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whatever satisfaction may be required; and what is this but to fall down like “ that servant, who, falling down, besought him, saying: • Have patience with me;' as if he had said, “ O Lord, rebuke me not in thy indignation, nor chastise me in thy wrath.” (Ps. vi. 1.) " And I will pay thee all.” What is
What is it but to say: "Every night I will wash my bed, I will water my couch with tears,” (Ps. vi. 7); that is, I will labour to cleanse my conscience from every sin, whereby I have deserved thy wrath. " And the lord of that servant, being moved with pity, let him go, and forgave him the debt.”
“ The Lord is gracious and merciful, patient and plenteous in mercy. The Lord is sweet to all, and his tender mercies are over all his works ” (Ps.cxliv. 8, 9), not only to his elect, but also to the reprobate, who believe for a time, and for a time bring forth fruits of penance. He forgiveth their sins by baptism and penance. As he promised by his prophet, saying: “ If I shall say to the wicked, thou shalt surely die;' and he do penance for his sin, and do judgment and justice; and if that wicked man restore the pledge, and walk in the commandments of life, and do no unjust thing, he shall surely live, and shall not die.” (Ezech. xxxiii. 14.)
“ But when that servant went out, he found one that owed him an hundred pence.” Every debt that man can owe to man is but small, compared with what he owes to God; and therefore his debt to man is called an hundred pence, that to his Lord, ten thousand talents. “And laying hold of him he throttled him, saying: Pay what thou owest. And his fellow-servant falling down, besought him, saying: Have patience with me, and I will pay thee all. And he would not; but went and cast him into prison, till he paid the debt.” In the word “ throttle," is shown a proud and tyrannical exaction of the debt, wherein the debtor is oppressed by violence or harsh words, as it were seizing him by the throat, and scarcely giving him the opportunity of paying his debt, or of excusing himself. Yea, he casts him into prison, so that there may be no chance of his escape. “ Now, his fellow-servants seeing what was done,
much grieved, and they came and told their lord all that was done.” Our fellow-servants, who are much grieved at our iniquity, are the just, who, inflamed with zeal for justice, though they prevail not in correcting our' enormities, raise up their sighs to God, and commit their correction to Him. Our fellow-servants may also mean the angels of God, who ever behold the face of our Father in heaven, and seeing all that is in us, declare each of our actions in his sight.
“ Then his lord called him, and said to him: “Thou wicked servant,
I forgave thee all the debt, because thou besoughtest me.” The wicked servant was condemned for his ingratitude, and when death had made an end of life, he is delivered to the torturers, and given subject to the most wicked spirits to be tormented. “And his lord being angry, delivered him to the torturers, till he had paid all the debt. So also shall my heavenly Father do to you, if you forgive not every one his brother from your hearts." A fearful and horrourful sentence, my brethren, is here intimated to us, namely, that if we be merciless to our debtors, not only those sins which we have committed after remission shall be punished, but that punishment shall also be exacted for those which have been remitted by baptism, or by penance. One of the fathers says: “ Those who are forgetful of the divine goodness, and wish to avenge their own injuries, not only deserve no pardon for future sins, but that even those that were past, and which had been forgiven, shall be recalled for vengeance.” Another says: “ It is written in the Gospel, that whosoever forgiveth not him that offendeth against him from his heart, that also shall be exacted of him again, which he once rejoiced to have had already been remitted by penance." Another also affirms the same, saying : “We must note well, that he saith, all the debt, as not only those sins which a man commits after baptism, shall be reckoned unto hinn for punishment, but even his original sins which had been forgiven in baptism. Moreover, the like opinion is strengthened by the words of the prophet, when he says: “If the just man turn himself away from his justice, and do iniquity according to all the abominations which the wicked man useth to work, shall he live ? All his justices which he had done shall not be remembered.” (Ezech. xviii. 24.) For if all his justices are said to be forgotten, will not also the penance which he had done for his sins be in like manner held as nothing. There remains, then, sins to be recalled to punishment, for which penance had been done, seeing there is nothing whereby it is excused. But if any one say, how can that be imputed to a sinner which had been remitted in baptism ? we reply: since at that time he was constituted by the grace of the Lord in such a state, in which, had he remained, none of his past sins should ever have hurt him, seeing he was especially loosed from his sins. What, then, shall we say, my brethren, to this ? Truly it is a dreadful and a fearful thought which you have heard. What good, I pray thee, will it do us, that our souls were washed in baptism; that we have oftentimes afflicted ourselves in fastings, vigils, and other works of penance ; that we have given alms to the poor, that we might receive remission of VOL. VI.
our sins ; if we again raise up our sins, which by these means had been remitted by God, and a second time do wickedness against ourselves ;-what boots it to the wounded man, that his wound has been healed, if, by his own neglect, he breaks the scar, and opens up the sore afresh? In very deed, according to the word of our Lord, and the assertion of the fathers, if we open up or neglect our wounds, which are now healed by our heavenly Physician, if, namely, we raise up again those sins which have been forgiven, so, in the examination to come, each shall meet its own punishment; if we bear batred against those that offend us, if we obstinately and mercilessly refuse pardon of their offences when they ask it. Moreover remark; he does not say simply : “ If you forgive not every one his brother," but, “ if you forgive not every one his brother from your hearts.” This addition excludes all pretended reconciliation, all such forgiveness as is wrung out by importunity, while hatred is retained in the heart; saying, peace to your enemy, but all the while looking out for an opportunity of vengeance. What remains then, my beloved brethren, for us to do, but diligently to make use of that great remedy for our sins, which is so often and urgently recommended to us by our Saviour, and without which it would be all unfruitful for us to have obtained pardon. Let us bear, then, with meekness the injuries of our neighbours; let us be meek in the pardon of our debtors; ever ready to be merciful to those that seek mercy; so that we, also, may find mercy in the presence of our strict Judge, and before the face of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Feast of St. Laurence Giustiniani, 1842.
HOMILY ON THE GOSPEL FOR THE TWENTYSECOND SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST,
BY ST. JOHN CHRYSOSTOM.
Gospel.—Matth. xxii. 15-21.-" At that time the Pharisees went and took counsel among themselves, how to ensnare Jesus in his speech. And they sent to him their disciples, with the Herodians, saying: Master, we know that thou art a true speaker, and teachest the way of God in truth, neither carest thou for any man, for thou dost not regard the person of men. Tell us, therefore, what dost thou think?—Is it lawful to give tribute to Cæsar, or not? But Jesus knowing their wickedness, said : Why do you tempt me, ye hypocrites ?
Show me the coin of the tribute. And they offered him a penny. And Jesus saith to them,-whose image and superscription is this? They say to him, Cæsar's. Then he saith to them: Render, therefore to Cæsar, the things that are Cæsar's; and to God, the things that are God's.” WICKEDNESS is oftentimes put to confusion by the force of truth; but never corrected, especially in those who sin, through an evil purpose, and not through ignorance. When the Pharisees could not terrify our Lord by their asking “ By what authority dost thou do these things ? (St. Matth. xxi. 23), he afterwards, by a parable, left them to draw the conclusion of their own guilt. But though they were struck by the testimony of their own conscience, did the fear of sin touch their hearts, or did this thought restrain them? No: they consulted among themselves how to ensnare Jesus in his speech.” As when running water is stemmed up, when the obstacle is removed, with greater violence it forceth itself a passage ; so their malignity, put to confusion on one side, findeth for itself another course. it is not possible to put out a fire by wood, so by speaking reason you cannot please a bad nan! And like as a fire burns the more fiercely, the more wood is thrown thereon, so the wretched soul, the more it heareth the truth, the more is it excited to malice. They went and took counsel among themselves.” But to whom did they go ?-to the Herodians; that is, to those who had the same mind. The husbandman who tills the land has need of man's help, but he that holdeth justice needeth the patronage of none but God. So be that walketh in the iniquities of the devil, hath need of the devil's assistance. The steward of God needeth not his aid. The devil's steward, if he need God's help, may seek it, but shall not find it. Heard you ever of one going to commit a robbery, praying to God to prosper his theft? Or of one going to commit fornication, signing himself with the sign of the cross before he went, that he may not be caught in the crime ? And even if any one did so, yet would he not be heard, but rather abandoned to his sin ; for the justice of God cannot give patronage to crime. So here, when the Pharisees took counsel to ensnare Jesus, they sought it not of the servants of God, or of religious men, but they turned to the Gentiles, that is, to the Herodians; such as was the the counsel, such were the counsellors. For who could give counsel against Christ, but the devil, who is the adversary of Christ ? Now the priests had reasoned among themselves : If we go alone to question Christ, although he were to say, that it was not lawful to give tribute, yet no one would believe us speaking against him, for all know that
we are his enemies. And the testimony of enemies in the judgmentseat, even although it were true, would be rejected as suspicious. Therefore, they would not ask Christ alone, lest, being his enemies, they should be greatly suspected, and so be unable to ensnare him. An open enemy is better than a false friend; he, while he is feared, may be avoided; the other, while he is not known, prevails. Therefore, they sent their disciples, who, being less known, would so be the less suspected ; that being hid, they might deceive him; or that their deceit being detected, they might be the less put to shame before him. Having taken bad counsel, the shame would be the less, the meaner the individual was who caused it. Their disciples, in point of standing, were indeed their inferiors; but, in respect of malice, their equals. As the young of serpents are of smaller size indeed, but the equals of those that begat them, in their poison; and wolves' whelps, though not as yet strong enough for the exertion of hunting, yet can nose and relish blood as well as their parents, and can play as well with their teeth.
“ Master, we know that thou art a true speaker, and teachest the way of God in truth.” They call him Master, and true Master ; that, as being honoured and praised, he may open up to them in simplicity the mystery of his heart, as if they wished to be indeed His disciples. This is the primary movement of hypocrites,-pretence namely, and flattery. They praise him whom they would destroy, that by the tickling of praise, they may by degrees incline the hearts of men to the simplicity of a kind profession; just like one who would subdue a savage bull, whom by force he could not bend to submit to the yoke, pats with his soft hands his knotty neck, that so he, who by strength could not be caught, may be tamed by soft blandishments. So these, also, carrying the cunning wiles of soft deceit on their lips, but hiding the knife of malice in their hearts, sought to take the bull of the herd by the deceit of praise ; of whom, as Jacob prophesied, when he rebuked his son Levi, sprung the priests by whom Christ was slain. “Simeon and Levi, brethren, vessels of iniquity, waging war. Let not my soul go into their counsel, nor my glory be in their assembly; because in their fury they slew a man, and in their self-will they undermined a bull.'* (Gen. xlix. 6.) Of such the prophet says,-“ Their words are smoother than oil, and the same are darts.” (Ps. liv. 22.)
* It is to be noted here that St. John Chrysostom, in the above passage, follows the Septuagint version, not the vulgate. The word bull is, by St. Jerome, rendered