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mind, and with the utmost zeal, we are taught in the succeeding sentence: "Seek ye first the kingdom of God and his justice.” Here first is not used numerically (pro numero), but rather to show the excellence of the thing sought (per qualitatem); first, namely, before and above all, seek ye the kingdom of God. Now the kingdom of God in the holy Scriptures, is taken in four different acceptations. Sometimes it means the present Church,- as in that passage,
Every scribe instructed in the kingdom of heaven," that is, in the present Church, “ is like to a man who is a householder, who bringeth forth out of his treasure, new things and old.” (St. Matth. xiii. 52.) Sometimes the holy Scripture, as in this : “ The kingdom of God shall be taken from you” (Matth. xxi. 43); that is, the understanding of the holy Scriptures. Again; the heavenly country, as St. John the Baptist says: "Do penance, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand" (St. Matth. iii. 2); and sometimes it signifies our Lord Jesus Christ; as he himself says to the Jews, “ The kingdom of God is within you” (St. Luke xvii. 21), that is, Christ, by his humanity, dwelleth among men; and so in the present lesson he saith : “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and his justice,” or, the kingdom of his heavenly city, where true joys are; where sovran peace, and true tranquillity dwell ; where the fruit of their trials, and the reward of their toils, is due to the saints.
Let us then seek after this kingdom of God, at the cost of our life; let us sigh after it continually; and for its attainment let us most willingly prefer all things, how harsh or rough soever. And let us seek also his justice ; for the justice of the kingdom of God is the fulfilling the commandments of God. The justice of the kingdom of God is, to despise all frail and passing things, and to hold the loss of all present things, as the gain of those to come. Truly be seeketh the justice of God, who, in the exercise of good works, is obedient to his words and precepts in all things. Thus, then, to us who seek after the kingdom of God, and his justice, the highest and true good things shall be given; but yet, also those which are but small shall be added, for the good things of the present life may seem so, yet are they but middling, and if compared with the true good, scarcely deserve the name ; yet shall they be given to the holy, who are still in the sweat of this present pilgrimage :that refreshed by these, as by a meal by the way-side (viaticum), they may attain unto those good things which they shall receive hereafter in their heavenly country. Their use is for a time; but in vow (that is, in spirit), it is for eternity; and not that the mind should be occupied thereby, and overload digestion, nor that they should weigh down the soul with a burthen that keeps it back from its heavenly country. So, then, we ought to use the goods of this present life sparingly and well, so that thereby we may come to true enjoyment, after the course of this long exile, in everlasting ages.
Again ; “ All these things shall be added unto you," because so long as we abide in this present life, we cannot pass through it without food and raiment. When he says, “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and his justice;" he immediately adds, “and all these" (i. e. temporal good) “things shall be added unto you.” Where, note, that he first commands the greater things to be sought after, namely, kingdom of God and his justice,” that the lesser may follow, namely, the good things of the present life ; of which he does not say they shall be given, but, they shall be added unto you,- as necessaries namely, which we are not to enjoy, but to use, so long as we have our feet on
HOMILY OF ST. AMBROSE ON THE GOSPEL FOR THE FIFTEENTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST.
Gospel-Luke vii. 11-16.—“ At that time, Jesus went into a city called
and there went with him his disciples and a great multitude. And when he came nigh to the city, behold a dead man was carried out, the ouly son of his mother; and she was a widow; and much people of the city were with her. And when the Lord saw her, he bad compassion on her, and said to her, Weep not. And he came near and touched the bier; and they that carried it stood still. And he said, Young man, I say to thee, arise. And he that was dead, sat up and began to speak; and he delivered him to his mother. And there came a fear on them all; and they glorified God saying : A great prophet is risen up amongst us, and God hath visited his people.” It was no simple pang of sorrow that pierced the heart of this woman. She was a widow; she had been deprived of the comfort of her son ; whose
very death she had borne more calmly, had he not been her only one ;-had another remained to have softened his mother's sorrow. Blessed, then, was she who, by the mercy of Christ, was about to receive again what she had lost at the pitiless band of the lot of man; nor was it without Divine Providence, that it happened, that a great multitude was with Christ and this woman, that so there might be
many witnesses of the miracle wrought-many to give praise to the Divine Power.
Now, St. John the Evangelist tells us, why there went a great multitude with our Lord, namely, “because they saw the miracles which he wrought” (St. John vi. 2); for wherever our Lord went he worked miracles; that is, he announced the Gospel by preaching the words of salvation, and therefore “ there went with him his disciples and a great multitude," which plainly unfolds the miraculous powers of our Saviour. But in the spiritual sense, it will afford no small edification to the minds of my hearers.
This young man who was dead, both in the spiritual and moral sense, and was carried out in the sight of many from the gates of his city, is a type of the man that is dead in sin, and sleeping on the fatal bier of iniquity. For he is truly dead who hides not the death of his soul in the secret lurking-places of his thoughts; but as by the gate of his city, so by the token of his wicked conversation and evil deeds, he bringeth forward his most depraved life, by bad example before the notice of others; who now hides not his sins through shame; but growing bolder in evil, proposeth them for the imitation of others. Of such the prophet saith : “ They have proclaimed abroad their sin, as Sodom, and they have hid it not.” (Isaiah iii. 9.) And again, to the sinful soul,“ Thou hadst a harlot's forehead, thou wouldst not blush." (Jer. iii. 3.)
By the gate of the city is understood one of the senses, of which there are five, nainely, of seeing, hearing, taste, smell, and touch, each suited to the several wants of the body. Now, the body is the city in which the soul, as it were, dwelleth shut up. By the gates of this city is every one carried out dead, who showing in any of these senses the token an evil will, declares that in spirit he is dead. Thus he, for instance, who looketh on a woman to lust after her; who lifts up his looks on high and stretcheth over the ends of the earth; is he who giveth token of his death by the gates of his eyes ;-he that openeth his ears to idle words, to filthy or lascivious songs, or to detraction, is he who maketh of his ears the gates of death ;-he that is allured by the perfume of the harlot, and the blandishments of the strange woman, and who neglecteth to run after the odour of the ointments of God, is he who bringeth in death by the gate of the nostrils. And he that speaketh blasphemies against God, who stirreth up discord among brethren, whose mouth speaketh vanity, who shapes his tongue not only to idle but hurtful words, is he who publicly betrays the death of his
soul by the gate of his mouth. Hence, also, the prophet, as if for those who incautiously open up the portals of our city, saith, weeping, “Death is come up through our windows, it is entered into our houses.” (Jer. ix. 21.) And again : “ Mine eye hath run down with streams of water for the destruction of the daughter of my people.” (Thren. iii. 48.) For like as an enemy throwing darts through the windows of the city, woundeth and slayeth those within ; so doth the wicked spirit, when by means of any of the five senses, he casteth the dart of temptation into the mind; presently the soul is thrown from its state, and perisheth by a deadly fall. When he seeketh to break into the recesses of the soul, he meets them with fair images; he mingleth therewith sweet sounds; he casteth in rich perfumes; he gives them a pleasing relish ; and thus, while they are thrown off their guard, and fear not death-which is set about with pleasure-he openeth the gates! For this reason, then, must we humbly implore the Divine Providence; that He may keep all the gates of our city; and lest the raging enemy besiege it, may he mercifully shut them all against his machinations, and allow us to sing His praise in our gates for ever.
Nor must we overlook that this young man who was carried out dead, was the only son of his mother, who was a widow. For although the Church, who is the mother of all that believe, is made up of many persons; yet such of the faithful as keep the Christian faith are more appropriately entitled to be called the children of their mother, the one Church Catholic. For howbeit their age may vary and their sex be diverse, yet are they but one in Christ, in the grace of regeneration, since all are brethren by adoption of God's only Son. Thus every one of the faithful, when embued with her first principles, is a son of the faith ; albeit his mother bringeth up other children ; thus St. Paul the apostle spoke with motherly love to the Galatians : “My little children, of whom I am in labour again, until Christ be formed in you." (Gal. iv. 19.)
“And when the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her, and said to her: Weep not." Now since in Christ there are two natures, namely, of God and of man; therefore, does the Evangelist, in the first place, beautifully show how the True Man was moved by compassion ; and then relates how, as true God, He raised the dead to life; that in the compassion which he showed to the widow, he might give us an example of pity; and in the effect of the miracle, whereby he raised the dead to life, he might propose to our admiration and honour, his might and divinity. “Weep not," he saith ; as if he would
say, Weep not for him as dead, whom you shall forthwith see arise from the dead. “ And he canie near, and touched the bier." By his touching the bier, he gave an evident sign of his goodness, for when he might have restored him to life by a single word; yet he chose rather to touch the bier; that by so doing he might give a sign of his mercy, and raise the spirit of the widow which was cast down through
“And they that carried it stood still," waiting for the wondrous effects of his power. For, when they saw our Lord drawing near, the bearers of the dead stood still, longing to behold his mercy in the resurrection of the dead. But if these words in their literal meaning be sufficiently clear, it remains for us to search out the mystery they contain ; for, in an especial manner, it signifies the holy Church, who, nourished by the word of God, ceases not daily to bring forth her children by the laver of the divine fountain ; she sees not the presence of her spouse ; and since, by the assumption of his humanity to heaven, she sees not the presence of her spouse, therefore our holy mother waiteth his return, and sitteth as a widow on earth. “ And he said, young inan,
say to thee, arise.” He was dead indeed; but as all things live in the Lord, therefore he spoke to him that was dead, as though he were alive, saying, “I say unto thee.” Between the word and the deed of our Lord there is no interval, “ for he spoke, and they were made; he commanded, and they were created” (Ps. cxlviii. 5); and whatsoever he willeth, he doeth, in heaven and on earth. " And he that was dead sat up and began to speak.” After his resuscitation, he that was dead began to speak, that so it might be proved to be a real coming to life again,—not a phantom, but that he was verily and indeed alive. “ And he delivered him to his mother," restored to perfect life again. In the spiritual sense, the dead sitteth up, when by inward compunction the sinner riseth from the death of sin to life ; and after the deadly sleep of sin, raiseth himself up to good works. He begins to speak, when by acknowledging the truth of the Holy Trinity, he lays bare the marks of his life; or when, by the word of exhortation, or the example of a good conversation, he invites others unto penance. And he is given back to his mother, when, by the ministry of the priests, he is restored to the communion of the Church.
“And there came a fear on them all, and they glorified God.” It was a new and unheard-of miracle ; and well might those that saw it be struck dumb, so that for a while they could only praise God in silence. Now, as in this palpable miracle men outwardly glorified God, so also