Friday, September 30, 2011

Saint Jerome, Priest, Doctor

A commentary on Isaiah by St Jerome
Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ
I interpret as I should, following the command of Christ: Search the Scriptures, and Seek and you shall find. Christ will not say to me what he said to the Jews: You erred, not knowing the Scriptures and not knowing the power of God. For if, as Paul says, Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God, and if the man who does not know Scripture does not know the power and wisdom of God, then ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ.
  Therefore, I will imitate the head of a household who brings out of his storehouse things both new and old, and says to his spouse in the Song of Songs: I have kept for you things new and old, my beloved. In this way permit me to explain Isaiah, showing that he was not only a prophet, but an evangelist and an apostle as well. For he says about himself and the other evangelists: How beautiful are the feet of those who preach good news, of those who announce peace. And God speaks to him as if he were an apostle: Whom shall I send, who will go to my people? And he answers: Here I am; send me.
  No one should think that I mean to explain the entire subject matter of this great book of Scripture in one brief sermon, since it contains all the mysteries of the Lord. It prophesies that Emmanuel is to be born of a virgin and accomplish marvellous works and signs. It predicts his death, burial and resurrection from the dead as the Saviour of all men. I need say nothing about the natural sciences, ethics and logic. Whatever is proper to holy Scripture, whatever can be expressed in human language and understood by the human mind, is contained in the book of Isaiah. Of these mysteries the author himself testifies when he writes: You will be given a vision of all things, like words in a sealed scroll. When they give the writings to a wise man, they will say: Read this. And he will reply: I cannot, for it is sealed. And when the scroll is given to an uneducated man and he is told: Read this, he will reply: I do not know how to read.
  Should this argument appear weak to anyone, let him listen to the Apostle: Let two or three prophets speak, and let others interpret; if, however, a revelation should come to one of those who are seated there, let the first one be quiet. How can they be silent, since it depends on the Spirit who speaks through his prophets whether they remain silent or speak? If they understood what they were saying, all things would be full of wisdom and knowledge. But it was not the air vibrating with the human voice that reached their ears, but rather it was God speaking within the soul of the prophets, just as another prophet says: It is an angel who spoke in me; and again, Crying out in our hearts, Abba, Father’, and I shall listen to what the Lord God says within me.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Saints Michael, Gabriel and Raphael, Archangels

A sermon of Pope St Gregory the Great
The word "angel" denotes a function rather than a nature
You should be aware that the word “angel” denotes a function rather than a nature. Those holy spirits of heaven have indeed always been spirits. They can only be called angels when they deliver some message. Moreover, those who deliver messages of lesser importance are called angels; and those who proclaim messages of supreme importance are called archangels. And so it was that not merely an angel but the archangel Gabriel was sent to the Virgin Mary. It was only fitting that the highest angel should come to announce the greatest of all messages.
Gabriel, Michael and Rafael
  Some angels are given proper names to denote the service they are empowered to perform. In that holy city, where perfect knowledge flows from the vision of almighty God, those who have no names may easily be known. But personal names are assigned to some, not because they could not be known without them, but rather to denote their ministry when they came among us. Thus, Michael means “Who is like God”; Gabriel is “The Strength of God”; and Raphael is “God’s Remedy.”
  Whenever some act of wondrous power must be performed, Michael is sent, so that his action and his name may make it clear that no one can do what God does by his superior power. So also our ancient foe desired in his pride to be like God, saying: I will ascend into heaven; I will exalt my throne above the stars of heaven; I will be like the Most High. He will be allowed to remain in power until the end of the world when he will be destroyed in the final punishment. Then, he will fight with the archangel Michael, as we are told by John: A battle was fought with Michael the archangel.
  So too Gabriel, who is called God’s strength, was sent to Mary. He came to announce the One who appeared as a humble man to quell the cosmic powers. Thus God’s strength announced the coming of the Lord of the heavenly powers, mighty in battle. Raphael means, as I have said, God’s remedy, for when he touched Tobit’s eyes in order to cure him, he banished the darkness of his blindness. Thus, since he is to heal, he is rightly called God’s remedy.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Saints Laurence Ruiz and his Companions, Martyrs

St Polycarp's letter to the Philippians
Let us run in faith and holiness
Saint Laurence Ruiz
Now I beseech you all to obey the word of righteousness, and to endure with all the endurance which you also saw before your eyes, not only in the blessed Ignatius, and Zosimus, and Rufus, but also in others among yourselves, and in Paul himself, and in the other Apostles. Be certain that all of these did not run in vain but in faith and righteousness, and that they are with the Lord, with whom they suffered, in the place which is their due. They did not love this present world but they loved him who died on our behalf and was raised by God for our sakes.
Saint Laurence Ruiz
  Therefore stand fast in these things and follow the example of the Lord, firm and unchangeable in faith, loving the brotherhood, affectionate to one another, joined together in the truth, rivaling one another in the gentleness of the Lord, despising no man. When you can do good do not defer it, for almsgiving sets free from death. Let each of you be subject to the others so that the Gentiles find no fault in your behaviour. Let your good works earn you praise and ensure that the Lord is not blasphemed in you. As Scripture says, Woe to him through whom the name of the Lord is blasphemed. Teach sobriety to all and be an example of it in your own lives.
Saint Laurence Ruiz
  I am deeply sorry that Valens, who was at one time one of your clergy, so little understands the place which was given to him. His example makes me warn you to keep from avarice and be pure and truthful. Keep yourselves from all evil. For how may he who cannot attain self-control in these matters enjoin it on another? If any man does not abstain from avarice he will be defiled by idolatry and considered as one of the Gentiles who know nothing of God’s judgement. As Paul says, Do we not know that it is God’s people who will judge the world?
  I have not seen or heard any other errors of this sort among you — you with whom the blessed Paul labored, you whom he praised in the beginning of his Epistle. He boasted of you in all the Churches who at that time knew the Lord, (for we ourselves had not yet come to know him).
  So, brethren, I am deeply sorry for Valens and his wife and I pray that the Lord may grant them true repentance. Be moderate yourselves in this matter and do not regard these people as enemies but call them back as fallible and straying parts of your own body, that you may make that body whole again. By doing this you will build up your own spiritual strength.
 About Saint Laurence Ruiz and companions

Lawrence (Lorenzo) was born in Manila of a Chinese father and a Filipino mother, both Christians. Thus he learned Chinese and Tagalog from them and Spanish from the Dominicans whom he served as altar boy and sacristan. He became a professional calligrapher, transcribing documents in beautiful penmanship. He was a full member of the Confraternity of the Holy Rosary under Dominican auspices. He married and had two sons and a daughter. His life took an abrupt turn when he was accused of murder. Nothing further is known except the statement of two Dominicans that "he was sought by the authorities on account of a homicide to which he was present or which was attributed to him."
At that time three Dominican priests, Antonio Gonzalez, Guillermo Courtet and Miguel de Aozaraza, were about to sail to Japan in spite of a violent persecution there. With them was a Japanese priest, Vicente Shiwozuka de la Cruz, and a layman named Lazaro, a leper. Lorenzo, having taken asylum with them, was allowed to accompany them. But only when they were at sea did he learn that they were going to Japan.
They landed at Okinawa. Lorenzo could have gone on to Formosa, but, he reported, "I decided to stay with the Fathers, because the Spaniards would hang me there." In Japan they were soon found out, arrested and taken to Nagasaki. The site of wholesale bloodshed when the atomic bomb was dropped had known tragedy before. The 50,000 Catholics who once lived there were dispersed or killed by persecution.
They were subjected to an unspeakable kind of torture: After huge quantities of water were forced down their throats, they were made to lie down. Long boards were placed on their stomachs and guards then stepped on the ends of the boards, forcing the water to spurt violently from mouth, nose and ears.
The superior, Antonio, died after some days. Both the Japanese priest and Lazaro broke under torture, which included the insertion of bamboo needles under their fingernails. But both were brought back to courage by their companions.
In Lorenzo's moment of crisis, he asked the interpreter, "I would like to know if, by apostatizing, they will spare my life." The interpreter was noncommittal, but Lorenzo, in the ensuing hours, felt his faith grow strong. He became bold, even audacious, with his interrogators.
The five were put to death by being hanged upside down in pits. Boards fitted with semicircular holes were fitted around their waists and stones put on top to increase the pressure. They were tightly bound, to slow circulation and prevent a speedy death. They were allowed to hang for three days. By that time Lorenzo and Lazaro were dead. The three Dominican priests, still alive, were beheaded.
Pope John Paul II canonized these six and 10 others, Asians and Europeans, men and women, who spread the faith in the Philippines, Formosa and Japan. Lorenzo Ruiz is the first canonized Filipino martyr.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Saint Vincent de Paul, Priest

A writing of St Vincent de Paul
Serving the poor is to be preferred above all things
Even though the poor are often rough and unrefined, we must not judge them from external appearances nor from the mental gifts they seem to have received. On the contrary, if you consider the poor in the light of faith, then you will observe that they are taking the place of the Son of God who chose to be poor.
  Although in his passion he almost lost the appearance of a man and was considered a fool by the Gentiles and a stumbling block by the Jews, he showed them that his mission was to preach to the poor: He sent me to preach the good news to the poor. We also ought to have this same spirit and imitate Christ’s actions, that is, we must take care of the poor, console them, help them, support their cause.
  Since Christ willed to be born poor, he chose for himself disciples who were poor. He made himself the servant of the poor and shared their poverty. He went so far as to say that he would consider every deed which either helps or harms the poor as done for or against himself. Since God surely loves the poor, he also loves those who love the poor. For when one person holds another dear, he also includes in his affection anyone who loves or serves the one he loves. That is why we hope that God will love us for the sake of the poor. So when we visit the poor and needy, we try to understand the poor and weak. We sympathize with them so fully that we can echo Paul’s words: I have become all things to all men. Therefore, we must try to be stirred by our neighbors’ worries and distress. We must beg God to pour into our hearts sentiments of pity and compassion and to fill them again and again with these dispositions.
Sts. Vincent de Paul and Louise de Marillac
  It is our duty to prefer the service of the poor to everything else and to offer such service as quickly as possible. If a needy person requires medicine or other help during prayer time, do whatever has to be done with peace of mind. Offer the deed to God as your prayer. Do not become upset or feel guilty because you interrupted your prayer to serve the poor. God is not neglected if you leave him for such service. One of God’s works is merely interrupted so that another can be carried out. So when you leave prayer to serve some poor person, remember that this very service is performed for God. Charity is certainly greater than any rule. Moreover, all rules must lead to charity. Since she is a noble mistress, we must do whatever she commands. With renewed devotion, then, we must serve the poor, especially outcasts and beggars. They have been given to us as our masters and patrons.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Monday of the 26th week in ordinary time

St Polycarp's letter to the Philippians
Let us arm ourself with justice
Brethren, I am writing to you about righteousness, not of my own initiative but because you asked me. I am not able — no-one like me is able — to follow the wisdom of the blessed and glorious Paul, who, when he was among you in the presence of the men of that time, taught accurately and steadfastly the word of truth, and also when he was absent wrote letters to you. Study those letters and you will be able to build yourselves up into the faith given you. Faith is the mother of us all, going forward with hope following and with love of God and Christ and neighbour leading the way. If a man is among these then he has fulfilled the commandment of righteousness, for he who has love is far from all sin.
  But the beginning of all evils is the love of money. Therefore, knowing that we brought nothing into the world and we can take nothing out of it, let us arm ourselves with the armour of righteousness, and let us first of all teach ourselves to walk in the commandment of the Lord. Next let us teach our wives to remain in the faith given to them, in love and purity, tenderly loving their husbands in all truth, and loving all others equally in all chastity, and to educate their children in the fear of God. Let us teach the widows to be discreet in the faith of the Lord, praying ceaselessly for all men, being far from all slander, evil speaking, false witness, love of money, and all evil, knowing that they are the altar of God, and that all offerings are tested, and that nothing escapes him: not reasoning, not thought, not the secret things of the heart.
  Knowing then that God is not mocked we ought to journey through life in a way that is worthy of his precepts and his glory. In the same way, the deacons must be blameless before his righteousness, being the servants of God and Christ and not of man —not slanderers, not double-tongued, not lovers of money, temperate in all things, compassionate, careful, walking according to the truth of the Lord, who was the servant of all. If we please him in this present world we shall receive from him the world which is to come; for he promised us to raise us from the dead. If we are worthy citizens of his community, we shall also reign with him, if only we have faith.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

26th Sunday in Ordinary time

St Polycarp's letter to the Philippians
You have been saved by grace
Polycarp and the Elders with him, to the Church of God sojourning in Philippi: all mercy and peace to you, from God Almighty and Jesus Christ our Savior.
  When you welcomed those copies of the True Love and took the opportunity of setting them forward on their road, I rejoiced with you in Jesus Christ. The chains that bound them were the badges of saints, the diadems of men truly chosen by our Lord and God. I rejoiced too that your firmly rooted faith, so well-known since the earliest times, still flourishes and bears fruit for our Lord Jesus Christ. He bore the burden of our sins even as far as suffering death, and God raised him up, releasing him from the pains of the underworld; you did not see him but still you believed in him, in unspeakably glorious joy. Many desire to come into this joy, knowing that you are saved by grace, not by works, – not by your actions but by the will of God through Jesus Christ.
  So gird up your loins and serve God in fear and sincerity. Leave aside empty vanities and vulgar error, believing in him who raised up our Lord Jesus Christ from the dead and gave him glory and a throne on his right hand, to whom are subject all things in heaven and earth, whom everything that has breath serves, who is coming as the judge of the living and of the dead: God will require vengeance for his blood from any who disobey him.
  Now he who raised him from the dead will also raise us up if we do his will and walk according to his commandments and love the things which he loved, if we refrain from all unrighteousness, covetousness, love of money, evil speaking, and false witness, if we do not render evil with evil, abuse for abuse, blow for blow, or curse for curse, but if we remember what the Lord taught when he said, Do not judge, that you may not be judged; forgive and you will be forgiven; be merciful and you will receive mercy. For whatever you measure out to other people will be measured out to you also… Blessed are the poor, and they who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the Kingdom of God.
Martyrdom of Saint Polycarp

Saturday, September 24, 2011

There are some new pictures in the gallery. Enjoy

Saturday of the 25th week in ordinary time

From a treatise on the psalms by Saint Hilary of Poitiers
The water of the river gives joy to God's city
The river of God is in full spate; you have provided their food, for so you have prepared it. There is no room for uncertainty about the river. For the prophet says: There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God. And the Lord himself says in the gospels, Whoever drinks of the water that I shall give, out of his heart shall flow rivers of living water springing forth to eternal life. And again, He who believes in me, as the scripture has said, out of his heart shall flow rivers of water. Now this he said about the Holy Spirit, which those who believed in him were to receive. This river of God, then, is brimful. For we are flooded with the gifts of the Holy Spirit, and from that spring of life the river of God, in full flood, pours into us. We also have food prepared.
  And what is this food? That in which we are prepared for society with God: through communion of a holy body to be thereafter given a place in the communion of a holy body. That is what the present psalm means when it says, You have provided their food, for so you have prepared it – for by that food, though we are saved for the present time, we are none the less also prepared for the future.
  We who are reborn through the sacrament of baptism have the greatest joy, as we perceive within us the first stirrings of the Holy Spirit, as we begin to understand mysteries; we gain knowledge of prophecy, speech full of wisdom, security in our hope, gifts of healing, and dominion over the devils made subject to us. These gifts, like drops of liquid, permeate our inner self, and so beginning, little by little produce fruits in abundance.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Saint Pio of Pietrelcina

St Augustine's sermon On Pastors
All good shepherds are in the one Shepherd
We have seen that Christ feeds you with judgement, and he distinguishes the sheep that are his from those that are not. The sheep that are mine, he says, hear my voice and follow me.
  Here I see all good shepherds wrapped up in the one shepherd. It is not that there are no good shepherds but that they are all part of the one. To be many means to be divided, and so here the Lord speaks of one shepherd because it is unity that he is commending. The Lord does not avoid talking about “shepherds” in the plural because he cannot find anyone to take care of his sheep. He did find shepherds, since he found Peter – and by the very choice of Peter he commended unity. The Apostles were many and to only one of them did he say Feed my sheep. May it never happen that we truly lack good shepherds! May it never happen to us! May God’s loving kindness never fail to provide them!
  Now if there are good sheep then it follows that there are good shepherds, since a good sheep will naturally make a good shepherd. But all good shepherds are in the one Shepherd, and in that sense they are not many but one. When they feed the sheep it is Christ who is doing the feeding. In the same way the bridegroom’s friends do not speak with their own voices, but when they hear the bridegroom’s voice they are filled with joy. Thus it is that Christ is feeding the sheep when the shepherds are feeding them. He says “I feed” because it is with his voice that they are speaking and with his love that they are loving. For even as he gave his sheep into Peter’s charge, like one man passing responsibility to another, he was really seeking to make Peter one with him. He handed over his sheep so that he himself might be the head and Peter, as it were, the body – that is, the Church – so that like a bridegroom and bride they might be two in one flesh.
  Before he handed his sheep over to Peter he made sure that he would not be entrusting them to someone quite separate: Peter, do you love me? And he responded, I love you. Again: do you love me? And he responded, I love you. And a third time: do you love me? And he responded, I love you. He makes certain of love and gives a firm foundation to unity. He, the one shepherd, feeds the sheep in these many shepherds, and they, the many, feed them in him, the one.
  Scripture is silent about shepherds and yet not silent. The shepherds boast, but whoever boasts, let him boast in the Lord. This is what it means for Christ to feed the sheep; this is what it means to feed the sheep for Christ, to feed them in Christ and not to feed oneself apart from Christ. When he said I will feed my sheep Christ did not mean “I have no-one else to give them to,” as if the Prophet had foretold a bad time when there would be too few shepherds. Even when Peter and the Apostles were still walking this earth, Christ, in whom alone all are one, said I have other sheep that are not of this flock, and these I have to lead as well so that there will be only one flock, and one shepherd.
  So let them all be in the one shepherd and speak with the one shepherd’s voice, for the sheep to hear and follow their shepherd – not just any shepherd, but the one. Let all shepherds speak with one voice in him and not with separate voices: I beseech you, my brethren: say the same thing, all of you, and let there be no divisions among you. May that voice, cleansed of all division and purged of all error, be the voice that the sheep hear as they follow the shepherd who says The sheep that are mine hear my voice and follow me.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Thursday of the 25th week in ordinary time

St Augustine's sermon On Pastors
I shall feed my sheep on good pasture
I shall gather them together from foreign nations and bring them back to their own land. I shall pasture them on the mountains of Israel... As the mountains of Israel, he has set up the authors of the holy Scriptures. Feed on these and you will feed in safety. Whatever you hear from them will do you good; whatever you hear from elsewhere, spit it out. Listen to the voice of your shepherd lest you lose your way and wander into the mist. Gather together on the mountains of holy Scripture. There you will find the delight of your heart: nothing poisonous, nothing strange – the richest of pastures. Simply come in good health, and feed in good health on the mountains of Israel.
  ...In the ravines and in every inhabited place in the land. From these mountains of Scripture flow the streams of the gospel preaching, whose sound has gone forth into all the earth so that every inhabited place of the earth has become a rich and fertile pasture for the sheep.
  I shall feed them in good pasturage; the high mountains of Israel will be their grazing ground. There will they rest. That is, where they will say, “It is good here,” where they will say, “It is true, it is clear, we are not deceived.” They will take their rest in the glory of God as in their own shelters. They will sleep and take their rest in the midst of delight.
  They will browse in rich pastures on the mountains of Israel. I have already spoken of the mountains of Israel, the good mountains, the mountains to which we lift up our eyes so that help will come to us from them. But remember, our help is from the Lord, who made heaven and earth. So to prevent us putting our hope in the mountains, as soon as he had said I shall pasture them on the mountains of Israel he added at once I shall feed my sheep. Yes, lift your eyes up to the mountains from which your help will come; but wait for him to say I shall feed. For your help is from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.
  And finally he says I shall feed them with judgement. Note that it is he alone who feeds them with judgement. For what man can judge another man? Wherever you look, you see rash judgements. Someone we have despaired of suddenly turns round and becomes the best of people. Someone of whom we have had high expectations suddenly fails and sinks into uselessness. There is no certainty in our foreboding, there is no certainty in our love.
  Take any man. What is he today? He hardly knows himself. He has some slight idea, perhaps, of what he is today, but as for tomorrow – nothing. So the Lord feeds us all with judgement, distributing what is appropriate to each of us: this to one person, that to others, to each what they ought to have, one thing to one and another to another. For he knows what he is doing. He feeds us with judgement, us whom he redeemed after he had himself been judged. So he feeds us all with judgement.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Saint Matthew, Apostle, Evangelist

A sermon by St Bede the Venerable
Jesus saw him through the eyes of mercy and chose him
Jesus saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax office, and he said to him: Follow me. Jesus saw Matthew, not merely in the usual sense, but more significantly with his merciful understanding of men.
  He saw the tax collector and, because he saw him through the eyes of mercy and chose him, he said to him: Follow me. This following meant imitating the pattern of his life – not just walking after him. St. John tells us: Whoever says he abides in Christ ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.
  And he rose and followed him. There is no reason for surprise that the tax collector abandoned earthly wealth as soon as the Lord commanded him. Nor should one be amazed that neglecting his wealth, he joined a band of men whose leader had, on Matthew’s assessment, no riches at all. Our Lord summoned Matthew by speaking to him in words. By an invisible, interior impulse flooding his mind with the light of grace, he instructed him to walk in his footsteps. In this way Matthew could understand that Christ, who was summoning him away from earthly possessions, had incorruptible treasures of heaven in his gift.
  As he sat at table in the house, behold many tax collectors and sinners came and sat down with Jesus and his disciples. This conversion of one tax collector gave many men, those from his own profession and other sinners, an example of repentance and pardon. Notice also the happy and true anticipation of his future status as apostle and teacher of the nations. No sooner was he converted than Matthew drew after him a whole crowd of sinners along the same road to salvation. He took up his appointed duties while still taking his first steps in the faith, and from that hour he fulfilled his obligation and thus grew in merit. To see a deeper understanding of the great celebration Matthew held at his house, we must realise that he not only gave a banquet for the Lord at his earthly residence, but far more pleasing was the banquet set in his own heart which he provided through faith and love. Our Saviour attests to this: Behold I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.
  On hearing Christ’s voice, we open the door to receive him, as it were, when we freely assent to his promptings and when we give ourselves over to doing what must be done. Christ, since he dwells in the hearts of his chosen ones through the grace of his love, enters so that he might eat with us and we with him. He ever refreshes us by the light of his presence insofar as we progress in our devotion to and longing for the things of heaven. He himself is delighted by such a pleasing banquet.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Saints Andrew Kim Taegon, Priest, and Paul Chong Hasang, and their Companions, Martyrs

St Augustine's sermon On Pastors
The church, like a vine, grows and spreads everywhere
Martyrdom of Saint Andrew Kim, Paul Chong and companions
Sts. Andrew Kim Taegon and Paul Chong
They are straying across the mountains and the high hills, they have been scattered over all the face of the earth. What does this mean, scattered over all the face of the earth? That they attach themselves to earthly things, the things that glitter on the face of the earth: they love and desire them. They do not want to die and be hidden away in Christ. Over all the face of the earth not only because they love earthly things but because across all the earth there are sheep astray. They are everywhere, but one thing, pride, is the mother of them all, just as Christians who are spread over all the world have one mother, the Church.
  So it is not to be wondered at that pride gives birth to dissension while love generates unity. The Church is the mother of all, and everywhere the shepherd in her seeks those who are astray, strengthens those who are weak, cares for the sick and puts the broken together again. Many of them are not even known to one another, but she knows them all because she is merged with them all.
  She is like a vine that has grown and sprouted everywhere. Those in love with earthly things are like sterile shoots pruned away by the grower’s knife because of their sterility, cut away so that the vine should not have to be cut down. And those sterile shoots, once they are pruned away, lie on the ground and stay there. But the vine grows over all, and it knows those shoots that remain part of it, and it knows the cut-off shoots that lie next to it.
  But from where they lie she calls them back, for as St Paul says of the broken branches, God has the power to graft them back again. Whether you speak of sheep straying away from the flock or branches cut off from the vine, God is equally able to call back the lost sheep and to graft back the lost branches: the Lord, the true vine-dresser. They have been scattered over all the face of the earth and no-one misses them, no-one calls them back – no-one among the bad shepherds. No-one misses them – that is, no man does.
  Well then, shepherds, hear the words of the Lord. As I live, says the Lord God... See how he starts. It is like an oath sworn by God, calling his very life to witness. As I live, says the Lord God. The shepherds are dead but the sheep are safe. As I live, says the Lord God. What shepherds are dead? Those who have sought their own interests rather than Christ’s. So what of the shepherds who seek Christ’s interests and not their own? Of course there will be such shepherds, of course they will be found: there is no lack of them and there never will be.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Monday of the 25th week in Ordinary time

St Augustine's sermon On Pastors
Insist upon the message, whether it be welcome or not
The straying sheep you have not recalled; the lost sheep you have not sought. In one way or another, we go on living between the hands of robbers and the teeth of raging wolves, and in light of these present dangers we ask your prayers. The sheep moreover are insolent. The shepherd seeks out the straying sheep, but because they have wandered away and are lost they say that they are not ours. “ Why do you want us? Why do you seek us?” they ask, as if their straying and being lost were not the very reason for our wanting them and seeking them out. “If I am straying,” he says, “if I am lost, why do you want me?” You are straying, that is why I wish to recall you. You have been lost, I wish to find you. “But I wish to stray,” he says: “I wish to be lost.”
  So you wish to stray and be lost? How much better that I do not also wish this. Certainly, I dare say, I am unwelcome. But I listen to the Apostle who says: Preach the word; insist upon it, welcome and unwelcome. Welcome to whom? Unwelcome to whom? By all means welcome to those who desire it; unwelcome to those who do not. However unwelcome, I dare to say: “You wish to stray, you wish to be lost; but I do not want this.” For the one whom I fear does not wish this. And should I wish it, consider his words of reproach: The straying sheep you have not recalled; the lost sheep you have not sought. Shall I fear you rather than him? Remember, we must all present ourselves before the judgement seat of Christ.
  I shall recall the straying; I shall seek the lost. Whether they wish it or not, I shall do it. And should the brambles of the forests tear at me when I seek them, I shall force myself through all straits; I shall put down all hedges. So far as the God whom I fear grants me the strength, I shall search everywhere. I shall recall the straying; I shall seek after those on the verge of being lost. If you do not want me to suffer, do not stray, do not become lost. It is enough that I lament your straying and loss. No, I fear that in neglecting you, I shall also kill what is strong. Consider the passage that follows: And what was strong you have destroyed. Should I neglect the straying and lost, the strong one will also take delight in straying and in being lost.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

25th Sunday in Ordinary time

St Augustine's sermon On Pastors
On weak Christians
You have failed to strengthen the weak, says the Lord. He is speaking to wicked shepherds, false shepherds, shepherds who seek their own concerns and not those of Christ. They enjoy the bounty of milk and wool, but they take no care at all of the sheep, and they make no effort to heal those who are ill. I think there is a difference between one who is weak (that is, not strong) and one who is ill, although we often say that the weak are also suffering from illness.
  My brothers, when I try to make that distinction, perhaps I could do it better and with greater precision, or perhaps someone with more experience and insight could do so. But when it comes to the words of Scripture, I say what I think so that in the meantime you will not be deprived of all profit. In the case of the weak sheep, it is to be feared that the temptation, when it comes, may break him. The sick person, however, is already ill by reason of some illicit desire or other, and this is keeping him from entering God’s path and submitting to Christ’s yoke.
  There are men who want to live a good life and have already decided to do so, but are not capable of bearing sufferings even though they are ready to do good. Now it is a part of the Christian’s strength not only to do good works but also to endure evil. Weak men are those who appear to be zealous in doing good works but are unwilling or unable to endure the sufferings that threaten. Lovers of the world, however, who are kept from good works by some evil desire, lie sick and listless, and it is this sickness that deprives them of any strength to accomplish good works.
  The paralytic was like that. When his bearers could not bring him in to the Lord, they opened the roof and lowered him down to the feet of Christ. Perhaps you wish to do this in spirit: to open the roof and to lower a paralytic soul down to the Lord. All its limbs are lifeless, it is empty of every good work, burdened with its sins, and weak from the illness brought on by its evil desires. Since all its limbs are helpless, and the paralysis is interior, you cannot come to the physician. But perhaps the physician is himself concealed within; for the true understanding of Scripture is hidden. Reveal therefore what is hidden, and thus you will open the roof and lower the paralytic to the feet of Christ.
  As for those who fail to do this and those who are negligent, you have heard what was said to them: You have failed to heal the sick; you have failed to bind up what was broken. Of this we have already spoken. Man was broken by terrible temptations. But there is at hand a consolation that will bind what was broken: God is faithful. He does not allow you to be tempted beyond your strength, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Saturday of the 24th week in ordinary time

St Augustine's sermon On Pastors
Offer the bandage of consolation

Scripture says: God chastises every son whom he acknowledges. But the bad shepherd says: “Perhaps I will be exempt.” If he is exempt from the suffering of his chastisements, then he is not numbered among God’s sons. You will say: “Does God indeed punish every son?” Yes, every one, just as he chastised his only Son. His only Son, born of the substance of the Father, equal to the Father in the form of God, the Word through whom all things were made, he could not be chastised. For this reason he was clothed with flesh so that he might know chastisement. God punishes his only Son who is without sin; does he then leave unpunished an adopted son who is with sin? The Apostle says that we have been called to adoption. We have been adopted as sons, that we might be co-heirs with the only Son, and also that we might be his inheritance: Ask of me and I will give you the nations as your inheritance. Christ gave us the example by his own sufferings.
  When they hear of the trials that are coming, some men arm themselves more and, so to speak, are eager to drain the cup. The ordinary medicine of the faithful seems to them but a small thing; for their part they seek the glorious death of the martyrs. Others hear of the temptations to come, and when they do arrive, as arrive they must, they become broken and lame. Yet it is right that such things befall the Christian, and no one esteems them except the one who desires to be a true Christian.
  Offer the bandage of consolation, bind up what has been broken. Say this: “Do not be afraid. God in whom you have believed does not abandon you in temptations. God is faithful. He does not allow you to be tempted beyond your strength. It is not I who say this, but the Apostle, and he says further: Are you willing to accept his trial, the trial of Christ who speaks in me? When you hear this you are hearing it from Christ himself, you are hearing it from the shepherd who gives pasture to Israel. For of him it was said: You will give us tears to drink in measure. The Apostle says: He does not allow you to be tempted beyond your strength. This is also what the prophet intends by adding the words: in measure. God rebukes but also encourages, he brings fear and he brings consolation, he strikes and he heals. Do not reject him.”