country… is very dangerous as the inhabitants – who are full of treachery – often mix poison with the food and drink. That is why no one can be found to go and concern themselves with Christians. Yet these have need of spiritual teaching and of someone to baptize them in order to save their souls. That is the reason I feel an obligation to lose my bodily life so as to bring help to my neighbor’s spiritual life… I place my hope and confidence in God our Lord together with the desire to conform myself, according to my poor, weak means, to the word of Christ, our Redeemer and Lord: “Whoever wishes to save their life will lose it; and whoever loses their life for my sake, will keep it”…
It is certainly easy to understand the words and general meaning of this saying of our Lord; however when one wants to put it into practice and make up one’s mind to lose one’s life for God so as to find it again in him, when one exposes oneself to dangers in which one pushes the probability of leaving one’s life among them…, then everything becomes so dark that these words, although so clear, become darkened too. In cases such as this, it seems to me, he alone will come to understand – however learned he may be – to whom God our Lord, in his infinite mercy, condescends to explain it in his particular circumstances. It is then one realizes the condition of our mortal flesh, namely how weak and feeble it is.
(The) thicket of God’s wisdom and knowledge is so deep and immense that no matter how much the soul knows, she can always enter it further; it is vast and its riches incomprehensible, as St. Paul exclaims: “O the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God, how incomprehensible are His judgments and unsearchable His ways.” (Rom 11:33)
Yet the soul wants to enter this thicket and incomprehensibility of judgments and ways because she is dying with the desire to penetrate them deeply. Knowledge of them is an inestimable delight surpassing all understanding…
Oh! If we could but now fully understand how a soul cannot reach the thicket and wisdom of the riches of God … without entering the thicket of many kinds of suffering, finding in this her delight and consolation; and how a soul with an authentic desire for divine wisdom, wants first to suffer in order to enter this wisdom by the thicket of the cross!… The gate entering into these riches of His wisdom is the cross, which is narrow, and few desire to enter by it, but many desire the delights obtained from entering there.
Faith is the gateway to the mysteries. What the eyes of the body are for palpable things, faith is for the hidden eyes of the soul. The Fathers say that just as our body has two eyes, so our soul has two spiritual eyes, and each one has its own vision. Through one eye, we see the secrets of God’s glory hidden in the beings of God’s creation, which is to say, God’s power, his wisdom, and his eternal providence, which surrounds us and which we understand when we consider the greatness of the heights to which God leads us. With that same eye, we also contemplate the celestial orders, the angels, our companions and fellow servants (Rev 22:9).
And with the other eye we contemplate the glory of God’s holiness, when he wants to make us enter into his spiritual mysteries and when he opens up the ocean of faith to our intelligence.
Brothers, when it comes to fulfilling my duties as bishop, I discover that I am weak and slack, weighed down by the weakness of my own condition, while at the same time, I want to act generously and courageously. However, I draw my strength from the untiring intercession of the almighty and eternal Priest who, like us but equal to the Father, lowered his divinity to the level of man and raised humankind to the level of God. The decisions he made give me a just and holy joy. For when he delegated many pastors to care for his flock, he did not abandon watching over his beloved sheep. Thanks to that fundamental and eternal help, I in turn have received the protection and support of the apostle Peter, who also does not abandon his function. This solid foundation, on which the whole of the Church is built, never grows tired of carrying the whole weight of the building that rests on it.
The firmness of faith, for which the first of the apostles was praised, never fails. Just as everything that Peter professed in Christ remains, so what Christ established in Peter remains… The order willed by God’s truth remains. Saint Peter perseveres in the solidity that he received; he has not abandoned the governance of the Church, which was placed in his hands. That, my brothers, is what that profession of faith inspired by God the Father obtained in the heart of the apostle. He received the solidity of a rock, which no assault can shake. In the entire Church, Peter says every day: “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”
God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.” (Gen 1:26) A simple commandment had brought forth the other beings in creation: “Let there be light!” or “Let there be a dome!” This time, God did not say: “Let there be human beings”, but he said rather: “Let us make man.” For he considered it to be proper that this image of himself, which is superior to all the other creatures, be formed by his own hands. This work was particularly close to him; he loved it with a great love… Adam is the image of God because he bears the effigy of the Only Son…
In a certain sense, Adam was created simple and at the same time double. Eve was hidden in him. Even before they existed, humanity was destined for marriage, which would gather them, man and woman, together again in one single body, like in the beginning. No quarrel, no discord was to arise between them. They would be of one mind, would have one single will… The Lord formed Adam out of dust and water; he drew forth Eve from the flesh, the bones and the blood of Adam. The first man’s deep sleep anticipated the mysteries of the crucifixion. The opening of his side was the lance’s blow given to the Only Son; his sleep: death on the cross; the blood and water: the fruitfulness of baptism (Jn 19:34)… But the water and blood that flowed from the Savior’s side are at the origin of the world of the Spirit…
Adam did not suffer because of something being removed from his flesh; what had been taken from him was returned to him transfigured through beauty. The blowing of the wind, the murmuring of the trees, the singing of the birds called to those who were betrothed: “Arise, you have slept enough! You are expected at the wedding feast!”… Adam saw Eve at his side, she who was of his flesh and his bones, his daughter, his sister, his spouse. Covered in a garment of light, they arose into the smiling day. They were in Paradise.
“In a time of favor I answer you, on the day of salvation I help you.” (Isa 49:8) After quoting this, the apostle Paul continues with the words: “Now is the acceptable time! Now is the day of salvation!” (2 Cor 6:2). I, in turn, call upon you to witness that now the days of redemption have come, now has come, in a sense, the moment of spiritual healing. We can take care of all of the stains from our vices, all the wounds from our sins, if we pray constantly to the doctor of our souls, if …we do not neglect any of his prescriptions…
The doctor is our Lord Jesus who said: “It is I who bring forth both death and life.” (Deut 32:39). The Lord first brings forth death and then he gives back life. Through baptism, he destroys in us adulteries, homicides, murders and theft; then he brings us back to life as new persons in eternal immortality. We die to our sins, of course, through baptism, we return to life in the Spirit of life… Let us surrender to our doctor with patience in order to regain health. Everything that he will have detected in us that is unworthy, soiled through sin, eaten by ulcers, he will trim, he will cut it, he will take it away, so that once all the wounds inflicted by the demon have been eliminated, only what belongs to God will remain.
This is his first prescription: to consecrate forty days to fasting, to prayer, to vigils. Fasting heals flabbiness, prayer nourishes the reverent soul, vigils reject the devil’s traps. After this period of time given to all these observances, the soul that is purified and exhausted from so many practices, comes to baptism. It regains strength by plunging into the waters of the Spirit: everything that had been burnt in the flames of illness is born again in the dew of heaven’s grace… By means of a new birth, we are born again changed.
Embrace the poor Christ. Look upon him who became contemptible for you and follow him, making yourself contemptible in this world for him. Gaze, consider, contemplate, desiring to imitate your spouse, who though more beautiful than the children of men became, for your salvation, the lowliest of men, was despised, struck, scourged untold times throughout his entire body, and then died amid the sufferings of the cross!
If you suffer with him, you will reign with him; weeping with him, you will rejoice with him; dying on the cross of tribulation with him, you will possess heavenly mansions with him among the splendor of the saints and in the Book of Life your name will be called glorious among the peoples. Because of this you shall share always and forever the glory of the kingdom of heaven in place of what is earthly and passing, and everlasting treasures instead of those that perish, and you shall live forever and ever.
There are three actions, my brethren, on which faith stands firm, in which piety consists and by which virtue is upheld: prayer, fasting, mercy. Prayer knocks at the door; fasting obtains; mercy receives. Prayer, mercy, fasting: these three make up one thing and, all together, give life to each other. Thus, fasting is the soul of prayer and mercy is the life of fasting. Let no one set them apart; the three together cannot be separated. Anyone who puts only one or two of them into practice has done nothing at all. Therefore, the one who prays must fast, and the one who fasts must have mercy. Let him hear the man who asks and who, in asking, wishes to be heard. Whoever does not refuse to listen to others when they plead to him will be listened to by God.
Whoever practises fasting must understand what fasting is, that is to say, he must sympathise with the hungry man if he wants God to sympathise with his own hunger. Whoever hopes to obtain mercy must show mercy; whoever wants to benefit from kindness must practise it; whoever would like someone to give him something must be someone who gives… So be yourself the measure of the mercy to be shown to you: if you would like others to show you mercy in such-and-such a way, according to such a measure and with just such a readiness, then show mercy yourself to others with the same sort of readiness, according to the same measure, and in the same way.
And so prayer, mercy, fasting must make up one, single sponsor to recommend us to God, one defense, one prayer in our favour under this threefold form.
Christ on the cross cries out in a loud voice… He proffers peace, addressing himself to you, desiring to see you embrace love…: Consider this, O beloved! I, the boundless Creator, have espoused myself to flesh so that I might be born of a woman. I, God, have made myself known to the poor as their friend. A humble mother is the one I have chosen. Publicans were those with whom I ate. Sinners inspired in me no aversion. With persecutors I bore. I underwent the lash and “humbled myself even to death on a cross,” (Phil 2,8). “What more was there to do that I had not done?” (Is 5,4). I opened my side to the lance. I suffered them to pierce my hands and my feet. Why do you not look at my bleeding flesh? How can you fail to consider my bowed head? I have consented to be accounted among the guilty and behold how, overwhelmed with suffering, I die for you in order that you should live for me. If you are not paying much heed to yourself, if you are not trying to withdraw yourself from the snares of death, now at least repent for my sake who poured out for you the exceedingly precious balm of my own blood. Look at me on the point of death and restrain yourself on the brink of sin. Yes, cease your sinning; you have cost me so dear!
For you I became incarnate and for you I was born; for you I became subject to the Law; for you I was baptised, was overcome with disgrace, seized, tortured, covered with spittle, mocked, scourged, wounded, nailed to the cross, given vinegar to drink and, at the last, sacrificed for you. My side is open: lay hold of my heart. Run, throw your arms around my neck: I am offering you my kiss. I have won you as my inheritance so that now none other may have you in possession. Surrender yourself wholly to me who have been wholly given up for you.
Just as desire for the light follows from healthy eyes, so a desire to pray follows from fasting conducted with discernment. When someone begins to fast, he wants to commune with God in the thoughts of his heart. Indeed, the fasting body cannot endure sleeping on its bed the whole night through. When fasting has sealed a man’s lips, he carries out his meditation in a spirit of compunction: his heart prays, his face is serious, evil thoughts depart from him; he is the enemy of lust and vain conversation. Never has anyone been seen who fasts with discernment and is enslaved by evil desires. Fasting with discernment is like a great dwelling place that shelters every sort of good…
For fasting is the command set before our nature from the beginning to keep it from eating the fruit of the tree (Gn 2:17), and it is from this that what deceives us comes forth… This is also what the Saviour began with when he was revealed to the world in the Jordan. For after baptism the Spirit led him into the desert, where he fasted forty days and forty nights.
All who set out to follow him do the same: that is the foundation on which they set the beginning of their combat, since this weapon has been forged by God… And when the devil now sees this weapon in a man’s hand, that enemy and tyrant begins to be afraid. He thinks at once of the defeat inflicted on him by the Saviour in the desert, remembers what happened and his power is broken. He shrivels away at the sight of the weapon given us by the one who leads us into combat. What more powerful weapon is there that so revives our courage in the fight against the evil spirits?
Forgiveness is the Law
God will only forgive those who have forgiven: that is the Law. The saints are without hatred, without venom, they forgive everyone and always esteem that they merit far more for the sins they themselves have committed against God. As soon as we hate our neighbor, God pays back that hatred: this is a characteristic that rebounds against ourselves. On one occasion I said to someone: “But don’t you want to go to heaven that you don’t wish to see this person? – Oh yes, indeed!… But we try hard to stay distanced from one another and not see each other.” These will not have that distress for heaven’s door is closed to hatred.
In heaven there is no resentment. Therefore sound, lowly hearts that take abuse and calumny with joy or with indifference begin their heaven in this world, and those who hold on to their resentment are the unfortunate ones (…) The way to overturn the devil when he stirs up hateful thoughts in us against those who do us wrong is to pray for them without delay. This is how we come to conquer evil by good and this is what the saints are like.
My friends, if we were to run through the various ages of the world, everywhere we would see the earth covered with the mercies of the Lord and people surrounded by his favors. No, my friends: it is not a question of the sinner coming back to God to beg for his forgiveness; God himself runs after the sinner and brings about his return… He is waiting for repentant sinners and he invites them by the interior stirring of his grace and the voice of his ministers.
Look at how he acted towards Nineveh, that great and wicked city. Before punishing its inhabitants, he ordered his prophet, Jonah, to go on his behalf and proclaim that, in forty days, he was going to punish them. Instead of going to Nineveh, Jonah fled by another way. He wanted to cross the sea but, far from leaving the Ninevites without warning before he punished them, God performed a miracle to preserve his prophet in the belly of a whale for three days and three nights, which, after three days, vomited him onto dry land. Then the Lord said to Jonah: “Go and tell the great city that in forty days more it will perish”. He set no conditions at all. When he had gone, the prophet announced to Nineveh that in forty days it would perish.
At this news all of them, from peasant to king, fell to repentance and weeping. “Who knows,” said the king to them, “whether the Lord will not yet have pity on us?” The Lord, seeing them take refuge in repentance, seemed to take delight in forgiving them. Jonah, seeing that the time for their punishment had expired, withdrew outside the city to wait for fire from heaven to fall on them. But when he saw that it wasn’t coming down, Jonah exclaimed: “Ah, Lord! Are you going to make me pass for a false prophet? Rather, let me die. Oh, I well know you to be too generous! All you want to do is forgive!” – “Now, Jonah!” said the Lord to him: “do you want me to cause so many people to perish who have humbled themselves before me? Oh no! no! Jonah. I wouldn’t have the heart for it; to the contrary, I will love and preserve them.”
“If you bring your gifts to the altar, and there recall that your brother has anything against you…go first and be reconciled with your brother”
“The measure with which you measure shall be measured out to you” (Mt 7:2). And the servant who, after having had all his debt forgiven him by his master, would not forgive his fellow-servant, is confined to prison. Because he was unwilling to forgive his fellow-servant, he lost the forgiveness which had been granted him by the Lord (Mt 18:23f). And these things Christ sets forth still more strongly in his precepts by the greater force of his censure. He says: “When you stand praying, forgive anyone against whom you have a grievance, so that your heavenly Father may turn forgive you your transgressions. But if you do not forgive, neither will your heavenly Father forgive your transgressions” (Mk 11:25)…
For God commands us to be peacemakers and of one heart and of one mind in his house. And such as he has made us by a second birth, so by a second birth he wishes to preserve us , that we who are the children of God may abide in the peace of God, and that we who have one spirit may have one heart and mind. Thus God does not receive the sacrifice of a person who is in disagreement but commands him to go back from the altar and first be reconciled to his brother, that so God also may be appeased by the prayers of the peacemaker. The greater sacrifice to God is our peace and fraternal concord and a people united in the unity of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
“Of your kindness, Lord, the earth is full; teach me your statues” (Ps 118:64). In what way is the earth filled with this kindness of the Lord if not through the Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ of which the psalmist, seeing it from afar, is celebrating the promise?… It is “full” because remission of sins has been given to all. The sun’s orders are to rise over all and it happens every day. It is for all that the Sun of Justice (Mal 3:20) in a mystical sense has arisen. He has come for all, suffered for all and it is for all he was raised. And if he suffered this was to “take away the sin of the world” (Jn 1:29)…
But if someone has no faith in Christ he deprives himself of this universal blessing. If someone prevents the sun’s rays from entering by closing his shutters it cannot be said that the sun has risen for all since that person has hidden from its heat. Where the sun is concerned it makes no difference; for the person lacking wisdom, he is depriving himself of the grace of a light presented to all.
God makes of himself a teacher: he lights up each one’s soul, shedding on it the brightness of knowing him, but always on condition that you open the door of your heart and receive the brightness of heavenly grace. When you doubt make haste to search, for “the one who seeks, finds; and to the one who knocks the door will be opened” (Mt 7:8).
If we wish to prefer a petition to men of high station, we do not presume to do it without humility and respect; how much more ought we to supplicate the Lord God of all things with all humility and pure devotion. And let us be sure that we shall not be heard for our much speaking, but for purity of heart and tears of compunction. Our prayer, therefore, ought to be short and pure, unless it chance to be prolonged by the impulse and inspiration of divine grace.
If someone gives ninety-nine poor men but reviles, chastises or sends away another one who remains empty handed, to whom do you think he does this? Of course to Christ himself who has said, who continues to say, who never ceases saying and will one day say again: “Whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me”?… For in all these it is still him whom we feed in every beggar. In the same way, if someone has provided for all the bodily needs of the poor on one day, but, being able to do so on the next day, neglects some of his brethren and leaves them to die of hunger, thirst and cold, then he has neglected and left die him who said: “Inasmuch as you have done it unto the least of my brethren, you have done it to me”…
If our Lord was pleased to assume the likeness of every poor man and compared himself to every poor man it was in order that none who believe in him should exalt himself over his brother… but should take the poor man in and honor him, and be ready to exhaust all his means in helping him, just as our Lord Jesus Christ exhausted his blood for our salvation… All this may appear too hard to people and they may think it right to say to themselves: “Who can strictly follow all this, satisfying and feeding everyone and leaving no one unsatisfied?” Let them listen to Saint Paul who says clearly: “The love of Christ urges us on, because we are convinced that one has died for all; therefore all have died” (2Cor 5:14).
Mercy is the image of God and the man who is merciful is, in truth, a God dwelling on earth. Just as God is merciful to all, without distinction of persons, so the man who is merciful pours out his deeds of generosity equally upon all.
My son, be merciful and extend generosity to all so as to be raised to the level of divinity… Take care not to let yourself be led astray by this thought, which you may find attractive: “It would be better for me to be merciful to the one who is a believer than to one who is outside us.” That is not the perfect mercy in imitation of God, who pours out his deeds of generosity upon all, without jealousy, “for he makes his sun rise and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust alike” (Mt 5,45)…
“God is love” (1Jn 4,8); his being is love, and love is his being itself. It was through his love that our Creator was compelled to bring about our creation. The man who possesses charity is God indeed amongst men.
If anyone wants a high office let him want the labor it entails not the honor it will bring him. He should desire to serve and minister to everyone and not expect everyone to serve and minister to him. For the desire to be served comes from the supercilious attitude of the Pharisees; the desire to serve, from the teaching of Christ. Those who canvass for positions of honor are the ones who exalt themselves; those who delight in serving and caring for others are the ones who humble themselves so as to be exalted by God.
Note that it is not those whom the Lord exalts who will be humbled, but those who exalt themselves, and similarly it is those who of their own accord humble themselves who will be exalted by the Lord… After specifically reserving the office of teaching to himself, Christ immediately went on to give as the rule of his teaching that whoever wants to be the greatest should be the servant of all. And he gave the same rule in other words when he said: “Learn of me, for I am meek and humble of heart,” (Mt 11:29).
Anyone, therefore, who wants to be Christ’s disciple must hasten to learn the lesson he professes to teach, for a perfect disciple will be like his master. Otherwise, if he refuses to learn his master’s lesson, far from being a master himself he will not even be a disciple.
When I say that God does not incline his ear to the rich man, don’t go so far as to think, my friends, that God fails to answer those who have gold and silver, servants and lands. If they were born in that state and occupy that class of society let them call to mind the saying of the apostle Paul: “Tell the rich in the present world not to yield to pride” (1Tm 6:17). People who do not yield to pride are poor before God, who inclines his ear to the poor and needy (Ps 85:1). Indeed, they know their hope does not lie in gold or silver or in those things of which they have an abundance for a time. It suffices that possessions are not causing their loss and that, if they do nothing for their salvation, at least they aren’t an obstacle to it… Therefore, when someone despises those things that feed one’s pride he is one of God’s poor and God inclines his ear towards him, for he knows the troubles of his heart.
It’s true, my brethren, that poor man Lazarus, covered with sores, who lay at the rich man’s door, was carried by angels into the bosom of Abraham. This is what we read and believe. Whereas the rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and feasted splendidly every day was thrown down to the torments of hell. But was it really the merit of his destitution that won for the poor man his being carried away by angels? And was the rich man delivered up to torment because of his lavish lifestyle? We need to acknowledge that it was humility that was honored in that poor man and what was punished in the rich man was pride.